All over the country, people are getting together to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner, and all to soon people will, without fail, blame their 6 pm slumber on the tryptophan found at the center of the meal: the turkey. 

You know the scene: You’ve watched (or played) football, you’ve come together at the table and had ALL the food. You begrudgingly accept that some stores think it is necessary to start Black Friday before most of the leftovers have made it to the refrigerator. While you’re pondering whether you’re ready to brave the world of post-dinner shopping, your eyes get heavier and heavier and from one second to the next you’re asleep. “The tryptophan”, someone who can barely keep their eyes open themselves whispers.

Don’t Blame the Bird

Turkey does contain tryptophan, that’s just a fact. So do chicken and beef – at comparable levels. In fact, most protein based foods contain this amino acid. The culprit is not the bird, at least not on its own. It is what else is on the table that conspires to get us ready for an early night.

Scientists explain that the quantity of carbohydrates we consume during a typical Thanksgiving meal is the main contributing factor to your food coma. Ingestion of carbohydrates – all that stuffing, the mashed potatoes – triggers the release of insulin. Insulin stimulates the uptake of amino acids – excluding tryptophan – into muscle. Basically, all the amino acids are pulled to the side of the road and tryptophan gets to use all lanes. Once it has made its way to the brain, it is converted into serotonin and metabolized into melatonin, the hormone that tells your body it’s time to go to bed.

So there you have it. The next time someone falls asleep in front of you after your Thanksgiving feast, don’t blame the turkey. Whisper “The mashed potatoes…” instead.

Happy Thanksgiving!