It’s not the Turkey’s Fault that you are Tired

November 26, 2012

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The poor turkey is having a rough enough day without being blamed for your sleepiness after the Thanksgiving feast. Many people have heard the rumor that turkey contains a chemical called tryptophan that causes us to feel tired. According to
Dr. Anne Marie Helmenstine,) turkey does indeed contribute to your fatigue, but it is not the sole participant. L-tryptophan is an essential amino acid which means that you must consume it somehow because your body cannot make it. In your body, it is metabolized to make two hormones called serotonin and melatonin that help your body relax and regulate sleep.  This makes it seem as though turkey would be the culprit for the fatigue you experience, but in fact, turkey does not contain any more tryptophan than chicken, pork or most carbohydrates. Plus, in order for you to feel the effects of tryptophan you would have to eat it on an empty stomach or at least with no other protein. As hard as you try, chances are you’ve already been munching on some hors d’oeuvres so your stomach is not completely empty. Turkey contains a bunch of other protein so tryptophan will not have the effect it would if it were consumed alone.  

There are more contributing factors than just the turkey though. Thanksgiving is a socially acceptable time to overeat. Overeating causes the blood from other parts of your body to be focused to your digestive system so everything else gets tired.  A good portion of the food we eat at this time is high in fat which is harder for your body to digest. It takes more energy and is a much slower process than the digestion of the rest of the food. Let’s not forget the alcohol. Plain and simple: alcohol makes you sleepy. If you mix this with all of these other factors discussed, you have the perfect recipe for a Thanksgiving nap. Or better yet, do something active and help your body digest that giant meal faster so you can feel rested without the nap. 

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