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How to bid Food Comas farewell

Whether we are working or schooling, we all know the struggles of a post-lunch ‘food coma’ – the huge inclination to nod off into a long and sweet slumber after a hearty meal. This is annoying as it takes a huge amount of effort to stay awake when the coma is upon us, and is especially a peeve when we have important appointments to attend immediately after lunch (e.g. a long meeting with the board of directors in a setting where it’d be obvious if someone yawns!). However, skipping lunch cannot be the solution. Without food to fuel our bodies and brains, we’d be drained of energy and unable to be alert too. Moreover, never skip any meals, full stop – not only is skipping meals extremely detrimental to your system, it slows down your metabolism and sets up extreme hunger pangs that are challenging to resist giving in to.[1] The million dollar question is: How, then, do we prevent food comas? — The solutions are actually straightforward: having small frequent meals instead of a large feast, stay away from foods with a high glycemic index, and consume your meals slowly – it’s as simple as abiding by one of these, or all of them. Here’s why. Firstly, in response to the arrival of food in the body, the balance in your nervous system shifts. In particular, the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system increases while that of the sympathetic nervous system decreases.[2] Without going into too much biological detail, the consequence of this is a state of low energy and a desire to be at rest (i.e. temptation to fall asleep). In general, the larger the meal, the greater the shift toward the parasympathetic system – which is why having small frequent meals instead of a large feast aids in preventing food comas. Secondly, because high glycemic foods prompt rapid blood sugar spikes and rapid absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, a natural consequence of consuming these foods is equally dramatic blood sugar plummets (what goes up must come down!). These plummets are what induces the Z-monster.[3] Hence, stay away from high glycemic index foods such as white rice and pasta, and opt for substitutes that are lower on the index such as quinoa and lean sources of protein. Thirdly, the rate at which we consume our meals is related to the amount of control we have over the production of the hormone cholecystokinin (CCK), which is released during digestion. This matters because CCK activates the areas in our brain that are associated with sleep; in other words, the more CCK produced, the higher the intensity of the food coma.[4] The good news is that we are able to control CCK production as CCK also induces feelings of satiety, i.e. it tells us when we are feeling full. Hence, eating slowly gives our body more time to produce CCK, and hence more time for our brains to tell us that our body has received enough food. This prevents overeating – and food comas! — Now, you know! Goodbye, food comas. We’re sure this article was… eye-opening! *ba-dum-tss*   References [1] Crain, E. (2014). What happens to your body when you skip a meal. Women’s Health [online]. Retrieved from <http://www.womenshealthmag.com/weight-loss/effects-of-skipping-meals> [Accessed 25 August 2016]. [2] The Institute for the Psychology of Eating. (2014). The secret to digestive wellness. Psychology of Eating [online]. Retrieved from <http://psychologyofeating.com/secret-digestive-wellness> [Accessed 25 August 2016]. [3] Afaghi, A., et al. (2007). High-glycemic-index carbohydrate meals shorten sleep onset. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 82(2), pp. 426-30. [4] Cutler, N. (2011). Tips to prevent food coma. Natural Wellness [online]. Retrieved from <http://www.naturalwellness.com/nwupdate/tips-to-prevent-food-coma> [Accessed 25 August 2016].  

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