Food provides the body with energy. Even if you don’t know the science behind it, we know it’s true. If you don’t eat, your mind and body literally can’t function and it’s only a matter of time before the fatigue sets in.
This is exactly why it can be mind-boggling when your eyelids start feeling heavy shortly after a meal. If food is energizing, how does it make us sleepy? This type of post-meal fatigue is often referred to as A food coma. according to Dr.. Benjamin Emmanuel, DOassistant professor of neurology at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, the scientific term for this feeling is postprandial fatigue, or sleepiness after eating.
Contrary to popular belief, Dr. Emanuel says that tryptophan, a type of amino acid found in foods including poultry, cheese, milk, and tuna, isn’t actually a major cause of food comas. “Tryptophan has not been clearly linked to postprandial fatigue or postprandial sleepiness, as it subsequently leads to the production of serotonin and melatonin,” he says. This can help you get a good night’s sleep, but it doesn’t necessarily lead to what’s called a food coma.
Related Topics: Are you always tired in the afternoon? Here are 13 possible causes of fatigue
In fact, Dr. Emmanuel says there’s another major cause of food comas: simple carbohydrates. “Usually, high-carb meals can make a person feel more tired,” he says. While simple carbohydrates provide energy, they also cause blood sugar levels to rise and then fall, which can lead to fatigue. This is why when carb-rich foods aren’t paired with other nutrients — such as protein, fiber, and unsaturated fats — that balance blood sugar levels, you can experience a “crash,” or low energy.
Curious to know what this looks like? Here are seven nutritional coma foods and tips on how to enjoy them without wanting to take a nap afterwards.
Related: 15 Best Tips on How to Stay Awake When You Need to Be Attentive and Focused
7 foods that can cause a nutritional coma
1. Lu Min
Greasy, takeout is certainly delicious, but it’s one example of foods rich in carbohydrates, which as Dr. Emmanuel explained, can lead to post-meal fatigue. If you don’t have a protein-rich food, like chicken, you’ll need a larger portion to feel full. (This is also why it’s not unusual to feel hungry again after just 30 minutes of eating it.) According to a scientific study on fatigue after eating (also known as food coma), eating a high-calorie meal can leave you feeling tired afterward.
It can still be 100 percent fun without feeling too tired afterwards. Just stick to a moderate portion and pair it with a protein source (for satiety) and vegetables that are low in calories and they will also help you feel full without eating too much pasta.
Similar to lo mein, pasta is rich in carbohydrates but lacks protein, fiber, and unsaturated fats that are essential for satiety and for balancing blood sugar levels. Using whole-wheat pasta can help because it has more fiber than traditional pasta. So protein can be incorporated, like meatballs. Having your meal with a side salad can also help.
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Related: 55 healthy pasta recipes for keto, paleo, or vegan pasta lovers
3. Sugary pastries
In general, you want your blood sugar levels in the normal range. “If it’s too high or too low, it can make you feel tired,” says Dr. Emmanuel. One type of food that is bound to elevate your levels into the higher range is sugary pastries like cakes, eclairs, and cupcakes. According to scientific researchers who have studied the relationship between sugar and energy levelsThe idea of getting a “sugar rush” (an energy boost) is a myth. In fact, people are more likely to feel tired after eating sugary foods.
Whether your pizza will put you in a food coma or not, it all depends on how you make it. If you’re eating three slices of a greasy cheese pizza, prepare for exhaustion. This is because it is a high-calorie, high-carb food and as you now know are two major causes of food comas. But let’s say you have a slice of pizza loaded with veggies. It may even contain the rind of cauliflower. Now that fiber is in the game, the potential for a nutritional coma is lower.
Weekends are meant to be lazy and that’s especially good if you’re starting out on a Saturday or Sunday with a pancake breakfast. Can you guess why? It’s the double whammy of carbs and sugar (a drink that’s sure to accompany your pack). For a more active breakfast, try this recipe for an oatmeal protein pancake, made with Greek yogurt, oats, hemp seeds, and bananas. It has your protein and fiber bases fully covered.
Whether you like them mashed, baked, or in French fries, if you eat regular potatoes, this is another example of a carbohydrate-rich food that Dr. Emmanuel can make into a food coma. You can still enjoy potatoes without wanting to head to bed afterwards, just pair them with foods rich in fiber and protein.
7. Any great meal
The size of the meal activates the amount of hormones [in] “The parasympathetic nervous system and blood flow in the area,” says Dr. Emmanuel. He adds that the parasympathetic nervous system is known as the “rest and digest” system. “The bigger the meal, the bigger the response,” he says. This is why overeating can make you tired, no matter what foods you’ve been eating. Scientific studies support this connection: I found one study Truck drivers who ate large meals felt more fatigued than truck drivers who ate medium meals.
“The best way to prevent food coma is to eat smaller meals,” says Dr. Emmanuel. Making sure your meals contain protein, fiber, and healthy fats will also help. If you still feel tired after eating, consider other factors that may play a role, such as feeling stressed or depressed.
With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to avoid a coma while still sleeping well. Balanced meals equal balanced energy levels.
Next, here is a list of 58 foods that will naturally help boost your energy levels.
- Dr.. Benjamin Emmanuel, DOassistant professor of neuroscience at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine
- Louise L. Lerscoff, Emma; Dorf, Andrea M.; Widmer, Matthias Hebrich, Judith Seigenthaler, Katharina Timber, Mark E. Donath. The role of IL-1 in postprandial fatigue. molecular metabolism. 12; 107-112.
- There is no such thing as a sugar “sugar rush”! Sugar worsens mood rather than improving it. Warwick.
- Andressa J. Martins, PhD., Ligia A. Martini, PhD., Claudia RC Moreno, PhD. A judicious diet is associated with decreased sleepiness among short-term truck drivers. feed. 2019; 263-64: 61-68.
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