Sometimes after eating, we feel tired or have difficulty concentrating, which you would think is not right because food is supposed to give us energy and we should be more active, right?

This can be quite annoying, especially after breakfast or lunch, as we may have to go to work or study.

First of all, know that it is normal to feel tired after eating. However, several reasons could be influencing this issue, some related to your diet and some to your habits:

  • What you eat: foods like turkey, bread, cheese, chicken, milk, chocolate, eggs, salmon, poultry, and soy products, are rich in an amino acid called tryptophan; this particular amino acid is used by our brain to produce serotonin and melatonin, two hormones involved in sleep regulation. Other foods, like walnuts and pistachios, are rich in melatonin, aiding the feeling of drowsiness. 

In addition, if your meal also has carbs in it, such as pasta, rice, potatoes, or even sugar, this might increase the “tiredness effect”, since carbs make tryptophan to be absorbed more easily.

Also, read – Foods That Boost Serotonin and Dopamine

This is why, sometimes, food can make you sleepy, so next time keep an eye on these foods.

  • How much you eat: even though food gives us energy, it also takes energy to be digested and metabolized, so if your meals are very bulky, it is normal that you feel tired afterward. If you find this to be a frequent problem, it may be a good idea to eat smaller meals more often trough out the day.
  • Alcohol consumption: it is known that alcohol induces sleep, so if you usually have alcoholic beverages with your meals, this may be the reason for your after-meal sleepiness. 

In addition, although alcohol suppresses our central nervous system causing drowsiness, consuming it at night generates a worse quality of sleep, since several hours after consumption causes an increase in adrenaline, activating our nervous system and causing us to wake up in the middle of the night.

  • Any unknown food intolerance or allergy: these conditions can cause problems during digestion leading to a sense of tiredness, or even gastrointestinal discomfort, severe headaches, and skin rashes, among other things. 
  • Your physical activity level: contrary to what many people might believe, being physically active keeps your body energized and running, even after big meals. Keep in mind that having a sedentary lifestyle doesn’t mean you are building up a reserve of energy, so keep on moving!

Asked by: John M.

Registered dietitian-nutritionist and Writer

With a degree in Nutrition and Dietetics, Eva is a dietitian-nutritionist who is passionate about everything related to food and nutrition.
She is always in constant search of knowledge and loves to write about topics related to food, nutrition, healthy eating habits, and tips for a healthy lifestyle, making knowledge about food and nutrition education available to everyone, helping them to have better health.

She is also a chef and has experience in recipe creation and workshops on healthy cooking.