Health + Wellness

How to Blame Your Food Coma on Science

Family, football and parades.  Words you’ll often hear to describe America’s favorite holiday.  But the one word you’re guaranteed to hear around Thanksgiving?  Food.  When this holiday comes to mind do you picture yourself with a loose belt and heavy eyelids before sitting down for the main event?  We sure do.  So, we hereby declare the 4th Thursday in November as National Food Coma Day. What? We don’t have the authority to change national holidays? Guess we’ll just write a blog post about it then.

Why Does a Big Meal Make Me Sleepy?

Food comas pretty much only come after extra-large meals, and that’s not a coincidence. When you have a big, heavy meal, your body needs to use a lot of energy to digest it. And when more of your energy is being used up by your stomach, that means there’s less available for your brain to use to keep you concentrated or even simply awake. It’s a give-and-take system.

Why Does Thanksgiving Make Me Extra Sleepy?

This food coma feeling is especially strong on Thanksgiving because of the foods we typically eat on that day. Turkey, for example, contains tryptophan, which is a protein known to make you sleepy in a way that’s similar to a glass of warm milk before bed. Tryptophan’s effects are even stronger when you eat it with carbs. And considering mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, yams, pumpkin pie, etc are almost entirely carbs, it’s pretty easy to fall victim to a Thanksgiving food coma.

Will I Ever Leave a Thanksgiving Table Feeling Energized?

It depends! Are you willing to cut back on your portion size? That’s the first step. If not, do what you can to eat a balanced meal. Remember that carbs can make a food coma stronger, so keep an eye on balancing them out with protein (animal or plant- beans are common), fat (believe it or not, gravy or butter might help you out here) and fiber (ask whoever is making the stuffing if they’d consider doing so with whole-wheat bread) to slow the digestive process down. Getting moving after each course is also a good option. It gets your blood flowing back to your muscles and brain and keeps your stomach from using up all your energy. But above all, enjoy yourself- sometimes a minor food coma is part of the tradition.