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What Causes Me to Feel Lethargic After Eating?

By Kay Ireland ; Updated August 14, 2017

The excessive need to sleep after a large Thanksgiving dinner goes deeper than the stress and tiredness of the holidays. Daily specific eating patterns, chemicals and ingredients contribute to that extreme lethargy and tiredness you feel after consuming a large meal. Better understanding the ways that your food affects your mood and energy level helps you know what to eat at which part of the day for optimum energy levels and mood-boosting properties.

Amino Acids

Certain foods make you feel tired due to the various natural amino acids found in the food. Tryptophan, an amino acid found in foods such as turkey, chicken, nuts, milk, seeds, eggs and fish, stimulates the release of serotonin, a chemical which makes your feel calm, stable and happy while working to regulate your sleep patterns. After eating foods high in tryptophan, you might feel tired and lethargic as a result of the serotonin being released in your body.


Eating too quickly and to excess may render you useless after a big meal. The sheer volume of food you put in your body makes you feel heavy and tired, but for a surprising reason. A report from Harvard Medical School explains that the simple act of eating food drives blood away from the head and into the digestive system. This action can result in lowered blood pressure and dizziness. The result is a light-headed, tired feeling which you associate with being full.

Blood Sugar

Your blood sugar is constantly maintaining a balancing act. To help regulate blood sugar levels insulin is released by the pancreas. While typically the insulin works properly, a diabetic's blood is insulin resistant or doesn't create enough insulin to properly regulate blood sugar, resulting in high blood sugar. Alternatively, a person's body might create too much insulin, a condition known as hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia often results in an excess of insulin and low blood sugar, which can make you feel tired, lightheaded and lethargic after eating.

Eating Strategies

The way you eat and the types of food you eat affect how you feel after a meal. If you tend to feel tired and lethargic after eating, try eating slower and more mindfully, giving time for your body to regulate the digestive process slowly and efficiently. Avoid foods that are high in tryptophan when you need to be alert and energized after a meal, looking instead of complex carbohydrates to help offer quick energy. If your tiredness after a meal is chronic and accompanied by symptoms such as headache, irritability, blurred vision, sweatiness or confusion, see your doctor to be tested for unregulated blood sugar levels.

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