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Why am I so tired after a meal? Ways to combat food coma

Ever find yourself dosing off at work after lunch time and wondered why, and what you could do to stop that from happening? This blog will go through why food coma is a thing, and several dietary and behavioural strategies to keep our energy levels up.



Why does this happen?

Our bodies switch between two modes across the day: the 'Fight or Flight' mode (sympathetic system), and the 'Rest and Digest' mode (parasympathetic system).


When we run for that bus in the morning, we're more alarmed and awake, and we don't feel tired and hungry at the time.


On the contrary, when we relax on the couch, we're calm and might start feeling hungry and tired.


When we're eating, our 'Rest and Digest' mode is switched on, which partially explains why we enter a 'food coma' after a meal.


The other reason why we feel this way is the sudden rise in blood sugar levels after a meal. This sudden rise is often followed by a sudden dip in sugar levels, a bit like a roller coaster. This is why we often feel a 'sugar rush' when we have a big meal, followed by a food coma.




Is there something we can do to combat this?

Yes! There are dietary and non-dietary factors that contribute to how tired we feel after a meal.


But before we dive into the dietary factors, let's lay down the basics and see whether we're already doing these, as they help with our energy levels more than we think.


  1. Do we have enough sleep (7-8 hours a day)?

  2. How is our sleep hygiene (e.g. darkness of the room, amount of screen use before sleeping)

  3. Do we exercise enough (30 minutes of activity a day)

  4. Do we drink enough water? (Check the colour of your urine -- clear means yes!)


What we can eat to prevent food comas

The most effective way of preventinf food comas is to incorporate foods the portions that prevent us from feeling that sugar roller coaster by doing the following:


1. Incorporate wholegrains in our meals, rather than refined carbs. These foods causes a slower rise in sugar levels. Examples include quinoa, oats, barley.


2. Include small portions of carbohydrate-rich foods. I would recommend having about 1/4 of your meals with these foods (most of us add way more than that).


3. Include plenty of fibre-rich foods such as veggies, beans and fruits. This should take up the majority of the meal.


4. Add a small amount of good quality fats, such as nuts, fish, extra virgin olive oil, avocado.


5. Avoid excessive caffeine intake (coffee, tea, coca cola, energy drinks, matcha, chocolate), as this could also cause sudden rises and dips in energy levels.



Here are some examples of lunch ideas that would help sustain us with good energy levels throughout the day:

  • Quinoa salad with diced tomato, cucumber, onion, dressed with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.

  • Wholegrain tortilla wrap with chicken breast, avocado, green veggies plus a side salad

  • Canned tuna on corn thins with a side salad or salsa

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