This is the week when Americans everywhere will end up in the Thanksgiving coma---the post-Turkey Day dinner drowsiness that usually leads to dozing on the couch. Most people assume the post-meal slumber is brought on by tryptophan, the amino acid in turkey that can cause drowsiness. But as it turns out, that assumption is only partially correct.
Kristi King, dietician with Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital, says it's not just the turkey that makes people so sleepy. "We're eating the turkey, we're eating rice that contains tryptophan, we're eating something with chocolate in our dessert, we're eating a variety of foods that contain (tryptophan)," she tells KTRH.
In fact, it's not just the tryptophan but the overeating in general on Thanksgiving that leads to the food coma. "We tend to get sleepy because we're eating a large amount of food at one time," says King. "And when that happens, we tend to have the blood flow move away from our brain and focus on the gut for digestion."
To combat the drowsiness, King recommends drinking water before and during your meal. "Dehydration can cause sleepiness or tiredness, so we want to make sure we stay hydrated," she says. And mixing in plenty of veggies with your meat and potatoes can go a long way. "Carrots, green beans, broccoli, squash...half of our plate should be vegetables," says King.
Another good way to stay awake and alert is to do some physical activity after the meal, like tossing the football, going for a walk, or shopping. "Do something that's physically active to help keep the blood flowing and keep you awake," says King.