Here in the U.S., it’s almost Thanksgiving, which means many of us will be sitting down and enjoying a turkey dinner. Chances are, you have heard that eating turkey contains a sleep-inducing substance called tryptophan, which is why you feel tired and lazy after your Thanksgiving feast. Is that true? Does turkey make you tired?
While it’s true that the amino acid tryptophan induces serotonin production, which can make you calm, relaxed, and sleepy, the fact is that turkey contains only a very small amount of tryptophan–about the same amount as other protein sources like chicken or red meat. The likely culprit of your Thanksgiving torpor? Simply overeating. As long as you don’t overeat, the lean protein found in turkey actually helps your brain produce norepinephrine and dopamine, too, which are two neurochemicals that promote brain alertness and keep you energized.
You can read more in depth about the tryptophan myth, and Dr. Simon Young’s research on tryptophan, in this article from Psychology Today.