Your Food Coma, Brought to you By Carbs, not Tryptophan

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Your Food Coma, Brought to you By Carbs, not Tryptophan

After football, political talk you really didn’t want to get into, and a side of religious debate, accompanied with the why did your marriage fail conversation, you finally get to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with your family. Then the old sleepy conversation comes up, someone will eventually say, “the tryptophan in this turkey is going to make us sleepy” Well, this is not a fact, it’s just not true. The real reason behind your fowl-based food coma is more complicated than tryptophan singularly.


Tryptophan is an amino acid, which are the building blocks of proteins that make us and all other multi-cellular organism possible to live and exist. Tryptophan is widely considered one of the essential amino acids, because it is vital and as such you’ll find it in many other foods like egg whites, soybeans, many cheeses, bananas, and salmon. Turkey doesn’t even have the highest concentration that happens to be seal liver, Although, good luck finding that on your Thanksgiving day table, so turkey does have the highest concentration of tryptophan in your Thanksgiving day meal. But here’s the thing, that doesn’t matter.

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Tryptophan is still related to that sleepy feeling you may get after dinner, or more speciffically that second helping, but it’s a supporting actor here, not the lead groper. Thanksgiving dinners are almost always carbohydrate heavy, and when all those carbs start piling up on your, and undergo digestion, your release insulin into your bloodstream, this hormone lets you use and store the sugar in those carbs. But when this happens, many of the other amino acids are taken from the blood, leaving tryptophan behind. Now with a competition deficit, the chemical can have an over sized effect on your brain, as it is partially makes the neurotransmitter serotonin, which can convert to melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep.  Tryptophan is present in your Thanksgiving meal, it really is the carb load you’re hitting too hard, it’s the stuffing, yams, rolls, and other carb rich favorites that are making your tired. FYI, all that wine, old fashioneds, and rye whisky don’t help.

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