Have you ever noticed how you have a tendency to drift off and started flickering your eyes after a meal?? Holidays specifically, when family gatherings became gluttonous food fests where we feast on 3rd's and still save room for dessert! What is the science behind the fogginess which we seem to encounter after meals? I will give you a few explanations which will be broken down scientifically/simply put.
1. A heavy carbohydrate filled meal-There is no secret that carbs increase your insulin levels pretty quickly. The pastas, cereals, breads and such which contains minimal micronutrient value are sure to cause a blood sugar spike. Your blood sugar will rise and thus when your glucose levels drop to normal or lower levels, your body experience's that crash. The crash is your body suppressing "Orexin". Orexin is a neurotransmitter which regulates your appetite and awareness. The keys to combating the heavy carb filled crashes we experience include:
- high protein consumption (meats, whey, hemp, edamame etc.)
- high micronutrient consumption (vitamin filled foods such as spinach, kale, sweet potatoes, anything basically rooted from the ground-THINK WHOLE FOODS!)
- Taking natural anti-inflammatory supplements. Curcumin, fish oil, glucosamine, a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.
2. Low potassium- Insulin levels rising cause serum potassium to be swallowed inside of your cells that naturally exist outside. Serum potassium is a mineral that regulates your blood pressure, nerve impulses and digestion. So what this entails is our potassium levels dropping, this causes fatigue and muscle weakness. Simple potassium raisers are a potassium supplement or potassium rich foods. Examples include white beans, spinach, baked potatoes and dried apricots.
3. Tryptophan, Serotonin and Melatonin-We all know that Tryptophan is found in turkey, but what exactly is it?? Tryptophan is an amino acid which is a precursor to serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter produced in your brain that balances your motor skills and emotions. When serotonin dips, you can become depressed and or anxious. Serotonin also is found in your stomach and intestines.
What also happens is a heavy dose of tryptophan can lead to increased serotonin levels which in turn is converted to melatonin. Melatonin is a major factor with your sleep cycles. Melatonin is naturally low throughout the day, as the evening arises: melatonin spikes which causes us to feel sleepy. The hip bone is connected to the knee bone, the knee bone is connected to.....back to tryptophan, it is the kickstarter in this process which leads to the process of drowsiness. To combat this, move around after meals. A body in motion stays in motion. If we allow this scientific process to take place and we are idle, this is what makes us drowsy.
4. Less blood flow to your brain- When you eat, blood flow is increased to your stomach to digest your food. Since the general pattern is moving to your GI tract, your brain has less blood, nutrients and oxygen. Simply put, our minds could make us sleepy.
5. Increase of Leptin- This last one is common, Leptin has the reverse effect of Ghrelin which is our signaled hormone that we are hungry. Leptin is our hormone which signals that we are full. When our Ghrelin levels subside, (generally from a heavy carbohydrate laden meal) Leptin naturally rises. #'s 1 and 5 are hand in hand, which can be counteracted by anti-inflammatory's and protein/fat/carb balanced meals.
Generally speaking, balanced nutrition and exercise programs will keep your body running fluidly throughout the day. Be sure to use these helpful tips the next time you feel fatigued after a meal!
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I am a personal trainer/nutrition coach whose passion is enhancing the lives of those around me.
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