Jerry lies sprawled on the couch with the remote buried somewhere in the recesses of the cushions, blinking heavily as the warm afternoon sunlight washes over his skin. There are popcorn crumbs dribbled down his loose-fitting, ragged team sweatshirt, trailing onto the ground, leading to a bowl tipped on its side now holding a greasy residue of unpopped kernels. Jerry wants to turn onto his side to keep the sunlight out of his eyes, but the food baby in his stomach — the pizza, wings, soda, beer and two ice cream sandwiches — seems opposed to any significant shifts. Today was meant to be a productively restful afternoon, filled with fantasy football, friends and lively interaction. He can hear a few voices around him, laughing and conversing in a manner that would have engaged him in another state. Instead, Jerry presses a pillow to his face, and within a few minutes is snoring into it.
Does Jerry’s story sound familiar? That buffet is endlessly inviting. Who knew football could be even better? But go too far, and it turns into a trap. A good thing goes bad. And not content with merely turning the meal sour, it goes further still and destroys the whole afternoon.
Now let’s be careful, I don’t want to completely dismiss the food coma. Sometimes, after a long week, with an uneventful day ahead or coming off of a 50-hour fast, the afternoon food coma is exactly what you’re trying to accomplish. But when football is in our near future, let’s leave the three-hour nap to those lesser mortals. There’s more tailgating to be done.
Naturally, you want to stuff yourself at the party. That’s a given. But how to do it without falling asleep? There are several ways to approach the challenge, and we suggest that you use as many of them as possible.
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Manipulate the time frame – Typically, food comas come from gorging yourself over a relatively short period of time, before your digestive enzymes figure out what you’re doing. About 30 to 40 minutes after your first bite, your body finally catches on to what you’re trying to do, and begins sending up distress signals. Unable to actually force your hand to stop grabbing more food, the stomach decides the only way to handle this dilemma is to seize the controls and just shut down the whole shop for a couple of hours while it recoups and processes.
So the alternative solutions are to either stuff food with competitive eating speed, or to space out the process over several hours. If you’re actually going for enjoyment and not just playing mind games with your body, opt for the latter. You’ll find that extending the buffet dive over several hours will quickly sideline your fervor, and you’ll end up picking at your favorite delicacies.
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Stay on your feet – There’s no more effective way to throw in the towel on the day than to lie down right after a meal. Keep moving around, get up during commercial breaks and throw in some simple exercises. Heck, even a walk to the bathroom will do the trick. This way, your body can’t just turn off.
Energy drinks – Monster, Red Bull, 5-Hour Energy, cappuccinos… pick your weapon of choice. Maybe you’d rather not work to stay awake. That’s where caffeine comes in. Start drinking before your meal, then coast through the afternoon. Just watch out for the over-hyped afternoon jitters.
Snack light – This is probably the most challenging one, but also the best big picture plan. Of course, if you’re at someone else’s place, your options may be limited, because not everyone sets out berries, kale, yogurt and hummus for their tailgate parties. Simple alternatives are a good place to start. Reach for some popcorn instead of your third bison burger and you’ll be productively relaxing the afternoon away.
Stop in at the Man Cave Daily, where the women are hot and the beer is cold.
Justin Poythress has a prodigious palate enjoying all things food, from the fast to the extreme. His work and latest food adventures can be found on Examiner.com.