Many people just think of food as fuel for the engine. This, to a certain extent, is true. But, if you make the mistake of thinking that anything and everything destined for your tummy is going to give you a jump start, you’re in for a rude awakening. As important as some ingredients are for keeping us going, it turns out that others can send us straight to sleep.
Some of these snooze inducing snacks will be obvious to anyone who’s ever overindulged at the dinner table. Others might come as a shock. Either way, if you want to stay awake, they are all best left alone. Here are seven ingredients that will actually make you really tired.
There are plenty of reasons to start including nuts as a snack option, but you need to be careful what you choose if you want to stay productive. Almonds may be good for many things, but wakefulness isn’t one of them. They contain a regular cocktail of chemicals that will send you off to the land of nod, including tryptophan - which increases production of sleep-regulating hormone melatonin, magnesium and niacin.
Another natural source of tryptophan and magnesium, the humble banana is often described as the ideal fruit to send you off to sleep. Despite long being a favourite of athletes looking for a source of slow release energy, the truth is that these two key chemicals can actually have the opposite effect to what you may have intended - something to bear in mind if you need to stay alert.
Despite being full of sugar, it turns out that milk chocolate bars are one of the worst things to eat if you want to stay awake for the long haul. The reason for this is insulin. Eating foods high in carbohydrates and sugars causes blood sugar levels to spike, which in turn prompts the brain to produce insulin. This causes a boost in serotonin levels - leading to unsolicited snooziness.
4. Fast Food
It’s no coincidence that you go through a slump after finishing a particularly hefty burger. Much like sugar, fat in food will cause an energy crash brought on by an overload of neurohormones in the gut, which makes your brain less able to react quickly and causes feelings of fatigue. As tempting as the extra slice of pizza may be, it’s not the food to eat if you want to be on top form.
It might be the last food you’d expect to sap your energy, but there is a surprising reason why lettuce could be the reason you find yourself in a post-dinner funk. Despite being green and healthy on the surface, lettuce is actually rich in a substance known as lactucarium - a chemical known to have a sedative effect similar to opium. Your salad might pack more of a punch than you’d think.
It might have been the go-to sporting meal for decades, but pasta can be just as soporific as anything else. Typically, the problems start with the size of pasta portion, as a large quantity of the food can take a lot of energy to break down. This can increase lethargy and lead to feelings of sleepiness.
Once you accept that sugar causes an energy crash, it makes sense that sweets and candy would be one of food groups most likely to make you tired. Despite the initial boost, arguably the biggest problem with eating sweets is that they cause the brain to stop producing orexin - a chemical that helps you to remain awake and alert. This is obviously not ideal if you actually need to do anything productive.
As important as food is for keeping us on our toes, it’s important to remember that not everything is going to have the effect you’re looking for. Whether you’ve got a long day at work ahead, or you just need to get an early night, it’s worth remembering what you should and shouldn’t be eating.