Noon lunch, 2:30 crash
Have you ever wondered why you get really sleepy around 2:30PM? What you eat at lunch has a lot to do with it. Most lunch menus serve you rice and/or bread with your meal. On top of this, you’re probably eating chips, fries or other starchy foods. You may even be eating too much. A lot of people don’t understand this fact about starch, but starch is basically long chains of sugar. The body knows how to easily break these chains turning them into glucose (blood sugar). So, while starch doesn’t taste sweet, that doesn’t really matter to the body. It processes starch just as though it were sugar.
With all of the heavy loads of starch eaten at lunch meals, the body’s reaction to that is by producing insulin to balance the high blood sugar levels. The downer you feel at 2:30PM is the body clearing the excess blood sugar from your body, but possibly even more than this. Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas to stimulate the muscles and liver to metabolize the blood sugar thereby taking the excess blood sugar levels down. If too much insulin is released, you may end up slightly hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) which can make you sleepy (among other symptoms). Once the body releases glucagon, another hormone that raises blood sugar levels, the blood sugar levels should even out.
The body wants to keep blood sugar levels in check. But, after an excessively large starchy meal, the body may overcompensate by producing too much insulin which can cause sleepiness.
The takeaway from this is that you should limit how much starch and food you eat at lunch. You don’t need to stuff yourself to the max. You just need enough food to get you through till dinner. You should also try to limit the starchy foods in lunch meals. The idea is to keep the body’s blood glucose levels even throughout the day (especially if you are healthy). Heavy spikes in blood sugar (starch consumption) overtaxes the pancreas (that creates insulin) and, in some people, may eventually lead to diabetes. More than diabetes it is good to do this just to keep yourself feeling your best and avoid afternoon sleepiness.
For lunch meals, you can include some starch, just don’t make it the majority of your meal. Meat and vegetables don’t raise insulin much. Potatoes, bread, pasta, cakes, cookies and candies all raise blood sugar levels, so be careful eating these meals for lunch. If you limit your consumption of sweet and starchy foods during your lunch meal, you can avoid the sugar high and subsequent sugar low. If you can keep your insulin levels even throughout the day, you can avoid the afternoon sleepies.