Feeling sleepy after eating a meal is common, regardless of your overall health or diet. There are biological reasons for this. Adenosine, a chemical in the brain, builds up the longer you stay awake. This chemical is at its peak right before bedtime, but it also increases in the afternoon, leading to drowsiness after lunch. Your circadian rhythm is a natural biological pattern controlling your sleep cycle, hormone release and body temperature. The circadian rhythm is controlled by the part of your brain called the hypothalamus, and increases during the day to keep adenosine levels in check. You’ll feel a change in this pattern seven to nine hours after waking up – for most people this occurs around lunch time. (Generally speaking, our bodies experience a dip in energy around 2 a.m. and 2 p. m.) Other factors, such as the amount and type of foods we eat, how much sleep we get, and our exercise habits determine how sleepy we are after a meal. To keep your energy high after a meal, try following these 7 ways to avoid feeling tired after eating.
If you find yourself feeling sleepy after a meal, take a walk or do some yoga (a few stretching exercise like the Full Twist or Triangle will do). Sitting in front of the TV is one of the worst things you can do after eating. It’s better to keep moving. This will prevent the blood from going to your stomach and making your body work overtime to digest food. Even washing the dishes, clearing the table or doing some light housekeeping around the kitchen right after eating is better for digestion than sitting or taking a nap.
According to a research profiled in Psychology Today, taking a walk after meals can do more than prevent drowsiness. It can guard against diabetes. Study participants who walked for fifteen minutes immediately after meals showed a drop in their glucose levels. Walking after meals can also prevent GERD (acid reflux) and help control weight better. Like other exercise, walking promotes the flow of pain-relieving endorphins throughout the body to make you feel happier.
Include a protein-rich food in every meal, such as beef, eggs or cheese. Snack on walnuts, peanuts or sunflower seeds instead of candy. Seeds and nuts are a good source of protein, particularly for vegans or vegetarians. Protein slows down your digestion and prevents post-meal sleepiness by stopping the rise and flow of blood sugar. Protein-rich foods are also a great choice for dieters because they fill you up faster and prevent overeating.
Some healthy foods cause drowsiness, so be aware of how much of them you eat and when. Oatmeal raises your blood sugar and relaxes you, so it’s not the best food to eat before a big exam or event. It’s rich in sleep-inducing melatonin, so it’s better to eat a big bowl of oatmeal when you don’t have a busy schedule. Almonds are rich in muscle-relaxing magnesium and tryptophan, which has a calming sedative effect. Eat almonds in small amounts if you need to stay energetic immediately after a meal.
Parmesan cheese and other hard, aged cheeses, tomatoes and eggplant contain the amino acid tyramine. This amino acid releases norepinephrine, which keeps you awake. If you want to feel more energetic after lunch, include some of these foods in your mid-day meal. Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts and cauliflower are full of fiber and nutrients, but they are harder to digest than many other foods and can hamper sleep. Choose these healthy veggies for lunch or an early dinner.
When planning meals or ordering food to go, especially at lunchtime when your circadian rhythm is fluctuating, choose protein-rich foods and veggies. Avoid junk food filled with preservatives and sugar, which may cause headaches in some people as well as drowsiness. The more sugars and carbohydrates in your diet, the sleepier you’ll be after eating.
You shouldn’t go more than five hours without eating. Your body naturally needs a protein refill every four hours to maintain maximum energy. Even if you eat a perfect meal full of veggies, fish, and whole grains, it won’t make up for extra hours without food. If you can’t eat a full, sit-down meal after a few hours, eat a whole-grain cracker with peanut butter, a small salad, apple slices or another protein-rich snack to tide you over til you can eat a full meal. When choosing foods high in protein, remember that turkey, chicken, milk and eggs contain tryptophan, an amino acid that can make you sleepy. Tryptophan triggers serotonin, which makes you feel calm and happy, but it also causes drowsiness. You don’t need to avoid eating these foods at lunchtime, but avoid eating large amounts of them.
