Feeling Tired? Eat Protein

Eat Protein to banish that sluggish and sleepy feeling.

Foods high in sugar and carbohydrate often make us feel sluggish and sleepy. Until now, it was a well-known phenomenon without a good scientific explanation.

Now science is catching up. A neuropeptide, called orexin, appears to play a role in modulating appetite. It’s also involved in sleep and energy expenditure or, said another way, how tired or peppy you feel. A rare medical disorder, narcolepsy (suddenly falling asleep), results from orexin deficiency in humans.

Effects of Sugar

In early experiments with mice, sugar was shown to decrease or down regulate orexin. If this holds true in humans, it explains why we feel tired, sluggish and hungry a short time after eating sweets. In contrast, protein increased orexin levels and increased energy levels and activity. So for a burst of energy that will sustain you through those late afternoon hours, try reaching for a protein bar rather than a candy bar.

Orexin may be part of the explanation for the current obesity epidemic brought on by unhealthy Western dietary practices. American calories are largely derived from processed foods high in refined sugars. If early experiments hold true, these eating habits would drive orexin levels down, and may account for why Americans rarely feel satisfied after a meal and why many people have no energy for exercise.

Sugar and complex carbohydrates are not essential nutrients.

We need protein for essential amino acids. We need fats for essential fatty acids. There is no such thing as essential sugars or carbohydrates. If you choose to eat dessert, eat it sparingly. More importantly, adding even a small amount of protein to sugar seems to blunt the effect of sugar on orexin. The next time you order dessert, make sure you have some protein with that treat. Try it the French way and add an after dinner cheese offering!

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