Feeling tired after eating is very common, and it happens more often after lunchtime. Is it normal? Yes. However, feeling constantly tired after a meal could be a sign of an underlying health issue. The good news is that there are simple ways in which we can avoid that constant drowsy feeling after a meal.
So, if you’ve been asking yourself why you often feel tired after eating, you’ll discover the main reasons why this happens and effective ways to avoid it in the future.
Why Do I Feel Tired After Eating?
There are several reasons why you may feel tired after eating. But it may be concerning if it always happens and starts to affect your everyday life. Below are the main reasons why you may feel tired just after taking a meal.
1. You Eat Big Meals
If you’ve ever felt like you’re about to fall asleep after lunchtime, it’s probably because of how much you ate. The answer to this phenomenon is simple: it takes a lot of energy to digest the foods you eat. Therefore, the larger the meals, the more likely it is that you feel drowsy after eating.
2. It’s a Natural Part of the Digestion Process
Our gut takes about 2 hours to digest an entire meal. Because of this, you’ll often feel drowsy after eating. This is especially true after eating lunch since we usually get back to work or continue with our duties shortly after. Besides that, the quality of food you eat also influences the amount of energy you’ll have after a meal.
3. You Eat Too Much Over-Processed Food
Foods that are high in saturated fat, simple carbs, and artificial flavors (like junk food), give you poor nutrition and instead load up your body with lots of calories. Besides the digestion process it takes, the high amounts of carbs and fats make your blood sugar unsteady, creating constant spikes. This is what causes the constant energy crashes in the afternoon time.
4. You Eat Foods That Are Rich in Protein and Carbs
Spoiler alert! You should be eating enough protein and carbs each day. Don’t think that you should eat less protein or eliminate carbs. In fact, these will help to prevent constant cravings throughout the day and keep you healthy overall. However, it is worth the mention that certain foods can cause you to feel sleepy after a meal.
Protein-rich foods, like salmon, poultry, dairy products, soy, eggs, and seeds, have higher levels of tryptophan. You can also find it in foods rich in carbs, such as pasta, rice, white bread and crackers, and processed pastries. Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps the body produce serotonin, which is the hormone that brings relaxation. Some scientists found that people feel tired after eating because their body is producing more serotonin.
5. You May Be Having Blood Sugar Spikes
While it’s completely normal to have your blood sugar levels rise and fall, unhealthy sugar spikes can cause the infamous energy crash. This happens because there is a sudden high amount of sugar in your blood that forces your body to store it, leaving you with a very low sugar level that will cause you to crave more sugary foods. It’s a vicious cycle you certainly don’t want to be into.
6. You Skip Meals
Not eating enough throughout the day or even skipping meals is also a very common reason why you may feel tired after eating. Sometimes, we don’t realize how our energy levels are so low until we miss a meal.
Studies show that not eating during regular hours (AKA starving) is why you feel tired, have less energy, and have the urge to overeat during your next meal. As a result of that hungriness and your huge meal, you feel drowsy.
7. You Consume Stimulants Like Caffeine
There is nothing wrong with starting your day with your favorite cup of coffee. Coffee is one of those foods that can help us stay alert during the day. But overdoing the coffee mugs can cause the opposite effect and make you feel sleepy.
Why do you feel tired after eating or taking caffeine? Simple: Too much caffeine will eventually make the energy-boosting effect wear off. This happens especially during your next coffee break in the afternoon or after lunchtime.
8. You Lack Exercise
This may sound like it’s not directly related to being sleepy, but it is. When you’re not physically active, your body lacks the energy it needs to perform well and help you stay alert. That’s another reason why you should always include workouts in your weekly schedule. Not exercising will cause you to feel more tired and moody.
9. You Have Poor Sleeping Patterns
Another reason why you may feel tired after eating is you may not be sleeping well at all. If you think of it, our body needs enough rest to perform well and keep us with enough energy. Because of this, not sleeping enough the night before will make you crave more food the next day and cause you to be sleepy around the afternoon hours.
10. You Drank Alcohol
Even though alcohol per se is not one of the main reasons why you may be tired after eating, you may want to look into your drinking patterns. What this means is that having alcohol with your meals or drinking the night before can make you feel sleepy. According to Harvard experts, alcohol is a sedative and can lower your energy.
