The Thanksgiving Day Hangover

in Article, Opinion
December 2nd, 2011

Yes, I know it’s a little bit early to be bringing this up. While the holiday itself may have already passed, many of you are probably still recovering from the hangover that the entire country was forced to endure. I mean really, this isn’t even a good feeling to wake up from this hangover, not that a hangover is something you should usually look forward to. But lets be honest, there is more damage done than overall achievement. This isn’t the morning after where you reminisce about the absolutely stupendous series of events that took place hours ago. This isn’t one of those mornings where you are left in shambles in a downright disgusting alley looking around for your best friend who was lost the day of a wedding. Plain and simple, this is not a good time.
Your groggy, you must resume your daily routine, you have to be at work in an hour, the clock already says your going to be 30 minutes late with the estimated travel time, and you probably gained a minimum of 5 lbs considering how many potatoes you’ve consumed. Hell, you nearly re-enacted the exact opposite of the Irish potato famine in your dining room, not to mention the 20 loafs of bread consumed in ‘this that and another’ stuffing. And then to add insult to injury, you have to open the fridge and think to yourself, “Hmm what the hell am I gonna have for lunch today” right? Wrong! What your really saying to yourself is, “How the hell am I supposed to make turkey or thanksgiving leftovers of any sort sound appetizing again?” And while this may be true, that should be the least of your problems. What your primary worry should be is, “How am I going to stay awake for this crucial late afternoon presentation my boss conveniently scheduled the day after this lovely thanksgiving massacre, when I’m stuffing (pun intended) down marshmallow covered sweet potatoes, [explicit] turkey sandwiches, and some classic Campbell’s green bean casserole at the 2 o’clock lunch break?” Tie all these delightful dishes together and you yourself have found the ultimate thanksgiving myth: Are turkey and all the other thanksgiving fixings responsible for your holiday hangover? Let us find out shall we…

Now let me first jump in and suggest that Thanksgiving isn’t all that bad. It’s a holiday where you have the green light to gorge until you either throw up or the food disappears. Your granted the opportunity to catch up with family that you quite honestly may have never met in your life. And how could you forget that lovely early morning workout known as ‘Black Friday’ in which case as long as your readily equipped with a can of pepper spray and a riot-level baton, you can subconsciously lose the few pounds you may have gained by dropping stacks of money on bargains you may or may not need to take advantage of. Nevertheless this hangover is about the one thing and one thing only: the food.

The Breakdown

The Breakdown

Turkey is in most cases the first victim to be accused of causing lethargy during the post-meal recovery, however, is equally to blame as anything else on the dining table. Sure turkey contains L-Tryptophan, an essential amino acid with critical sleep inducing effects, but other foods contain as much if not more of this amino acid. Nevertheless, tryptophan can be metabolized into seratonin and melatonin; the feel good + sleep regulating neurotransmitters that result in the perfect combination to knock you out for a few hours. However, L-Tryptophan must be taken on an empty stomach for drowsiness to occur and the last thing you’d expect to have on Thanksgiving is an empty stomach. So does this make turkey solely responsible for your poultry induced hangover? Not exactly! A carbohydrate-rich meal is what really increases levels of L-Tryptophan and leads to serotonin synthesis in the brain. Breaking it down scientifically, carbohydrates cause the pancreas to secrete insulin. This then leads to higher levels of Tryptophan in the bloodstream which ultimately triggers the synthesis of serotonin; producing that relaxed and drowsy sensation.

But let us consider everything else on the dining table, for example fats. Fats account for the most strain on the digestive system, so your body is going to require that excess energy to break all that down. This loss of energy in other areas of the body is yet another reason you may feel sluggish. Throw in some spiked apple cider or other forms of alcohol for additional nap-factor. Combine it all with excessive over-eating in order to please your crazed relatives who seemingly slaved over the kitchen for each of their homemade delicacies, and you have comatose. Moreover: a big meal + blood being directed to break down the intake = hibernation :)

So what have we learned today. Don’t blame the turkey when you need an excuse for being late to work or your black Friday destination of choice, seeing as all foods play their part in what is the Thanksgiving Day Hangover. Yes, two cans of pepper spray is always better than one when it comes to fending off children for an Xbox 360. Pumpkin pie is a classic and should always be a dessert option, but apple pie cheesecake is better. Fortunately, if you pass out with your shoes on during Thanksgiving, you don’t have to worry about waking up with certain drawings on your face. Finally, turkey leftovers have no limits…seriously! #gettingcreative


Myths about Thanksgiving – Scientific American

Turkey makes you sleepy? –

The Tryptophan Effect – TLC

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