How To Come Back From A Food Coma

After the last sliver of pumpkin pie has been claimed, and the winner of the National Dog Show has been crowned, it's Thanksgiving tradition to fall on the nearest sofa and succumb to a food coma. Also known as "postprandial somnolence," the post-feast sleepies tend to hit around 20 minutes after eating a large meal.

Most of the time, a Thanksgiving food coma is as inevitable as the big meal itself. That said, if you made plans to see a movie with your high school pals after Thanksgiving dinner, there are a few strategies you can try to feel more alert and less vegetative. First, know where the sluggishness comes from: Tradition aside, it doesn't have anything to do with tryptophan in turkey, and instead is likely a byproduct of hormonal cues and digestive biology involved in processing large amounts of food.

Ahead, Sandra J. Arévalo, MPH, RDN, CDN, Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics Spokesperson; and Danny Kopel, SoulAnnex and SoulCycle instructor, share their realistic tips that might make you feel a little more energized after a huge meal.

photographed by Erin Yamagata; modeled by Melissa Fifitia; produced by Sam Nodelman.
Try forward folds.

Since gratitude is the name of the game around Thanksgiving, forward folds are appropriate, Kopel says. "They have a devotional quality and a sense of bowing that embodies gratitude," he says. But forward folds also just feel comforting and gentle when you're full and don't really feel like moving.

There are two different ways to do this: First, try standing with your legs straight, and bend forward until your hands meet your shins or the floor. Another option is a simple child's pose, "which, for me, has a cozy feel that seems right this time of year," Kopel says. You can try flipping your palms in child's pose, to add a "gesture of giving and receptivity," he says.
photographed by Andi Elloway; modeled by Chantell Jackson; produced by Megan Madden.
Add a twist.

According to Kopel, twisting yoga positions are a great way to stimulate digestion — but just don't attempt these poses right after eating. Before eating, or a few hours afterwards, attempt a gentle twisting yoga pose: Lay on your back and carefully drop your knees off to one side, pausing for a few breaths before continuing onto the other side, he says. For a "fierier version" of this, find chair pose (essentially a squat with your legs together), and then add a twist by bringing your hands to a prayer and hooking the opposite elbow to the opposite knee. Switch sides.
produced by Erin Yamagata; modeled by Micaela Verrelien; photographed by Nicolas Bloise.
Sip some tea.

If you do have a bit of a stomachache, you might feel better after drinking mint or cinnamon tea, ginger ale, or club soda, Arévalo says. Also, if you were drinking alcohol or wine with dinner, now might be a good time to switch to water or one of these drinks to combat nausea.
photographed by Alice Gao.
Opt for caffeine.

Usually the biggest symptom you're fighting with a food coma is lethargy. Sounds obvious, but Arévalo suggests drinking a cup of coffee or an espresso to feel less fatigued.
photographed by Aliya Naumoff; modeled by Samantha Yu.
Move around.

Although everyone at your Thanksgiving dinner might instinctively flop on a couch after the big meal, Arévalo suggests planning an activity that everyone can do together. It doesn't have to be a cliché football game, and instead you could try to have a dance party or just play a rousing game of charades to hold everyone's attention and get moving. Basically, just make sure there are other activities to do besides eat, drink, and sleep — but don't overthink it. "It’s psychologically exhausting and tedious to balance your celebrations and workouts like a checkbook," Kopel says.
modeled by Andreanna Hayes; photographed by Michael Beckert; produced by Sam Nodelman; produced by Yuki Mizuma.
Don't fight it.

In many cases, the best way to remedy a food coma is to give in and take a nice nap. But if you don't want to feel like a zombie afterwards, then you should keep your nap at 30 minutes and drink coffee beforehand (caffeine takes about 30 minutes to kick in). With a little snooze, and perhaps some light stretching, you can be ready for whatever nighttime plans you have going on — even if it is getting in pajamas to watch The Holiday with your parents.
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