We all know that post-lunch slump, or the more technical term: “postprandial somnolence”.
What causes it and how to manage it?
Much of the problem is due to basic human physiology – after we eat, the blood goes to the digestive organs to process the food we have just eaten.
The tendency to get tired after eating doesn’t mean something is amiss, it’s actually normal.
There are however a few factors that can exacerbate the condition:
QUANTITY: Overeating could definitely induce more tiredness. The key is to eat slowly, consciously, and to stop as soon as you feel full in any way. Ideally, cut back on your portions, or stop just before you get that full feeling.
QUALITY: Sometimes however, the makeup of certain foods can contribute to tiredness. Fats are the hardest nutrient to digest because their molecules are much larger than those of protein or carbs. If you had a meal high in fat — such as fried foods or pizza — that could make you feel more tired. Meals high in added sugar or refined or highly processed carbohydrates can have the same effect because of how the body metabolizes these items versus sugar or carbs in natural or minimally processed foods.
The fibre in so-called whole foods slows the absorption of sugar into the body, which means they don’t cause blood sugar or insulin spikes and instead give you more stable, lasting energy, says Kristin Kirkpatrick, a registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic.
Choose more balanced meals with less sugar, lower unhealthy carbs, more fibre and lean proteins.
For some people, post-meal fatigue can signal something more serious.
Julie Stefanski, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says: “Statistics show right now that a lot of people in the US have diabetes or prediabetes and don’t know it”. When someone can’t properly metabolize carbs and therefore has a high amount of insulin in the blood, that can diminish energy levels, she added. If you regularly feel drowsy after eating even after making dietary adjustments, ask your doctor to administer the haemoglobin A1c test. The test measures average blood sugar levels and shows how much glucose is attached to haemoglobin in red blood cells, Stefanski said. “If that’s high, it shows that your body is struggling to metabolize food and carbohydrates”.
Some post-meal interventions:
- Consider a 5 minute stroll around the block or the office after eating.
- Consider a 15 minute power nap, or siesta. Studies show that an afternoon nap is great for adults. There's no need to feel lazy for indulging in daytime sleep. A short nap in the mid-afternoon can boost memory, improve job performance, lift your mood, make you more alert, and ease stress.