By now, you’ve probably experienced more than a few “food comas”—the wave of sleepiness that hits you after a particularly large meal—especially during the holiday season, when overindulgence often seems to be just another part of the festivities. (Take note: it doesn’t have to be!)
It turns out, however, that it’s not just the quantity of food that can induce post-meal sleepiness, but also the type of food, according to a new study published in the journal eLife.
For the study, scientists from the Scripps Research Institute created a system that allowed them to analyze the sleep and feeding behavior of the fruit fly species Drosophila melanogaster. Using the Activity Recording Cafe (ARC), which enables scientists to visually track food consumption and monitor animal motion, they discovered that, very much like humans, fruit flies sleep for longer periods following larger meals. “Depending on the amount consumed, the effect ranged from slightly arousing to strongly sleep inducing,” according to the study.
What’s more, by feeding the fruit flies specific types of food the researchers also discovered that certain nutrients can modulate post-meal sleep. They found that only protein and salt, but not sugar, was an effector of postprandial—a sciency term to describe the period following lunch or dinner—sleepiness, indicating that a “food coma” is indeed regulated by specific food types.
So if you’re hoping to fit in a round of flag football after Thanksgiving dinner, you’re probably going to want to avoid eating a ton of these worst Thanksgiving offenders. But don’t worry about enjoying a few slices of turkey, because it turns out that the tryptophan—an essential amino acid building block—in the Thanksgiving bird doesn’t actually cause sleepiness, as was previously thought. Though, it is protein-packed so in light of this new study, don’t go overboard. If you do happen to go a little overboard at the holiday buffet though (don’t worry, one Thanksgiving meal won’t kill your six-pack), check out our perfect post-Thanksgiving detox menu to get your diet back on track.