Carbohydrate Metabolism and Energy Levels

Is your energy crashing after eating a pizza, white bread, fries, cookies, ice cream or pasta? The reason for this is literally a “sugar crash”.  Let’s look at what’s going on here… As you eat a refined, or simple, carbohydrate, it begins to metabolize/break down in your mouth while chewing. As your body digests it, it causes a rapid spike in your blood sugar. In other words, your body has broken down the carbohydrate from the food into glucose/sugar and is just hanging out in your bloodstream.

As blood sugar levels begin to rise, your pancreas secretes a hormone, insulin, to transport the glucose/sugar from your blood and deliver it into your cells to utilize for energy.  Your cells need to deliver energy to your brain and muscles, so we can function properly!  If there is a lot of blood sugar remaining even after insulin did its job, your body will store it to use for later. We can think back to our ancestors, before food was readily available to us, and they had limited amount of food, their bodies were still able to function by storing energy and burning it only when needed. Our bodies still work the same way today, however, we have so much food available to us that we tend to overeat, and we are just storing a lot of it as fat. 

To avoid rapid spikes in blood sugar, we can pair our carbohydrates with foods that slow down digestion time (which is a good thing). These foods include lean protein, healthy fats, and fiber. Having a well-balanced meal not only leaves you feeling fuller for longer, gives you energy, helps with portion control, but also provides many vitamins and minerals our bodies need!

For example, if you eat a peanut butter sandwich on white bread and pretzels for lunch every day, you may be feeling groggy shortly after eating. Maybe swap out the pretzel sticks (that are considered “empty calories”) for some carrot sticks, celery sticks, cucumber slices, peppers or other vegetables. You could also choose whole grain bread instead of white bread. This is because whole grain bread is less processed and has more fiber content that will also help to slow digestion. Remember, slowing digestion will help prevent rapid spikes in blood sugar, preventing that sugar crash later! If you eat a salad every day for lunch but find yourself hungry a couple of hours later, instead of reaching for chips, maybe reach for an apple with some peanut or almond butter, or a hard-boiled egg and some trail mix. It’s not just about the type of food, but the way we pair our foods!

It is also important to vary our foods, an easy way to do this is to aim for eating the rainbow, and no I do not mean skittles... but a whole foods rainbow! Think of it like this…. Let’s say you have a brand new Jeep Wrangler that you love driving. You want to go on a road trip - would you only fill the gas tank halfway or one quarter of the way? No way! You would want to fill it with good quality fuel and a good amount, so you can drive a smoother, and father distance. That’s how our bodies work. Think of food as fuel for your body, be good to your body just as you would your Jeep Wrangler.

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Carbohydrate Metabolism & Energy Levels

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