We truly hope you all enjoy the holiday designated for eating lots of delicious food and catching up with your loved ones. Let the “food coma” commence!
Have you ever wondered what makes you so tired after eating a big Thanksgiving meal?
Well, the turkey always gets blamed for causing drowsiness. More specifically, tryptophan, which is an essential amino acid found in turkey, is claimed to be the main sleep inducer. Once tryptophan is ingested it leads to the production of serotonin, in addition to other vitamins and hormones, within the brain. And one of the many functions of Serotonin is to regulate your sleep-wake cycle!
So then it’s decided: eating turkey makes you sleepy …right?!
But, what if I told you that tryptophan is commonly found in most protein-based foods. According to healthaliciousness.com, seeds, nuts, soybeans, various kinds of cheese, beef, and pork all have higher levels of tryptophan than turkey! This means eating turkey shouldn’t make you more tired than it does after you eat pistachios or mozzarella cheese. In fact, if you ONLY ate turkey on Thanksgiving, then you’d actually feel energized!
Turkey couldn’t possibly be the culprit for all of the post-thanksgiving dinner naps.
The fatigue that you feel after eating a big meal is due to the amount of carbohydrates you consume. That’s right, it’s all that delicious bread, mashed potatoes, and pie that make you tired! When tryptophan is digested with high amounts of carbohydrates, your body focuses on breaking down the sugars first. As a result, the normal tryptophan blocking mechanism around your brain is diminished and allows easier flow of the amino acid into your cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Tryptophan converts into serotonin within the CSF, which ultimately leads to lethargy and a “food coma”.
Furthermore, eating large meals makes your digestive system work harder overall. Your body needs to ensure all your food is properly processed and absorbed. Basically, your brain tells you to rest and restore energy reserves while your dinner is digested. And don’t forget about all the energy you expended before eating! All that cooking, cleaning, playing football, and dodging awkward family conversations will also make you tired!
What are the best ways to stay energized throughout the carb-filled holiday?
1. Drink lots of water throughout the day to ease digestion and to avoid overeating.
2. Fill your plate with more vegetables than carbohydrates.
3. Take frequent breaks when eating to gauge your level of fullness.
4. Stay active after eating to promote digestion and to reenergize after a large meal.
1. Moll, L. Effects of Tryptophan: The Truth about Holiday Food Comas. Available at: https://www.vitamix.com/effects-of-tryptophan-the-truth-about-holiday-food-comas. Accessed on November 22, 2016.
2. Sloat, S. Don’t Blame Turkey Tryptophan for Your Sleepy Thanksgiving. Available at: https://www.inverse.com/article/24078-turkey-sleepy-mood-swing-myth-tryptophan-serotonin-amino-acid. Accessed on: November 22, 2016.
3. Chausse, J. Here’s the Real Reason Thanksgiving Makes You Tired. Available at: https://www.wired.com/2016/11/heres-real-reason-thanksgiving-makes-sleepy/. Accessed on: November 22, 2016.
4. HealthAliciousNess. Top Ten Foods Highest in Tryptophan. Available at: https://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/high-tryptophan-foods.php. Accessed on November 22, 2016.