Everybody has heard the old myth that turkey is the reason you become so damn sleep after Thanksgiving dinner. It’s one of those myths that has become so widespread that so many people actually believe it, but the reality is that it’s actually more full of crap than you are after dinner.
Desperate to get to the root of this conundrum, we did some research on the old interwebz, and it turns out that turkey isn’t the only reason you feel tired after Thanksgiving. Yes, turkey contains the notorious tryptophan, an amino acid that is believed by many people to make you tired, but that isn’t entirely true.
After tryptophan is broken down it becomes melatonin, which is one of the main hormones that helps you fall asleep. But ounce for ounce, cheddar cheese actually contains more tryptophan than turkey does.
What makes you sleepy is actually a little more complicated. All of your body’s amino acids have to compete to enter your brain through something called the blood brain barrier. When you get your Thanksgiving fat on and eat mountains of carbs (i.e. potatoes, bread, sweet potatoes and, sadly, beer) your body produces insulin, which removes most animo acids from your blood – except tryptophan. This excess of tryptophan is eventually absorbed by your body, and is quickly converted into melatonin. Then it’s lights out.
A dinner heavy with carbs and booze will make almost anybody feel sleepy afterwards, especially if you had to travel that day. On top of all that dealing with your family can be super stressful, especially if your Thanksgiving dinner is filled with awkward questions from your aunt and questionably racist observations from your grandpa.
So if you don’t want to just give in to your massive food coma like the rest of us do, there’s a few things you can do. Avoid eating a ton of potatoes and rolls. The lack of carbs will ensure that there’s not as much tryptophan in your body after the meal. You can also avoid alcohol and dessert, although we wouldn’t advise that. Treat yo self!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!