Eating should provide your body with energy. But the wrong combination of macronutrients, failing to eat enough of certain nutrients or too much sugar can do the opposite. You might just be undermining your energy levels with each bite.
How much you eat also plays an important role in whether you'll feel energized or fatigued after a meal. If you feel tired after eating, consider consulting your doctor and getting tested for food allergies or intolerances.
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Too much fat, carbohydrates or sugar can also make you tired. Once you figure out what's causing you to feel tired after eating, you can adjust your diet to incorporate foods that will give you energy and mental clarity for your daily activities.
High Glycemic Index Foods
The glycemic index ranks food according to how they affect your blood glucose levels. Foods that digest, absorb and metabolize slowly don't spike your blood sugar so much and lead to a steady energy state.
Foods with a high glycemic index can make you feel tired because they provoke a steep rise in your blood sugar, which may instantly provide an energy zing, but shortly after cause it to drop dramatically.
Some of the foods that have a high glycemic index include refined carbohydrates — such as bread made with white flour — sweets, soda and fruit juice. Avoid eating foods with a high glycemic index if you need to concentrate at work or school right after eating a meal.
To boost your energy, swap a white bagel for whole-grain toast; eat raw veggies instead of pretzels as a snack; and trade french fries for a baked sweet potato.
Read more: Foods that Boost Energy Levels
Food That Cause Allergic or Inflammatory Reactions
Food allergies or intolerances may cause you to feel tired after eating. One of the most common causes of this effect is celiac disease, an autoimmune condition in which your body reacts negatively to gluten — a compound found in wheat.
When you have celiac disease, exposure to gluten causes intestinal inflammation and difficulty absorbing nutrients. It also results in a host of symptoms that may be mild (digestive upset and fatigue) or severe (skin rashes and drastic weight loss). If you have celiac disease, you need to exclude any type of food containing gluten, such as wheat, barley and rye.
Other foods that cause allergies and that can make you tired are dairy products, including cheese, butter and milk, as well as nuts and shellfish. Intolerances to certain food additives, such as monosodium gluatamate (MSG) — a flavor enhancer notably found in take-out and processed foods — can also bring on serious fatigue in some people.
Many times foods that are hard to digest will make you feel tired after eating because they cause your body to increase the blood flow to your stomach to be able to digest properly. This includes foods high in fat, such as red meat.
Fried foods also fall into this category, and you should avoid fast food, French fries and other fried food if you experience fatigue after eating these, especially if you have digestive problems such as heartburn or irritable bowel syndrome.
Tryptophan is an amino acid (a "building block" of protein). This essential amino acid helps regulate your mood and helps balance your hormones naturally. Consuming tryptophan-rich foods induces a natural calming effect.
Turkey is high in this amino acid, so you can thank it for the sleepy sensations induced after your Thanksgiving feast. Eggs, sesame seeds, bananas and dairy are other sources of this amino acid. They make a great components in a pre-bedtime meal, but you should avoid them if you need to be alert at work.
Several medical conditions — including nutrient deficiencies — can also cause tiredness and fatigue. Too little iron, magnesium, potassium or B vitamins may be to blame. If you feel tired all the time, seek medical attention to determine the underlying cause.
Read more: 10 Weird Signs You're Not Getting Enough Nutrients
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.