Turkey is notorious for making people tired. How can you make sure you’ll make it through the after-dinner clean up and, even better, dessert?
A lot of people blame the post-Thanksgiving lethargy or “food coma” on tryptophan, an amino acid in turkey meat. When we eat turkey, our bodies turn the tryptophan into serotonin, which can make us feel calm, restful and even sleepy. But, according to doctors, that’s not really the case.
Tryptophan can make you drowsy, but only if it’s consumed on its own, without any other amino acids. Eating a turkey dinner shouldn’t knock you out. Besides, a lot of other foods like chicken, dairy, seafood, nuts and legumes contain tryptophan and don’t have the same reputation for making people sleepy.
So, why does Thanksgiving make you sleepy? Are your family members just trying to get out of chores? Probably not. It’s more likely that eating any sort of big meal will make you feel tired, as your body increases blood flow to your stomach to help digest the meal. This leaves your brain with a little less blood flow than before, which can cause you to feel sleepy. It could also be that eating a lot of carbohydrates and sugar can temporarily spike your insulin levels, leading to a spike in serotonin and melatonin.
Combine those factors with the work of preparing the meal, the excitement of a family get-together and even a few adult beverages and you have a surefire recipe for drooping eyelids.
How to Handle a Food Coma
If you don’t have time to deal with the routine Thanksgiving food coma (there are Black Friday deals to get to, after all!), there are a couple of things you can try before and after your meal to put some extra pep in your step.
Stay hydrated. It’s always good to hydrate, and a glass of water or a cup of tea can help relieve any bloated feelings that can come with a food coma after a big meal.
Eat a balanced breakfast beforehand. Some people skip breakfast on Thanksgiving Day to save up room for the big meal. That’s a mistake. In order to fight the food coma, have a breakfast of healthy fats, lean proteins and whole grain carbs. It sounds like there’s avocado toast in your future.
Load up on colorful, fibrous foods. Your Thanksgiving table shouldn’t be all one color! Make sure there’s variety and fiber in the side dishes. Carbs and sugar shouldn’t be verboten, but they shouldn’t be the only things on the table either. Add some salad, roasted vegetables or nuts to your spread.
Take an after-dinner walk. After the turkey, take some of your family members out for a stroll around the neighborhood. The crisp fall air and activity will have you feeling awake in no time. Plus, it will aid in digestion.
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What do you do after Thanksgiving dinner? Do you take a walk, clean up in the kitchen or go straight for dessert? Let us know in the comments below!