QM is a series by Kristin Robbio, where she aims to debunk common myths using her baseline knowledge of science, technology, and ability to strategically research random shit through Google.
I’ve had enough. This is the time of year where people start using turkey as a scapegoat for their Thanksgiving eating habits. I’m going to stop that conversation before it even begins because I am FED. UP. Stop blaming this delicious piece of poultry for your post-Thanksgiving feelings of despair and satiation!
Here’s what’s really happening to you.
First of all, turkey doesn’t make you sleepy. You may think it does, and you may think you have the science to back it up (you’re probably thinking about that amino acid, tryptophan, right now), but those just aren’t the facts. Yes, tryptophan does have properties that make you sleepy, but turkey actually has very, very little traces of tryptophan in it. In fact, other meats such as chicken and beef have the same amount of tryptophan as turkey. Pork and dairy products such as cheese actually have MORE tryptophan than turkey. So, if this were true, we meat-eating, dairy-consuming humans would be sleepy literally ALL the time.
It’s important to note that even if you consume large amounts of tryptophan, this amino acid is fairly scarce in comparison with all the other amino acids in your body, and thus it is not easily absorbed into the blood stream. Therefore, tryptophan cannot easily cross the blood-brain barrier, which is necessary to trigger the neurotransmitters in your brain that allow for your sleepy feelings to come about.
So what’s happening here? Regardless if it’s the turkey or not, you and your family can probably still be found on the couch passed out after your big meal. There’s a lot of varying factors that go into your lethargic feelings, but researchers have suggested that the culprit may be the finale of the meal – dessert.
Sugary foods like pumpkin pie, cranberry bliss bars, or my grandmother’s yule log all trigger insulin production in your body. When excess insulin is produced, your ability to absorb amino acids is increased, thus you are able to absorb large amounts of tryptophan that you normally wouldn’t be able to. Insulin also has an effect specifically on tryptophan that heightens its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, so now you’ve got a double whammy in favor of tryptophan and alas, you’ve never wanted to take a nap more in your life.
Researchers have also found that Thanksgiving drowsiness can come from a loss of blood flow to the brain. When we eat a lot of food, the blood in your body starts to focus its attention on your gastrointestinal system to help digest the mound you just consumed. That’s blood that would normally be in your brain helping to keep you awake and attentive. Thus, after you eat a lot, the blood isn’t all there in your brain to keep you moving and you’re headed for the bed.
Now that you have the facts, turn the conversation around. Don’t shame the turkey and own your laziness. You deserve it!
Happy Turkey Day, y’all.