If you’re getting sleepy at work in the afternoon or after your midday meal, it may be because you’re eating too many calories of carbohydrates, fats and sugars. So how do you avoid getting sleepy after meals?
Certain foods trigger the body to produce chemicals or hormones that induce drowsiness. To stay alert in the afternoon or whenever you have your meal during your shift, eat smaller amounts of food with less carbs, fat and sugars.
You’ll have the added benefit of cutting down on calories if you opt for small servings of vegetables, fruits, whole grains (in small amounts), nuts, seeds and low-fat meats.
Some people complain of drowsiness after a big holiday meal, especially where turkey is served. People have come to blame tryptophan in the turkey, but Huffington Post says there is just as much of the amino acid in eggs and cheese.
Foods high in carbs, fat and sugar trigger a neural response in the small intestine that directs the body to slow its metabolism and work on digesting what you’ve eaten rather than going out and acquiring more food to eat, Huff Post reports. This response takes place in what is called the parasympathetic nervous system.
Researchers determined certain brain cells, the orexin neurons of the hypothalamus, react strongly to glucose, which spikes after a fattening meal. The neurons produce a protein named orexin that helps moderate wakefulness.
Another neurohormone affected by food is insulin, which the body releases in greater amounts as you eat bigger quantities of food. “The insulin, in turn, increases the amount of seratonin and melatonin that flood the brain, two chemicals associated with drowsiness (and, for that matter, happiness),” Huff Post states.
Huff Post says the drowsiness one feels after a meal isn’t dangerous. But if you feel it a lot it may be a sign of overeating, which does hold dangers of obesity and related heart disease, diabetes, stress on bones, muscles and tendons and other health problems.
Healthline reports on other foods that can cause drowsiness:
Though all foods are digested in much the same manner, not all foods affect your body in the same way. Some foods, like turkey, can make you sleepier than others. Turkey and other high-protein foods, along with spinach, soy, eggs, cheese, tofu, and fish contain the amino acid tryptophan, which is used by the body to create serotonin, possibly responsible for that post-meal haze. Cherries affect melatonin levels, carbohydrates cause a spike and subsequent fall in blood sugar, and the minerals in bananas relax your muscles. Any one of these factors could leave you sleepy.
Healthline says there are foods that have the opposite effect, foods that wake you up and make you ready to tackle any boring task your boss may throw at you right after lunch:
The good news is, there are foods that can have the opposite effect. For instance, a balanced diet that includes vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats promotes sustained energy. Drinking plenty of water, avoiding too much sugar and eating smaller, more frequent meals can also help.
Woman’s Day has a good article on certain high-energy foods that can help combat low energy. The article states foods high in fat and calories can make you feel fatigued because they require a lot of energy to digest.
The 10 foods that Woman’s Day identifies as high in energy compounds are:
(The fact that one publication says high-carb foods like rice and potatoes, bananas and spinach cause drowsiness and another publication says they boost energy may point to a lack of research on the matter.)
It makes sense, too, as Healthline says, that a decent night’s sleep can help ward off drowsiness after a meal or during the midday.
Exercise also helps. “Multiple studies found that regular exercise helps increase energy and reduce fatigue. In other words, being sedentary doesn’t create some sort of energy reserve that you can tap into at will. Instead, being active will help ensure that you have the energy to push through your days,” Healthline reports.
Healthline’s article has the subhead: Feeling Tired After a Meal Is Completely Normal, but the site advises that talking to your doctor if the drowsiness interferes with your day or a change in diet and lifestyle don’t help mitigate it.
That said, WebMD advisesif you get tired after a meal, you may have celiac disease or intolerance to certain foods. Cut out certain foods if you suspect they are making you drowsy, and see if that works. If it doesn’t consider having a blood test for celiac disease, which affects about 1 in 100 people.
Another thing you can try not mentioned by the articles we linked to is to take caffeine. As long as you keep your intake to 200 to 300 mg per day, caffeine is considered no problem. It is a stimulant that does not harm the body. In fact, many studies claim in moderate amounts it may benefit people, not just in boosting alertness but in reducing risk of disease and other types of pathology.
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Is there a big difference between synthetic and natural caffeine? Apparently, synthetic caffeine is much more powerful than the caffeine found naturally in plants. The question is, is synthetic caffeine harmful?
Some fairly ominous-sounding chemicals are used to process synthetic caffeine. Websites are unclear as to whether the ethyl acetate and methylene chloride (and carbon dioxide) used to process urea to manufacture synthetic caffeine remain in the product. Ethyl acetate is used as a flavoring in some foods, though, so perhaps it is not harmful and may remain in synthetic caffeine.
Why does soda have caffeine in it? Caffeine does add to the complex flavors of the various types of caffeinated soda. In fact, the taste of caffeine is bitter and has to be balanced with sugars or sweeteners and other flavors. Caffeine also adds a boost in energy to the drinkers of soda.
But what reason do the manufacturers give for adding caffeine to soda pop?
Some research has suggested that caffeine may stimulate thermogenesis - a scientific name for the way your body generates heat and energy from the calories in your food; but nutrition experts say that this effect probably isn't enough to produce significant weight-loss. Caffeine may also reduce your desire to eat for a brief time, but again, there's no good evidence over the long-term that this effect leads to weight-loss. To date, no conclusive clinical studies have been done to determine the long-term effect of caffeine on weight loss, and the smaller studies that have been done show a lot of variability in the outcomes.