citygirlbites' Blog

Do You Experience the "Carb Coma"?

Have you ever noticed how you feel after eating a lot of carbs? I know that I tend to get sluggish. But many of my clients (especially those with pcos), describe intense feelings of lethargy that can last for over a day.

How do you feel after eating a large bowl of pasta or jumbo piece of cake (or two)?  Does it send your energy levels and mood plummeting? The type of food we eat can affect our energy levels; some foods can make us feel energized while others can induce feelings of lethargy. It is not unusual to feel sluggish after eating hefty portions of processed carbs.

 Now that the holiday season (filled with holiday sugary treats) is upon us, I thought it would be a good time to address this “carb coma”. By paying more attention to the foods you eat and by making better choices, you should be able to avoid these unpleasant feelings.

Why can carbs make you tired?
Here is a simplified explanation of what happens in your body: Carbohydrates, found in fruit, grains, milk and yogurt, sweets, many snack foods and vegetables (which contain minimal carbs), will break down into sugar in your blood. This rise in blood sugar will make your body produce insulin, which in turn, will “unlock” your cell doors to let the glucose in. Our bodies need carbohydrates for the nutrients they provide as well as for energy. However all carbs aren’t created equal! Sweets and processed “white” carbs will cause a quicker rise in blood sugar, followed by a quicker drop. In general, the quicker and higher the rise of blood sugar, the quicker the drop. The drop in blood sugar can make many people feel tired and / or moody.

Tips to avoid the “carb coma”:
1. Pay attention to how food makes you feel. Did that food you just ate make you feel energized or lethargic?

2. Before you indulge in a potential problem food, remember how bad it made you feel last time. Think twice … is it worth it? If you have a history of feeling low after eating a particular food, don’t even start! Or at the very least, eat a small portion. 

3. Select more whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes versus sugary or processed carbs. These foods will cause a slower rise and fall of blood sugar.

4. Try to include some protein and fat (heart healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts, avocado and nut butters are best) along with the carb. Again, this will slow the rise and fall of blood sugar.

5. If you do end up overindulging on processed carbs and experience lethargy, get right back on track with a healthy eating plan the next day. Skipping meals the next day to compensate and lounging around will only make you feel more lethargic. Make yourself get up and take a speed walk outside or get to the gym.

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I am a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator working at the...
Member since: 04/10/09
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