Friday, March 30, 2012

Tired after Turkey?

Thanksgiving is a great holiday. It is one of the only holidays that you are allowed to break that diet, and to feast upon all types / sorts of food, including the infamous turkey. For everyone across the country, after eating such a huge meal, you unbutton those pants or loosen that belt, because you are that full and cannot possibly eat any more turkey.

After the feast, it is NOT uncommon for people (mainly children) to take a power nap before desert. For adults, usually after clean up, every one gathers around the living room, just to relax and enjoy conversations or watch the "big game" that is on TV.

Information on the turkey... Turkey produces not only a great meal, but it also produces a very specific (natural) chemical called TRYPTOPHAN. Tryptophan does a number of things for a person such as: regulate your appetite and elevate your mood. However, it's well-known for its role in the production of nervous system messengers, especially those related to relaxation, restfulness, and sleep.

People who have a sleep disorder such as insomnia, you probably take some sort of sleeping pills to help you get to sleep. If you look at sleeping pills, tryptophan is an active ingredient. It can put you in a relaxed state and eventually put you to sleep.

Turkey, however, is not the only animal that contains a high amount of this chemical. To name of a few are... Chicken, calf liver, soy beans, tuna, salmon and shrimp. But there seems to be something with turkey that just puts people to sleep.

The assumptions and what people claim is that after eating a huge thanksgiving dinner you are tired and want to nap because of this natural chemical. Which is why people will gather around and relax on couches, or take a quick power nap. We can all relate to these instances after this meal. Just like every year, the same thing happens. After I eat I go to the couch and just want to watch TV, not even thinking about that warm, baked, homemade apple and pumpkin pie!

The facts and truth: Detective turkey is on the case.

In sleeping pills, you can get 100% of the pill as just tryptophan. I could not find an exact percentage that are in common every day supplements, but I did find some articles that said you can buy straight tryptophan. In a whole turkey, there is about 118% tryptophan, which makes it one of the healthiest foods riched in this chemical. However, what normal person can eat an entire turkey anyway, unless it is a very small one. With that said, how much of this chemical are you really taking in?

So my question for you? Do you think the reason why you are tired after a thanksgiving meal is because of this chemical?

After consulting with "Detective Turkey," the answer is NO: the chemical is not the main reason why you become tired, relaxed, and have the urge to nap. Think about it, at thanksgiving, how much turkey do you really eat? Certainly not 100% of the turkey. You may have a small fraction of it. Remember you are also eating stuffing, mashed potatoes, salad, bread, etc... Since you are also eating a TON of other things, it is not uncommon for you to feel so exhausted. Turkey may have a small fraction into making you feel tired, but just eating so much can do the same thing.

Have you ever been to a buffet? You can stuff your face and get the same tired feeling. You go into a "food coma." After most huge meals you eat, you just feel tired. People forget about those times, and just associate the large amount of turkey and sleep. These food comas happen because your body is taking more energy than usual to break down all that food that you just ate, which is why you have no energy. Your insides need to do more work. So while tryptophan has a minor role in making you feel reality it is because you are taking in more than your body is used to.

Brian Kopf


  1. Great post! It makes sense that the amount of food, not necessarily the tryptophan in what we eat, can cause sleepiness after a meal. I have heard that carbohydrates can have this effect as well, and wonder if that is true or not. I also found it interesting that one small serving of turkey does not possess 100% tryptophan, only a fraction of that.

  2. I found this to be really interesting because I've always claimed to feel tired after eating Turkey but it's definitely more of a psychosematic feeling then a real one. This was an interesting post. I'll make sure next Thanskgiving, I'll try to remember this and see how I really feel rather then giving in to this old adage.