Other Health Problems
There may be other underlying health issues related to feeling tired after eating. Excess tiredness after eating could be a symptom of the following health problems:
Diabetic patients could struggle with feeling tired after eating due to unusual blood sugar levels. When it’s too low or too high, there could be dizziness, less energy, and increased fatigue.
When you lack certain nutrients in your body, such as iron, folate, and vitamin B-12, you could experience symptoms of anemia. This happens when the number of red blood cells in your body is too low. One of the main signs is feeling extremely tired and dizzy.
Food Intolerance or Allergies
If you didn’t know, that extra drowsiness could be a sign of a food allergy or intolerance. Having digestive issues, such as diarrhea and vomiting, is not always a sign of allergies. Food intolerances could manifest in different ways. That’s why it’s always best to check with your local doctor and confirm any diagnosis.
People who also have hormonal imbalance related to their thyroid show excess sleepiness or sleep disturbances. This is on top of weight loss, irregular bowel movements, and even muscle weakness.
Sleep apnea is a rare condition in which you have problems breathing while you’re sleeping. This constant sleep interruption can make you feel extra tired the next day. There are many factors why sleep apnea happens, but in most cases, it has to do with obesity and high blood pressure.
Being gluten intolerant is another reason why you could be more tired than usual, especially after eating. This happens because your body has problems digesting gluten foods. Therefore, you absorb fewer nutrients and your gut is constantly irritated. One of the main symptoms of this disease is fatigue.
How to Avoid Feeling Tired After Eating
Feeling tired after every time you eat can be annoying and may sometimes even have a significant impact on your lifestyle. Below are some tips on how to avoid feeling tired after eating.
1. Stay Hydrated
Drinking enough water is key to keep your body working well. When you hydrate your body, your metabolism is boosted and you have less fatigue and hence, you also have more energy.
2. Eat More Whole Foods and Cut Back on Refined Sugars
One of your objectives is to balance your blood sugar levels. To do this, you have to make sure that you’re eating enough whole foods and less over-processed foods. Eating whole foods can lower the risk of those sugar spikes, heavy cravings, and that energy crash.
3. Eat Enough Food During Each Meal to Keep You Satisfied
Practicing intuitive eating is very effective. It not only helps you stay in shape, but it also aids your digestion and boosts your energy. You must eat until you’re satisfied, not until you’re full. Eating too much food than what your body asks for in one sitting will only cause you to overeat and give you that sleepy sensation.
4. Avoid Starving or Skipping Meals
This is another big problem you want to avoid. When you eat at regular hours, your body will have more energy throughout the entire day. Don’t try to stand hunger because then you’ll overeat in the next meal and feel more tired than you should be.
5. Exercise Regularly
Stay active as much as you can. You don’t have to run a marathon to stay healthy, but engaging at least in some regular basic exercises can already help raise your energy levels.
6. Get Enough Quality Sleep
Sleeping enough is key for your body at all times. Good quality sleep is at least about seven to nine hours. Try not to eat too late at night before you go to bed, turn off distractions (including your cell phone), and block off excessive light to help you develop a good sleeping habit.
7. Drink Caffeine in Moderation
If you enjoy starting your day with your favorite cup of coffee, go for it! But bear in mind that drinking about two to three cups a day should be enough to get that energy in. More than this can cause problems if you are not careful.
8. Have a Balanced Diet
Eating enough nutrient-rich foods will make your body work more efficiently and boost your energy. Aim at getting protein, healthy fiber, and healthy fats in all of your meals. Make your plate balanced and colorful.
9. Moderate Your Alcohol Intake
When you limit alcohol, you’ll notice a significant improvement in your energy levels overall. This especially applies to when you eat your meals during the day. Focus on no more than one to two glasses of wine a day. Drinking alcohol with meals can make people feel more tired.
Even though feeling tired after eating is normal, there are still some lifestyle habits you can improve to reduce this situation. If you’re feeling more tired than usual after your meals, make sure you work on quality nutrition, daily movement, proper rest, and do regular healthcare check-ups.