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Explore our expert knowledge on topics such as healthy eating during the holidays, and how to live into a happier and healthier you in the New Year. Discover tips and tricks on how to avoid weight gain at holiday parties and while on vacation.

Does Turkey Really Make You Tired?

Thanksgiving is notorious for a tableful of turkey and restful nap. But are the two interconnected like popular belief or is it a full-on rumor? BistroMD is dishing up the truth on whether or not that tryptophan-containing turkey is the contributor to that post-Thanksgiving nap!

Does Turkey Really Make You Tired?


What Is Tryptophan?

Before playing the blame game, let's first establish what exactly tryptophan is. More formally written as L-tryptophan is a type of amino acid, or a building block of protein, and is among one of the nine essential amino acids. Being essential, the body is unable to produce it on its own and must be obtained from tryptophan-offering food products. Along with the notorious Thanksgiving turkey, nuts and seeds, fish, chicken, cheese and tofu, and eggs are additional foods with tryptophan.

Along with its association of protein benefits, tryptophan is required to synthesize serotonin. Also known as that "feel good" hormone, serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood. But the sequence does not stop there, as serotonin can heighten levels of melatonin. Melatonin has been utilized to manage and treat insomnia and sleep disorders, as it is often supplemented to induce greater sleep by controlling the body's sleep and wake cycles.

So, Does Tryptophan in Turkey Make You Tired?

Okay, let's chew on this... If turkey makes you tired, that insinuates the other tryptophan-containing products can, too. Okay, now let's think about not only the turkey, but the other foods present at the Thanksgiving feast: Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, casseroles, rolls, pies... Need we say more? Beyond their presence at Thanksgiving, they also have a common theme of being high in carb and starch. And beyond tryptophan's role in serotonin conversion, carbohydrates do not avoid the spotlight...

Turkey may be needed to fill the tryptophan tank, but carbohydrate is suggested to "empty" it out. The total plate, filled with both tryptophan and carbohydrate, is suggested to induce sleepiness, rather than turkey primarily on its own. And not to mention, with such a large volume of food being consumed, the body uses most of the energy for the digestion process and relocating and fixating energy to the gut. All-in-all, linking turkey directly to increased sleepiness is a far turkey trot. Instead, the plate's totality and the mass quantity generally consumed may trigger the desire for some shuteye. The body may feel extra tired from using extra energy to digest all the food and from all the devoted energy used and needed to prepare the large feast.

Beating the Thanksgiving Zzz's

While a 20-minute power nap has shown to be quite beneficial to health, it may not always be plausible during a busy Thanksgiving schedule. So to beat the Thanksgiving Zzz's, try limiting your portions and balance your plate with the lean turkey, offered veggies, and healthy starches and fats. Also practice the concept of mindful eating and savoring the flavors of your favorite Thanksgiving foods. And as always, keep energized day in and day out by sleeping the recommended seven to nine hours nightly.

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