✓ Evidence Based

7 Foods That Make You Tired

The foods you eat throughout the day play a role in your overall energy production. While lifestyle habits like quality sleep and stress management are necessary to stay alert, just how much of what you consume can make you tired?

When you eat unhealthy foods, blood sugar spikes, causing a quick insulin surge. Then, there is typically a drop or crash shortly after. That typically leaves you lethargic and cranky. What’s worse, the addictive qualities of the food can also leave you craving more of those same foods. But, you’ll even see that some surprising healthier foods can make you tired as well, for different reasons.

Foods that Make You Tired

Check out the information below to see if any foods are sneaking up in your diet that may be draining your energy. Plus, find out what you can do to beat fatigue and increase energy with changes throughout the day as well.

1. Refined Grains

Refined grains are one of the biggest culprits to lost energy. Refined grains consist of the white foods out there. White bread, rice, and pasta are some examples of refined grains. Refined grains can make you feel tired because of blood sugar spiking. That creates a momentary good feeling but quickly leads to an energy crash shortly after.

Refined grains can lead to inflammation in the body resulting in a greater risk of obesity and even many chronic diseases. That includes a potential increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, the fastest growing and most common diseases in the United States (1, 2).

It is possible to avoid a crash from refined grains. Moderation is the key. Limiting your consumption of refined grains can help with many things beyond increased energy. It can help lower your BMI and minimize your risk of chronic diseases.

2. Fast Food

There are many dangers of consuming too many fast foods, but one danger that may go under the radar is energy depletion. While some healthy foods can make you tired differently, fast food can cause an energy crash similar to refined grains.

Short sleep durations mixed with poor sleep quality may even be from a combination of unhealthy foods, including fast food, according to some research (3). Getting enough quality, restorative sleep is essential for overall well-being, energy production, hormone regulation, and much more. Interrupted sleep can contribute to many negative health side effects (4).

Fast food is also laden with sugar or excess carbohydrates that can affect energy expenditure. Fast food can play a role in feeling more tired, and it can even interrupt sleep quality long-term.

3. Coffee and Alcohol

While coffee gives you initial energy, it can also make you tired. Everyone’s bodies react differently to coffee consumption. Some people can have 3 cups a day and sleep well, while others have a few sips of coffee and stay up all night.

Coffee blocks the chemical adenosine, which activates the sleep and wake cycle. Drinking too much coffee can make you more tired because of this. Alcohol works similarly. It can act as an inhibitor to adenosine, but it can also produce more adenosine. Some research shows that the more tired participants were in the morning, the more coffee they drank, and the better chance of sleep disruption. That was known as the “coffee cycle” (5, 6).

Blood sugar levels can also play a role in determining if coffee will make you tired. For some, drinking coffee in the morning can negatively impact insulin levels and create drowsiness faster. (7)

4. Foods High in Saturated or Trans Fats

The body craves fats every day, but it is essential to consume the right fats for energy production. Foods high in saturated fats can significantly contribute to disrupted sleep cycles. And, diets high in trans fats show some links to high depression cases (8).

That is especially true when paired with a low-fiber diet. One study shows that diets high in saturated fats and sugar produced more disturbances in sleep and less restful sleep cycles (9).

Alternatively, healthy fats like mono and polyunsaturated fats are essential for healthy energy production. Adding some avocado or olive oil is a great and easy way to get enough healthy fats throughout the day.

5. Fish & Turkey

Not all foods that make you tired are unhealthy. Some fish and protein sources like turkey can also contribute to sleepiness, but for different reasons. Some protein sources, beyond these two, contain the amino acid tryptophan, which produces serotonin. Serotonin, known as the “feel-good” hormone, can cause drowsiness (10, 11).

While many protein sources contain tryptophan, fish and turkey contain some of the highest amounts. Salmon, tuna, and cod give a mighty dose of tryptophan, for example. It is not only that turkey dinner that can make you sleepy.

Ways around this are to eat non-starchy vegetables and healthy fats to help your body metabolize the meal better. Portion control among protein servings is another way to avoid too much tiredness after a meal.

6. Dairy

Dairy can be the ultimate food to put you to sleep. Think, a warm glass of milk before bed may be mixed with some cinnamon for an added boost. Like the protein sources above, dairy is also high in the amino acid, tryptophan (12).

While dairy can be a healthy addition to some diets, some often have an aversion to it at some point in their lives. That is because dairy is a highly inflammatory food that can hinder health goals like weight loss (13).

With the many dairy alternatives on the market today, everyone has an option to choose what works best for their bodies.

7. Some Fruits

Some fruits like cherries, bananas, and pineapple can make you more tired. These are all excellent alternative snacks to have before bed if you have issues falling asleep. The high amount of potassium and magnesium in bananas helps activate serotonin faster. (14)

Cherries and pineapples can be helpful because they are high in tryptophan and melatonin. Melatonin is necessary to get to sleep every night. It is a hormone naturally produced with darkness, but many often need a boost. That is because melatonin production easily gets blocked when around screens too late at night.

Opt for some tart cherries, bananas, or pineapple if you want to have a restful sleep.

How to Avoid Feeling Tired After a Meal?

A balanced diet is essential to promote energy and keep sleep restful. There are a few things you can do to be sure you are not too sleepy after a meal.

  • Mind your portions, especially with protein
  • Eat small healthy snacks to keep you energized throughout the day
  • Get outside at least once a day. Natural light helps promote a healthy circadian rhythm.
  • Make time for movement, even if it’s only a short walk

Your health can improve or spiral downwards depending on your food and beverage intake. Always be sure to consume foods like alcohol and caffeinated drinks in moderation to help promote energy and improve sleep.


From refined grains to foods high in saturated fats and even proteins, there are plenty of foods that can make you want to take a nap.

While some foods like refined grains are on the unhealthier side, some healthy foods can also make you tired. Finding balance in your diet and lifestyle is the best way to make sure you stay alert during the day and sleep well at night.