Thanksgiving’s all about tradition. Like the tradition of stuffing our faces with food, only to spend hours conked out on the couch with meat sweats. It’s moments like those, however—steamy, uncomfortable and incapable of doing anything but stare at the ceiling—that make us ask the oh-so-important question: “Why is this happening to me?” Which we’re going to answer, so you don’t have to.
Why You Think it’s Happening: Armchair dietitians across the internet love to blame tryptophan, an amino acid found in turkey, for the post-meal sleepiness we all feel on Thanksgiving. But while tryptophan is known for causing an increase in levels of melatonin, a chemical that helps regulate sleep cycles, the amount in a few servings of meat isn’t exactly going to activate your snooze button.
Why it’s Actually Happening: There is a much simpler explanation for your post-meal food coma: That third trip back to the buffet. “When people overeat food, the digestion process takes a lot of energy,” says registered dietitian nutritionist and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, Dawn Jackson Blatner. So blame that mountain of mashed potatoes, not those two slices of turkey.
Why You Think it’s Happening: One commonly assumed theory about why we sweat like pigs when, well, eating a lot of pig is that meat has large amounts of nitrates and salts, two preservatives that are often used in barbecue and other smoked meat products.
Why it’s Actually Happening: Food has a thermogenic effect, or, put simply, it causes your body to heat up. And seeing that proteins have twice the thermogenic effect of fat or carbohydrates, it should come as no surprise that the six turkey legs you ate left you sweating like Ted Striker.
On that note, if you’re planning on joining your family for the annual post-meal game of touch football, enjoy this year’s turducken in moderation.