Why do I get so tired after eating?
September 26, 2020
Why do I get so tired after eating?
If you find yourself overwhelmingly tired after a meal, you're not alone. An overwhelming sense of tiredness after eating is quite common. It even has a fancy scientific name - postprandial somnolence.
In this post, we take a closer look at:
- The science behind post-meal tiredness
- Why you might feel so tired after eating
- What you can eat to feel energized throughout the day
Why do I feel so sleepy after eating?
The reasons for your mid-morning crash, post-lunch slump, or after-dinner dip all come down to metabolism.
1. The blood sugar rollercoaster
While it is perfectly normal for your blood sugar levels to rise and then fall again after eating, unhealthy blood sugar responses can result in a blood sugar crash. This can mean that there isn't enough glucose in your blood to supply your cells with energy, leaving you feeling hungry, tired, and craving a sugary snack.
2. Hyped-up hormones
Hormones are our body's messenger molecules, and dozens of them affect how sleepy we feel.
- Insulin and glucagon help our bodies keep blood sugar levels within a healthy range. If they aren't functioning right, your blood sugar levels can get thrown out of whack and you might end up on the blood sugar rollercoaster.
- Cholecystokinin (CCK) is a hormone that stimulates the digestion of fat and is released when we eat high-fat meals. Scientists suspect that this hormone can contribute to post-meal sleepiness, explaining why we can feel sleepy even after a lower-carb, higher-fat meal.
- Serotonin – This is the infamous happy hormone! Your body uses the amino acid tryptophan (one of the building blocks of protein) to produce serotonin, which can make you feel sleepy.
3. Stimulants like caffeine
What goes up must come down, so if you wake up and hit the coffee pot hard, it makes sense that at some point, your caffeine hit is going to wear off and you will start feeling tired. For many of us, this caffeine comedown happens around lunchtime, a few hours after our mid-morning coffee break.
Avoid feeling tired after meals by changing what you eat
Making some tweaks to your diet can help you to beat post-food fatigue and keep you feeling energized and alert throughout the day.
Some people suggest that to feel less post-lunch fatigue, simply reducing your carb intake is enough to stay off the blood sugar rollercoaster and beat the post-lunch slump, but it’s not that simple.
Firstly, all carbohydrates aren't equal. There are lots of carb-containing foods that are less likely to trigger a blood sugar crash.
Secondly, eating protein and fats can set off other biological mechanisms that also cause fatigue, so we can’t pin the whole problem on carbs.
And thirdly, our research has shown that responses to even the same foods are different for everyone. So, while a particular meal may put one person on a trip to Tiredsville, someone else may be unaffected by the same food.
To avoid feeling sleepy after eating, we suggest eating balanced meals that are made up of foods that suit your biology, instead of focusing on cutting our particular food groups.
Eating the foods that work best for your body will help you avoid any big spikes in blood sugar, blood fat, or digestive hormones and reduce dietary inflammation. Understanding how your unique metabolism works can help you pick the right foods for you, which will keep you feeling energized all day.
The facts on food-related fatigue
- Blood sugar levels, hormones, inflammation, and what you eat or drink can all affect how tired you feel after eating.
- Changing what you eat can help you feel more energized after a meal.
- What you should eat to fight post-food fatigue depends on your unique biology - beat the slump by working with your metabolism rather than against it.
Find out more:
- Why Do You Get Sleepy After Eating? These Are the Top Theories – Time
- Sleepy After Lunch? We Found Out Exactly Why It Happens – Huffington Post
- Novel findings from the PREDICT Study, the world's largest ongoing nutrition program of its kind – ZOE
- Why a blood sugar crash may be to blame for that dreaded mid-afternoon slump - ZOE
- Influences of Fat and Carbohydrate on Postprandial Sleepiness, Mood, and Hormones – Physiology & Behavior
- Influence of Tryptophan and Serotonin on Mood and Cognition with a Possible Role of the Gut-Brain Axis – Nutrients
- The role of IL-1 in postprandial fatigue – Molecular Metabolism