A large meal weighs you down, wrecking havoc on your digestive system by making it work overtime. When you eat a big meal full of heavy meats and sugary desserts, it triggers the parasympathetic nervous system to instruct the body to focus on digestion. Blood also rushes to the stomach to help the body digest a large quantity of food. If you feel “stuffed” and tired after a big meal, rearrange your meal plans to eat smaller meals throughout the day. This allows the digestive system to work more efficiently because it has a smaller quantity of food to process at a time.
Wheatgrass is filled with all the nutrients you need for better brain and body function. Taking a wheatgrass supplement each day gives your system the balance it needs to fight sleepiness after eating. This super food contains beta-carotene, B-complex vitamins (including the energy-boosting Vitamin B12 and Vitamin B6), magnesium and essential amino acids and enzymes. It has Vitamin A, C, E and iron. Wheatgrass works to detoxify the body. It’s been proven to aid the digestive system and may even prevent ulcerative colitis.
Wheatgrass contains chlorophyll, the pigment responsible for making plants green. Chlorophyll increases oxygen throughout the body and acts as a powerful antioxidant, protecting you against colds, the flu and other everyday illnesses. It may aid in preventing cancer, diabetes and other diseases. When paired with a proprietary blend of herbs or a multivitamin, you’ll experience even greater energy and reduced appetite throughout the day.
If you get between seven and nine hours of restful sleep a night, you’ll be less likely to feel drowsy after eating or anytime during the day. If you’ve gotten less than seven hours sleep, or tossed and turned all night, a heavy meal will be harder to digest and you’ll have a harder time staying awake. If you often experience drowsiness after eating, examine your sleeping patterns. You may need to go to bed earlier, cut down on computer use or TV watching right before bed and/or keep your bedroom free from light and noise.
Set a regular bedtime each night, preferably the time when you usually feel tired. If you go to bed too early, you may toss and turn for hours. You should wake up at the same time every morning. If you are getting the proper amount of sleep, you won’t need an alarm clock. You’ll naturally wake up after you’ve gotten the right amount of sleep.
Remember to get up and around at least 15 minutes after eating. (See Tip Number 1). If you stay inactive, you may fall asleep after meals, which can lead to insomnia at night and more problems with drowsiness the next day.
Eating a large meal slows you down, but regardless of the size of the meal, certain types of food will make you drowsy. Sugary desserts, or any food with a high sucrose content, breaks down into glucose in your body, elevating your blood sugar level. Your body then releases insulin to fight this sudden rise in blood sugar. The increase in insulin makes your brain produce sleep-inducing melatonin and the neurotransmitter serotonin, which can make you feel drowsy. Substitute fruit or low-sugar sweets for dessert. Use honey instead of sugar when preparing homemade desserts.
Coffee, tea and cola are short-term solutions for sleepiness. If you feel lethargic after a meal, drinking coffee or a cola won’t perk you up. On the contrary, it will make you drowsier after the initial energy burst ends. Drink a decaffeinated beverage or water after a meal instead of coffee or soft drinks. Water keeps you hydrated and allows your digestive system to work smoothly.
Everyone experiences post-meal drowsiness to a different degree, according to the New York Times article “Drowsy after lunch? Don't worry - it's natural.” Most people can recover from after-meal drowsiness on their own (or with a few adjustments to their routine). If you’re able to take a “power nap” for 20 minutes during the day, it will have a rejuvenating effect. IF not, try to do secondary “busywork” until your energy returns.
If you are so tired even diet and lifestyle changes don’t help, visit your doctor to rule out hypoglycemia, diabetes, anemia or another medical condition.
The usual energy-boosting suspects – coffee, sugar and energy drinks – may give you a temporary lift, but after a few hours you’ll be right back where you started. If you need extra energy after meals or anytime, take one of Wheatgrass Love’s nutritional supplements for better energy and health.
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