Why are you sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner?

thanksgiving dinners like this might make you feel like you need a nap!

Hint: tryptophan is only part of the equation.

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin. The primary source of tryptophan is meats such as turkey. The truth however lies not only with how much turkey you eat but also what else you eat. Carbohydrates lead us into feeling great because they remove molecules that would otherwise limit our production rate of this happy neurotransmitter. High carbohydrate meals increase the availability of tryptophan in your brain leading to a flood of serotonin which accounts for why we feel so good after Thanksgiving dinner!

“The mechanism of the rise in brain serotonin [from carbohydrates] involves the secretion of insulin, and the decrease that the hormone produces in plasma levels of certain amino acids that compete with tryptophan, serotonin’s precursor, for transport across the blood-brain barrier. The rise in serotonin can thus be produced by any carbohydrate that elicits insulin secretion, independent of its sweetness.” (Wurtman, 1988)

In other words, it is not the turkey that is making you sleepy, it’s the potatoes and pie!

Related Reading: How 5-HTP Helps With Sleep, Without Making You Drowsy.

Feeling drowsy after any carbohydrate-rich meal is the effect of serotonin being released. Serotonin can improve one’s mood and provide feelings of satiation. It also relaxes the nervous system resulting in sleepiness. Once these effects fade, you are left craving more carbohydrates.

Don’t be a slave to the serotonin feedback loop caused by carbohydrates.

To learn more about how this serotonin feedback loop can result in cravings (and how to overcome it!) read our white paper:

Emotional Eating White Paper

Wurtman, RJ., Wurtman, JJ. (1988) Do carbohydrates affect food intake via neurotransmitter activity? Appetite.
Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2903717

Taylor Froiland is the president of Legere Pharmaceuticals in Scottsdale, Arizona and serves on the Board of Directors for RK Logistics Group. He also owns and operates Medmetrics Compounding Pharmacy in Chandler, Arizona, specializing in various pharmaceutical services. Taylor holds a PharmD and has expertise in compounding, medicinal chemistry, and quality control.
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