If you have ever had a meal or snack that was heavy on carbs, only to find yourself "crashing" a little later and feeling more tired than before you had the snack, you're far from alone. The post-carb letdown is a real phenomenon, but you can do something about it to minimize the effect or avoid it altogether.
How Carbs Work
Carbohydrates are one of the main types of daily nutrients and they include sugars, fiber and starches. Carbs help provide energy and are broken down in the body by amylase, an enzyme that turns them into glucose for the body to use for power or store as fat if energy reserves are not needed.
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Consuming carbs, particularly empty carbs such as sweets and soda, can provide a short-term rush of energy. But once your body releases insulin to help regulate your blood-sugar levels, the swift removal of those carbs into your muscles, liver and other organs can leave you feeling lethargic and tired. That sudden drop in blood sugar is known as hypoglycemia.
To counteract the short-term energy burst and subsequent crash of some foods and beverages with simple sugars, try consuming complex carbs, which take longer to digest. They will stay in your system longer and provide more sustained energy. Examples of complex carbs include nuts, legumes, whole-grain pasta, fruits, most vegetables, dairy, oats and wild or brown rice. Because they are absorbed more slowly by the body, they trigger a slower insulin release and a less noticeable tired feeling later.
To help avoid the sugar crash that can accompany a meal or snack that's primarily carbs, mix in some protein whenever you can. Protein also takes longer to digest, so you not only feel fuller longer, but you also avoid the spike in insulin and the accompanying drop in blood sugar.