Sweat & Smiles: Stop Blaming Thanksgiving Turkey for Feeling Tired and How to Get Holiday Energy

By Melissa Romano on November 25, 2017 from Sweat & Smiles via Connect-Bridgeport.com

You just finished Thanksgiving dinner, perhaps you were the one doing the dishes (you probably were), and 30 minutes later everyone is napping; nodding off in the chair watching football … or maybe even mid sentence. Somewhere in the midst of lounging relatives someone starts blaming the bird for the sluggishness and everyone agrees. Someone even knows the hormone by name, L-Tryptophan. Except, just like the ghost stories told around the fire, the turkey sluggishness is a myth.
Here’s the scoop (not filled with mashed potatoes), L-Tryptophan is an essential amino acid. Essential amino acids are the nine amino acids that your body cannot create on its own (you have to get them from the food you eat). Amino acids are the “building blocks” of proteins, so you’ll find tryptophan in the proteins you eat.
In fact, there’s more tryptophan found in chicken than turkey, according to Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, LDN, an American Dietetic Association spokeswoman and author of The Flexitarian Diet. Tryptophan is also found in other poultry, meat, cheese, yogurt, fish, and eggs.
Here’s what tryptophan DOES do:
  • It’s used to make niacin (science talk for B vitamin).
  • It’s important for digestion
  • It’s important for your skin and nerves
  • You need it to produce serotonin (Hey! You’ve heard about serotonin).
Serotonin is a brain chemical that affects your mood; serotonin is also needed to make melatonin, another hormone that controls your sleep and wake cycles.
Ah, so it’s the serotonin that’s making me sleepy? Nope. Though, it will help you feel more relaxed and sleep better.
Think of it this way, if chicken has more tryptophan than turkey you’d see a lot more sluggishness after dinner every week. In fact, an excess of tryptophan happens anytime you eat a lot of protein, and you probably are. Americans are eating almost twice the daily recommended intake of protein (according to The National Health and Nutrition Survey, nchstats.com). Too much protein may have an affect on you, but it’s not the reason for your Thanksgiving nap.
Here’s why you’re probably tired:
  • You overate. Overeating puts the body’s digestive system into serious work-mode and the energy required to digest large meals can leave you feeling exhausted.
  • You were traveling
  • You were drinking alcohol
  • You were stressed preparing and didn’t get enough sleep (or went out the night before).
  • The “work” was over or just being off work made you feel more relaxed.
  • It’s most likely the three servings, wasn’t it?
The truth is, it’s okay, occasional overeating isn’t going to kill you. But now that you know not to blame your Thanksgiving coma on the turkey you can make sure you have energy going into Christmas.
Here’s what you can do for energy over the holidays:
  • Get adequate rest, that to do list will get done.
  • Eat smaller meals, more often. Wouldn’t you rather eat Christmas dinner three times instead of one big, belly ache inducing meal?
  • Stay in the moment, don’t forget the real reason for the season.
  • Go for walks, it not only gets you moving but it helps your digestive system move, too.
The good news is - a turkey hangover is a great opportunity to discuss how food affects you. You may even hear people refer to the stomach as the “second brain”. Your diet affects your energy, mood, memory and ability to learn. Think of when you have a “gut feeling”, or a “pit in your stomach”, or you were really nervous and had to run to the bathroom. Your digestive system is sensitive to emotion. Emotions can trigger symptoms in your gut. That information highway works both ways - with your gut sending messages to your brain - affecting your mood.
Use this information - and your food - as fuel. Enjoy food, the celebration, and the company but keep in mind how things make you feel. The best thing I did for my gut health was associating food with how I felt AFTER I ate it. You’ll find success with your health if you do the same.
Sweat & Smiles,

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