With Thanksgiving this week and the winter holidays only a month away, it’s important to address the affliction suffered by many of us: the food coma.
Medically known as postprandial somnolence, a food coma is the feeling of fatigue after you’ve finished eating a really big and delicious meal. But enjoying a holiday meal doesn’t mean you have to experience it. Here are some facts and tips to get you through the big day in better shape.
The Turkey Is Innocent:
Turkey isn’t the real reason for a food coma. It does contain the essential amino acid L-tryptophan, which has a documented sleep inducing effect. However, as About.com Chemistry explains, “L-tryptophan needs to be taken on an empty stomach and without any other amino acids or protein in order to make you drowsy. There’s lots of protein in a serving of turkey and it’s probably not the only food on the table.”
The Real Culprit:
Food is designed to give you energy, but overeating (which is inevitable with turkey, gravy, bread, corn, stuffing, and potatoes) and eating sugar especially (the sweetening in the pumpkin pie you know you’re going to devour), may leave you feeling drowsy because of the energy it takes to digest the food you just consumed.
When food breaks down into glucose, you experience an increase in blood sugar. The body releases insulin to clean up the extra glucose and return levels to normal. Although the insulin cleans up the glucose mess, it also releases chemicals in the brain that may leave you sleepy. So when you overeat, your body is actually working harder to clean up the messy sugar swimming in your blood.
How to Beat It:
- Fix your posture and don’t slouch. You’ve heard your mother say it at the dining room table, and you never listened, but it’s legitimate advice! Poor posture can cause shallow breathing that prevents you from taking in more oxygen for blood circulation, leaving you sluggish.
- Start your meal with a protein. Eating the turkey will ensure that you can balance your blood sugar better before the starches and sugars put it on a roller coaster ride.
- Skip the sugar. If you eat the sugar, then make sure you skip the starches– or strike an even balance. You don’t want to overload your body with too many carbohydrates.
- Pick water, not booze. Alcohol, in addition to overeating, starches and sugar, can make you sleepy independent of those other foods. Imagine how drowsy, it’ll make you when added with these other food items.