NEW ORLEANS — On Thursday, people will gather around the table to enjoy their Thanksgiving meal. As people prepare to fill up on their favorites, some may also be preparing for that post meal nap. It's long been said turkey is the cause of feeling tired after the holiday meal, but is that true?
Pie, mashed potatoes, dressing, a Thanksgiving meal is full of delicious dishes that after a second or third helping, may make you ready for a little post-Thanksgiving snooze.
It happens time and time again, and you've probably heard the Tryptophan in turkey is to blame. We verify if it's true.
Our verify source is Henry Nuss, PhD at LSU Health. He focuses on Nutritional Science and is in the Behavioral and Community Health Sciences Program.
In order to answer the question, we must first look at Tryptophan. Nuss says it's one of nine essential amino acids our body needs to help produce things like Serotonin, a hormone that can affect our mood.
"And what we mean by essential is our body can't synthesize our own and we have to get it from food," he said.
It's found in almost everything we eat, like meat, cheese, tofu and yes, turkey. However, when it comes to feeling tired after that Thanksgiving feast, he says turkey isn't the only offender.
"The sweet stuff, you know pies, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, mac 'n cheese, a lot of that has a lot of carbohydrates and when you eat a ton of carbohydrates that will have an effect on making you drowsy," he says.
That's because as your body digests all of your family's traditional dishes, the Serotonin metabolizes into Melatonin, which can make people feel drowsy.
"Having all that food in your stomach causes blood to accumulate in that area to help with digestion, and the shift in blood flow from the brain to abdomen, also kind of creates lower oxygen environment in your body making you drowsy as well," Nuss said.
So, while Tryptophan is found in turkey, we found it's false, it doesn't make you tired. That it's really the meal as a whole that prepares you for some zzz's.
And as you get ready to dig in Thursday, you're more than welcome to nap afterwards, just don't blame the bird.
There is a Saints game Thursday night, so if a nap isn't in the plan, Nuss says there are things you can do to avoid feeling sleepy. That includes sleeping well the night before, pacing yourself with small meal portions and staying hydrated.