This is the reason why you get that sleepy feeling after you finish eating your meal.

“I can’t believe I ate the whole dang thing!” That’s how it all begins. How it ends: “Uh! Did I fall asleep?” It was just  a nap on the couch, or at least a very unproductive afternoon. That awkward moment when you just can’t stay awake after your lunch. This is what is known as a food coma, carb coma, or the itis. Scientifically, it’s called postprandial somnolence — “postprandial” means after a meal, “somnolence” means drowsiness. But why does it happen? Let’s learn why!

Let’s Redigest Your Food

Hold on a few minutes before you eat that meal, cause it might be important, you know. Before you understand why you might feel drowsy after your meal, as usual, let’s take a crash course about what happens in your digestive system when you eat. As you enjoy your meal by chewing, your stomach releases the hormone gastrin, which triggers the secretion of other digestive enzymes that begin the process of breaking down your meal.

The broken-down food molecules then moves into your ileum (small intestines) as your stomach releases the circulatory regulating hormone enterogastrone. Meanwhile, your pancreas releases insulin to assist your stomach absorb glucose from the carbohydrates in the food, and at the same time, also triggers the release of a variety of amino acids into your brain, which includes the infamous sleep hormone known as (can you guess?) tryptophan. And one more thing, have you realized that food comas don’t happen after every meal?

There are a few reasons why: A meal rich in carbohydrates triggers a higher spike in insulin, and thus releases more tryptophan to the brain. At first, the tryptophan converts into serotonin, which makes you feel good for a while — that’s the satisfying moment; and later converts into melatonin, which makes you feel drowsy — that’s what we’re talking about, food coma. That’s not all the bad news: glucose from the carbohydrates may also prevent the nerve cells responsible for keeping you awake and alert, known as orexin neurons.

Meal Myths Vs Feast Facts

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Least we forget, however, that the combination of tryptophan with all other hormones, amino acids, and macronutrients that you’ll acquire from your meal doesn’t have that much of an effect than you thought. And also, protein rich meals doesn’t have the same sleepy effect, since protein tends to promote the secretion of more stimulating amino acids.

Unfortunately, food comas are hard to avoid, but if you’re hoping to reduce your chances of knocking your head against the air, there are a few hacks you can try. All you need to do is to carefully watch your diet; keep your portions quite simple and eat at a slower pace, in order for your body’s hormones to have ample time to balance it out. And just as a doctor would advice, make sure your meal is balanced without too much carbohydrates and/or fats and oils, and remember to include a lot of vegetables, yes, increasing your vitamins.

Food Not For Thought

If you really want to stay alert, here are a few snack suggestions:

  • Almonds: These nuts are rich in nutrients containing both Vitamin B and magnesium — the latter has been linked to improving metabolism while exercising.
  • Beans: These are packed with protein, which leaves you feeling full and satisfied. It stabilizes your blood sugar levels so you can keep up a steady pace all day.
  • Eggs: These are also full of protein, which gives you a jumpstart in the morning with heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids. 
  • Oatmeal: Yes, it’s carbs — but oatmeal has the benefit of being slow-burning, which will keep you rolling all morning long.

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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Tue, Mar 05, 2019.


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