Pardon Me, Mr. Turkey

It’s Thanksgiving time again and that means time for all your favorite Thanksgiving meal traditions. Turkey. Stuffing. Cranberry Sauce. Pumpkin Pie. Post-Dinner Slumber? Many of us experience a decrease in energy after the big meal. One culprit was believed to be tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, a building block to proteins found in our food and our body muscles. It is found in foods like your Thanksgiving turkey as well as nuts, seeds, cheese, fish and beans. Due to tryptophan’s assistance in synthesizing brain serotonin (regulates sleep, eating and digestion), connection between this amino acid and post-Thanksgiving dinner tiredness was hypothesized. Many scientists and researchers have taken upon themselves to help pardon these turkey’s of their bad reputations. In a 2012 episode of the television show Mythbusters titled Food Fables, the Mythbusters gang called in the assistance of Dr. Elizabeth Applegate, a nutrition professor from the University of California – Davis. To start their experiment, two of the Mythbuster participated in a control-run of Whack-a-Mole to test their baseline response times. Then they each took tryptophan capsules and played again. Each saw a decrease in points – proving that tryptophan does have an effect on response time. Then, with the assistance of Dr. Applegate, the Mythbusters ate three separate meals over three consecutive days ranging in the amount of tryptophan, the source of the protein and the number of calories. The first meal was a typical Thanksgiving meal with turkey and all the trimmings equaling about 2,200-2,400 calories. The second meal was the same number of calories but protein powder was provided in place of the turkey. Lastly, the third meal was a “normally-sized” meal that included turkey. The Mythbusters saw a decrease in scores from their baseline in the first “Thanksgiving-sized” meal. An additional decrease was also seen in the second high-calorie protein powder meal. However, when the two consumed a “normal-sized” meal that included turkey, both Mythbusters were able to increase their scores from their baseline, deeming this myth BUSTED. While tryptophan has an effect on sleep and reaction time, meats like chicken, lamb, beef and your Thanksgiving turkey roughly all contain the same about of tryptophan per 100 grams of food. The post-Thanksgiving dinner slumber is a result of the number of calories consumed during this one meal. On average; including appetizers, alcohol, dinner and desserts, most Americans consume a whooping 3,000 calories on Thanksgiving night. This many calories in one meal would put anyone to sleep. So this Thanksgiving, remember to enjoy your favorite holiday traditions and give thanks before you doze-off for your high-calorie post dinner slumber.