"Sorry, mom, I can't play board games at the kids table now. I'm just way too tired from my turkey."
Alright Spoonies, I know you've all tried some version of this fatigue by turkey to justify your post-Thanksgiving meal nap, but I have news for you. That excuse isn't going to cut it anymore. We are giving turkey a bad rep, and frankly, it's not fair. A turkey-induced food coma is not actually a medical diagnosis. Your turkey is not at all the reason you're sleepy, and here's why.
So, why am I giving you this physiology lesson? Like I said, your body has tryptophan and that builds the sleep inducing neurotransmitter, serotonin. Turkey contains tryptophan, so people often associate it with causing your post-Thanksgiving meal delirium.But, tryptophan is found in plenty of high-protein foods (it is a building block of proteins), and no one freaks out about being sleepy when they eat a piece of fish, right? Also, why is it that you don't feel tired when you have your turkey sandwich every other day of the year? Obviously, we have to be missing something. There's more to this turkey tale.
The Truth Comes Out
If you're like me, another crucial member of your Thanksgiving plate is stuffing and,of course, pumpkin pie. These carbohydrates cause a release of the hormone, insulin. You've probably heard of insulin in association with diabetes because it helps absorb sugar into the tissues of the body.But, insulin also blocks most amino acids from getting to your brain by allowing the tissues to swallow most of them up. Most meaning all except, you guessed it, tryptophan. With more amino acids in the tissues, that means fewer partiers competing for Ubers to the brain, so tryptophan gets a front seat. Tryptophan slides right past those insulin receptors and into your brain, making you physically sleepy.
As you can see, there are several factors that go into this, but most likely, it's the combination of tryptophan and carbs that gives you drooping eyelids. Plus, alcohol is a thing on Thanksgiving, and overeating, and a lack of sleep because of family stress...the list could go on and on.
In terms of overeating and exhaustion, your body uses a lot more energy for digestion when you overeat, causing you to feel tired (I see the second slice of Grandma's pumpkin pie on your plate).
This Thanksgiving, please take advantage of a home-cooked meal, eat at least two plates, unbutton those jeans, and even take a nap. I don't care. However, out of the respect for all of the physiology teachers out there, don't blame your exhaustion on the turkey.