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Does Turkey Really Make You Tired?

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and for many people, that means turkey. If you celebrate with an annual Thanksgiving feast, you’re likely familiar with that post-meal feeling you get when you eat too much. You’ve probably been attributing your desire to nap after leaving the Thanksgiving dinner table to the tryptophan in turkey. But is there any truth to the belief that tryptophan makes you sleepy, or is it just a myth?


Tryptophan is needed by the body to make protein and promote normal growth in infants and nitrogen balance in adults. It's one of nine essential amino acids that the body cannot produce, and must be obtained through the diet. Turkey does contain tryptophan, but chicken actually contains more. Other sources include pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, eggs, fish and dark chocolate. The belief that the tryptophan in turkey makes you tired isn’t entirely accurate. However, tryptophan can play a role in mood regulation.

The body changes l-tryptophan into serotonin, which helps regulate mood and sleep. But it’s highly unlikely that your turkey dinner will leave you feeling drowsy. If you do find yourself struggling to stay awake after your Thanksgiving feast, it’s probably due to a carbohydrate overload. After rapidly digesting carbohydrates, your blood sugar initially spikes, followed by a sharp crash later, which can make you sleepy.

Postprandial sleepiness, or feeling sleepy after you eat — otherwise known as a food coma — is a common human experience. But if you want to avoid it this year, be sure not to overdo it on the carbs. If it’s something you experience on a regular basis, you may want to try a cyclical ketogenic diet. It can help you avoid the blood sugar spikes and crashes that are likely making you tired after eating.

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