You’ve just had a great meal for lunch and now you’re kind of dreading the next phase to follow. Ahhh, that’s right, the dreaded food coma! After eating a huge meal, the desire to do nothing but sleep forever might seem like something your brain invented to get out of going back to class/work/doing anything, food comas are totally legit. In scientific terms, it’s called postprandial somnolence (“postprandial” means after a meal, “somnolence” means drowsiness).
But, why does it happen? Let’s dig in!
When we’re eating, the stomach produces gastrin, a hormone that promotes the secretion of digestive juices to break down food. As the food enters the small intestine, the cells in the gut secrete even more hormones (enterogastrone) that signal other bodily functions, including blood flow regulation. Meanwhile, your pancreas releases insulin to help your stomach absorb glucose from the carbohydrates from the meal.
When you eat a meal high in carbohydrates it results in a spike in insulin. Next, the insulin makes more tryptophan chemical which enters the brain and further it converts into serotonin that makes you feel good and then melatonin that makes you feel sleepy.
According to experts, the best way to avoid food coma is to observe your meal and eat in a set pattern so that the internal processes are under control and even after eating heavy you don’t feel drowsy.
Keep your plate equal parts in vegetables, protein, and carbohydrates is always a smart idea. Keep leafy green vegetables in the picture too; they’re super fibrous, which is great for digestion. Foods high in saturated fats are more likely to cause stomach upset. In addition, spicy foods will provoke and worsen heartburn.
The idea of walking for a while after eating food is to let the food break and settle easily. After having the meal it is suggested to be moderately active as it helps promote better blood sugar control. Drink water. When your body is dehydrated, it will slow down and your energy levels are more likely to drop.
Food comas are sometimes unavoidable — nobody wants to watch their diet during a holiday feast — but if you want to reduce your chances of nodding off after dinner, there are a few ways to do so. Watch your portions and eat slowly so your body’s hormones have time to balance out.
If you really want to stay alert, here are a few snack suggestions:
Oatmeal: Yes, it’s carbs — that’s where moderation comes in. But oatmeal also has the benefit of being slow-burning. Instead of rushing through the peak and crash, it’ll keep you rolling all morning long.
Almonds: These nutrient-rich nuts contain both Vitamin B and magnesium — the latter of which has been linked to an improved metabolism while exercising.
Beans: A cup of beans is packed with protein, and will leave you feeling full and satisfied. Better yet, it will stabilize your blood sugar levels so you can keep up a steady pace all day.
Eggs: Also full of protein, eggs give you a jumpstart in the morning with heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. But you might want to skip the bacon if you need to stay alert.