Holiday Health Tip - The Tryptophan Myth!
Now that Turkey Day is over (or Tofurkey Day for you vegetarians), it is time to put a common myth to rest. 30 minutes, or so, after the last dinner fork drops, most of us are ready for the tryptophan nap, right? Tryptophan is an amino acid (abundant in turkey) that increases serotonin production – serotonin can make us feel happy and sleepy. The turkey likely did not cause the coma, but rather the mashed potatoes, the rolls with butter, the yams with marshmallows, the cranberry sauce, the pie, and whatever else you indulged on!
The culprit for your desired snooze in this case is called an insulin rebound. After we eat, our body breaks down carbohydrates, proteins, and fats into blood glucose (blood sugar). The body normally responds to this by releasing a moderate amount of insulin which lowers blood sugar. After a copious meal, however, the blood sugar increases tremendously, causing too much insulin to be released and a consequent rebound, or drop, in blood sugar (lower than normal blood sugar also causes us to feel sleepy). Contrary to what some people believe, insulin is a necessary hormone – true, it can lead to more fat storage (if too much is consistently released) but it also increases amino acid and glucose uptake which enhances production of lean muscle and improves recovery from workouts.
The best way to prevent insulin rebound is to control portions – eat three modest-sized meals per day with 2-3 snacks. Having a consistent, normal reaction to insulin will help increase energy and promote lean body mass.
I hope you were able to enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday (even if it did include an insulin rebound nap) and that you have a healthy, happy rest of the year!
Justin Robinson, MA,RD,CSSD,FAFS,CSCS
Director of Strength & Conditioning - RU Sports Performance Center