Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Is the Turkey Really Making You Sleepy at Thanksgiving?

By: Joel Luedke

The big Thanksgiving meal (or meals depending on your day) is coming up and along with that comes the almost inevitable overconsumption of food.  It happens to the best of us.  Along with this meal comes the traditional Thanksgiving nap.  This nap has been long blamed on the turkey but is it really the turkeys fault?  He has had a rough enough day the way it is.

The idea that turkey makes you sleep due to tryptophan has been around for a long time.  While it is true that tryptophan is present in turkey and it is true that is a precursor to melatonin and can contribute to sleep it might not be the full on culprit to your post meal nap that you think.  The media boom around this idea is the same as the presence of resveratrol in wine.  While it is true that it is present in wine the levels at which it is might not have all the health benefits you were hoping for.

Now back to the turkey.  Again tryptophan is present in the turkey but there is another potential explanation for why you get so tired after you eat.  First, some basics in digestion.  The blood in your body concentrates where it is present most based on what activities you are partaking in.  In activity your blood focuses it work on the muscles as that is where most of your bodies activity is occurring. When you are eating your blood focuses is work to the digestive tract to help with the breakdown and  digestion of the food.

With all that being said your stomach is highly efficient but with some lines of thinking it can only handle so much of certain types of food at a time.  One line of thinking looks at both carbohydrates and protein as 'concentrated' foods and that the body can only really handle one of these at a time.  This line of thinking also looks at vegetables as very neutral and being able to combine with either food (fruits are another story for another day).

The idea behind this is when you consume large amounts of both protein and carbohydrates in a meal your stomach starts working overtime in order to try and break down both of these foods in combination and that is where things get difficult.  Your body basically starts working overtime in order to accomplish this task and while it doesn't feel like a workout your body is putting out a lot of energy to get this process accomplished.  By some estimates to fully breakdown that huge meal it can take 6-8 hours.

The bottom line of it all.  Do you have to skip Thanksgiving meal or completely change it around?  No that's not what we are saying.  Try this though.  After lunch do you get tired and feel like you need a nap?  What did you have for lunch?  Was it a huge sandwich with fries or a burger?  Did that make you tired at all around 2-2:30pm?  Try switching it up the next day and having a salad or just focusing on protein one carbohydrates for the day.  See how you feel and if that helps with that mid-afternoon 'lull'.

Don't blame the turkey for everything and try some mini-experiments to see how your body responds.  It may be as simple as the food combinations you put together.  Happy Thanksgiving!

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