Why you may fall into a food coma after you eat and how to avoid that 3pm slump
I was always fed a pretty healthy diet growing up, however, I do remember the occasional dinner outing with my family. I’d eat a huge meal (usually Spaghetti Bolognese) and then pass out on my mother’s lap due to the sheer exhaustion of eating such a huge meal.
When I left home at 18 I was so excited by the fact that I could eat whatever ever I wanted that I ate whatever I wanted. Once my girlfriend and I ate a kilo of bacon just because we could. As a result of continuously eating unhealthy foods, I was constantly tired at work. By 3pm I’d often be falling asleep at my desk and once home I’d hardly have the energy to cook dinner let alone fit in exercise. It wasn’t until I cleaned up my diet and exercise routine that I realised I didn’t have to feel this way.
So why do we feel so tired after eating certain foods or having a huge meal?
The food you eat diverts your blood to assist the digestion process; if you eat food high in sugar this will increase your blood sugar levels. This then causes your body to release more insulin which triggers the amino acid tryptophan which is stored within the brain and leads to a release of serotonin.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter hormone that helps send messages from one area of the brain to another. About 80% of the body’s serotonin is in the digestive tract, which in turn helps regulate your intestinal movements, and the other 20% is in the brain. Serotonin affects your mood, appetite, sleep/energy levels, sexual function, learning ability and memory. This is why what you eat can also have a profound impact on your mood and mental state.
Put simply, if you eat foods high in sugar your body increases the production of serotonin which will then lead to a drop in blood sugar levels leaving you feeling tired, not long after you eat.
The reason you may get so tired after eating a huge meal is because your body will be working overtime diverting blood from other parts of the body to assist in digesting the huge meal.
So the foods we need to steer clear of to avoid feeling tired are processed sugary foods, gluten and refined carbs. Some of these foods include white bread, bagels, lollies, store bought muesli bars, soda including diet soda and sugary breakfast cereals. Pretty much anything packaged that does not look like it has come from nature.
So how can you keep your energy levels up throughout the day?
- Start the day with hot water, lemon and a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar - as I mentioned in my alkaline article this will help set your digestion up for the day. Also, the better your alkaline levels in the body are the higher your energy levels are so check out the article for some good tips on how to raise those pH levels.
- Take some good quality fish oil each day – Not only does this help give you healthy skin hair and nails, it also helps curb sugar cravings.
- Eat breakfast – This is very important and something a lot of people don’t do. A good nutritious breakfast will help set up your energy levels for the rest of the day and help curb sugar cravings. Steer clear of white toast and sugary cereals and aim for something that contains protein, fibre and good fats which will help you to slowly release energy throughout the day and stabilise blood sugar levels. Some good brekkie suggestions include: eggs with avocado and spinach, flaxseed porridge with berries, good quality gluten free oats with nuts. Or if you don’t have the time to cook make a smoothie. My favourite mixture is almond milk, berries, cucumber, raw egg, ½ avocado and cinnamon. Trust me; it tastes better than it sounds.
- Stay hydrated – Dehydration can be a huge contributor to low energy levels and can also make the body sluggish which will slow down digestion. Aim to drink at least 2L of water a day. Coconut water is also a great natural hydrator.
- Eat a nutritious lunch – Eating a healthy lunch filled with whole grains such as quinoa or brown rice, protein and veggies will really help keep your energy up in the afternoon. Try having brown rice sushi or left over dinner such as meat and veggies.
- Sprinkle cinnamon on everything possible – Cinnamon helps to regulate blood sugar levels so is a great spice to include in your breakfast or with a snack. One of my favourite snacks is cut up apple or celery with almond butter spread on and sprinkled with cinnamon.
- Watch your portion size – The bigger the meal the more your body has to digest which will make you sluggish, so stick to small portion sizes. If you are someone who gets hungry quite quickly try having 5-6 small meals a day instead.
- Chew your food – This may sound simple but a lot of us just inhale our food which doesn’t give the body a lot of time to send the signals to the brain that you are eating. This means it will take you longer to feel full. Try chewing each mouthful at least 10-15 times. It sounds tedious but you will start to notice that you will become full a lot quicker and you won’t have that horrible sick feeling you may get after eating too quickly.
- Healthy snacks – Make sure your snacks are low in refined sugar and if you do decide to have fruit as a snack have some kind of protein like nuts with it as the natural sugar in fruit can cause you to crash as well. Here is a recipe for a healthy great tasting snack http://chiamiablog.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/super-easy-protein-balls/ you can make a whole batch on a Sunday and keep them in the fridge at work for a little pick me up.
- Exercise – This helps get your blood flowing, it aids in helping with healthy digestion and wards off fatigue, especially when done first thing in the morning.
Start implementing some of these tips this week and you will notice a huge shift in your mood and energy levels. You will also find that you will have more motivation and get more out of your days.