A good sign that you’re eating something that is not optimal for your body is having fatigue, brain fog, or low energy after eating. Eating should fuel you, providing sustained steady energy for a good couple hours. If you’re sinking out or unfocused anywhere from 20 minutes to 2-3 hours post eating rethinking your food choices can positively shift this.
Some reasons for feeling tired after eating may be:
– too much food
– Too many carbs from sugars or refined sources
– Consuming a food your body is sensitive to or that you have an intolerance to
– Eating too much
– Eating too little
– Eating in a rushed, stressed, or disconnected mindset
– Not enough of important nutrients
Fortunately there are numerous ways to adjust this problem and feel better!
When coaching my clients, one of the first things I teach them is how to create a balanced plate. Then we customize it to their needs. A balanced plate is divined into quarters; two quarters are filled with non starchy veggies or low sweet fruits, at least one quarter is lean protein, and the rest is either starchy carbs or varied depending on the individual, fat is used as a garnish or is used in the cooking process.
The average person can get by with this balanced plate because it provides nutrients from all three major macronutrient groups plus micronutrients in amounts that aren’t too high or low. More active people may need more protein and carbs, while those shooting for fat loss or are less active need less carbs and ample protein.
Eating much more than this balanced plate in terms of calories and carbs especially will leave your body doing extra work to divest what you just ate. While your body digests food it takes away energy used for other tasks to do this, leaving you sluggish. In this case, simply decreasing the amount to that of a balanced plate above, and serving your meal up on a salad sized plate rather than a large dinner plate (plate sizes have grown tremendously in the last 30-40 years) will aid in this change.
Eating just enough carbs to provide fuel and of the right quality will stave off fatigue as well. Refined or processed carbs and sugars raise blood sugar quickly, but last very briefly, leaving you tired soon after. Same with fat, carb, and Charlotte dense foods like fries and chips. Even though they may taste good, the body cannot use these efficiently and in a sustained way. Plus any extra calories are stored as fat, and when tons of quick digested calories are consumed at once, aren’t used for energy immediately, they will be stored, leaving you fatter, tired, and still hungry. Avoid refined, fatty, and sugar rich carbs. Choose whole grain or starchy carbs instead, plus vegetables which are rich in fiber and necessary nutrients. The best carbs besides non starchy veggies are less sweet fruits including berries, citrus, and kiwi; beans and legumes, oats, sweet potato, potato, quinoa, winter squash and root veggies, and brown rice.
Having an undiagnosed food sensitivity can also may you groggy, moody, or in a brain fog. Food sensitivities range from severe to mild and can manifest in physical, emotional, or unseen symptoms. Determining what foods, if any, you may be intolerant or sensitive to can be tricky, we eat multiple foods and ingredients in one meal typically. If you regularly eat the same food(s) and feel unwell after, it may benefit to try eliminating or replacing 1-2 foods for a few weeks and see how you feel. If you notice changes in time you may do well avoiding the food for a while, then reintroducing the food after a period of time. This is a form of an elimination diet, which you can perform in its entirely to really get to the bottom of troubles. A true elimination diet takes time, patients, and discipline as it requires a good number of weeks and months or removing then one at a time adding back single foods at a time to challenge the body. In the end, you will have a very good idea how your body reacts though. You can also overcome some sensitivities if you eliminate for long enough and repair your gut. Which leads me to another cause of food related fatigue.
But before I bring that up I will finish by mentioning the most common food sensitivity culprits include dairy, wheat, gluten, eggs, shellfish, histamines, food additives and colors/dyes, corn, sugar, and FODMAPS.
Internal upset or digestive and GI troubles also affect your energy and mood. When the body cannot digest, absorb, and use what we eat properly we are left with unused particles traveling around our bodies internally. Some of these particles are large unbroken pieces of food (in a sense), others are particles such as parasites, cultures, germs, etc, or even foods the body is sensitive to, that impair or damage the body. In both cases the body sees these as invaders and cannot use them for energy, repair, and proper use. Having a healthy gut, will ensure you are able to digest and use what you consume. Eating a dose of probiotics, prebiotics, fiber, micronutrients, water will ensure the body’s systems work optimally. Avoiding excess sugars and refined foods prevents build up of invadors. Avoiding foods you’re sensitive to until you repair your gut will may allow you to once again eat some of these foods in the future. A diet rich in fiber from non starchy veggies, and lean protein, rounded out with health fat maintains and repairs the gut.
How fast you eat and how mindful you do so will also affect how your body digests, absorbs, and uses foods. Digestion begins in the stomach. If you do not chew foods entirely then large particles are swallowed and some of these are unable to be broken down in the toms have without help first in the mouth by enzymes and the teeth. It may sound absurd but chewing each bite of food 20-30 times will break it down enough to be used properly. Eating in a peaceful, not rushed, unstressed environment helps this too. When we eat when stressed, or distracted (by phones, thoughts, doing work), our bodies produce hormones that may slow or inhibit proper use of food. Additionally, standing up while eating creates less satisfaction from food. Not only our minds, but our bodies, enjoy and thrive by us paying attention to our foods while we eat. Take at least 20 minutes to sit and eat, avoid work, screen time, and multiple thoughts and just enjoy your food. Your bodies will thank you.