Avoiding the Post-Turkey Burn Out!

by Marisa Creatura, MS, RD, CDN

With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us, everyone is preparing for the big turkey feast. And for most, following the meal comes the feeling of exhaustion. Many believe this is the result of the amino acid, tryptophan, found in turkey. This is certainly a myth, but that doesn’t change the tired feeling many experience. Some of the factors that cause you to feel ready for bed include:

  • You ate too much. This is the most common reason. The Calorie Count Council conducted a study that found a typical holiday meal can contain over 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat! This comes from a combination of alcohol, appetizers, the main feast, and desserts.
  • You had a little too much wine. Alcoholic beverages are known to have a slowing effect on the body, causing you to feel ready to jump in bed.
  • You’re dehydrated. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey reports the average American only drinks 4-5 cups of water per day, when 8 cups per day is recommended. Further, the body needs more fluid to digest bigger meals.
  • You didn’t sleep much the night before. You may have woken up early to put the turkey in the oven or were up late the night before, knowing you had the following day off. Either way, you’ve accumulated some sleep debt that your body is trying to pay off.
  • You’ve traveled to enjoy your Thanksgiving feast. With the holidays comes the holiday traffic, and you may be traveling a far distance to visit relatives. This concept, known as “driver fatigue,” is very common due to the constant alert state your mind is in while driving.

With so many factors contributing to your sleepy state, how can you avoid the post-turkey drowsiness? Try and follow these simple tips!

  • Watch your portion sizes. Being mindful of how much food you’ve put on your plate, and how hungry or satisfied your body is, can cut back significantly on how much you eat and how you feel after the meal. Aim for having only one plate of food. Go for smaller portions of more calorie-heavy options and load up on vegetable-based side dishes.
  • Set a limit on alcohol. Set yourself a limit of 2 alcoholic drinks for the evening, and have a glass of water in between to keep hydrated.
  • Get a full night’s rest. The average person needs 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Use the day off to catch up on some sleep you’ve likely missed out on.
  • Share the driving or take breaks. This will ensure you don’t show up to the party tired and get home safely.


Calorie Count Council

Center for Disease Control and Prevention: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005-2010