What is Tryptophan?
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid--which means our bodies don't produce it, so we need to get it from the diet--and is involved in several important functions. This protein building block, found in protein-rich foods like chicken, fish, and eggs, as well as other foods like bananas and oats, is responsible for protein synthesis, and is the sole precursor of serotonin, the hormone that regulates functions including sleep and mood. Tryptophan is also found in turkey, dairy, pumpkin seeds, and other fruits.... Sound like Thanksgiving Dinner much? Tryptophan, among other things, is also involved in melatonin production. As any of you who have seeked a non-narcotic solution to insomnia may be aware, melatonin regulates sleep as well.
So.... Why Am I So Tired Now?
Now... we've learned that tryptophan is highly important in sleep regulation. And we've also learned that many of the foods we eat on Thanksgiving are rich in this essential nutrient. So why not just conclude that we've found the culprit of our holiday lethargy? Well... there may be more at work here. As I also mentioned previously, tryptophan is also found in foods like bananas, oats, and eggs. As I once heard the sometimes crass Jillian Michaels (scary trainer of The Biggest Loser; fitness world main monster) put it, there are lots of foods we eat every morning that are rich in this amino acid, but "no one's passing out after breakfast".
She's right! So there must be something else going on.
What else is true about Thanksgiving dinner, besides it being a dynamite source of this important nutrient? Hmm.... Oh yeah... IT'S A NEVER ENDUNG GIGANTIC FOOD FEST.
Ya know what else happens to make us feel sleepy, and like we want to just go lay down? Massive quantities of food. More likely than tryptophan being the reason we are all so tired after our gratitude-laden eats is that we've overeaten. Not only will overeating make us feel physically weighed down, and unlikely to run a marathon any time soon, but when your stomach is filled to capacity with grub, your body prioritizes, focusing as much available energy as possible on the digestion process. Fun fact: if you have ever noticed your arms, legs, hands, and feet get really cold after a big meal, this may be what's going on as well.
Conclusion & Recommendations
So, if you're hoping to stay awake this year through dessert, or maybe want to make it to some post chow down festivities (our tradition is a movie--tonight is Hunger Games!!!), no need to avoid Thanksgiving staples like turkey and pumpkin pie. You would be better served to moderate your intake. A couple of timeless and effective tricks:
I hope this has served as your dose of nerd for this love and gratitude filled holiday! Did you apply any of these tactics during your meal? How did it go?? Let me know in the comments.
I am so grateful for all of you readers, and the chance to write about the information I love! Thank you all for being here 🍉. Happy Thanksgiving!