So, a key concept we have to understand is role of insulin, and glucagon in the body. While insulin takes the glucose in the bloodstream (aka blood sugar, kintergartners), and stores it away, another hormore called glucagon, does the opposite. They work as antagonists, or kind of like opposites. The role of glucagon is to take stored glucose from the body, and send it into the blood stream, so it can be used for energy. So think of this as a game of tug o' war... a blue and red team, where there is always a kind balance between the two. Maybe one mintue one side has more pull, but other times the other side does.
One important aspect to note is that both hormones cannot exist at exactly the same time. Think of it like night and day, or saving and spending money, or Superman and Clark Kent. While one hormone is being released, the other is not. It's a like a lightswitch. Therefore, you cannot store and use glucose at the exact same time. That kind of makes sense, because if you are eating because you need energy, it'll instantly be used right? You can't store bricks and build a house at the same time...
So we need to control the release of these hormones to reach our goals. Quick quiz... If our Scottish Friend has a goal of weight loss... think of what hormone you want to release, and what one you want to limit. Ready? The answer is glucagon and insulin, respectively. You want to constantly be in an energy burning mode, so you want to limit insulin as much as you possibly can. Why? Because insulin signals glucose storage... and it is impossible to burn carbs and fat for energy while you are trying to store it away.
We can do this easily two ways. Exercise (you probably already knew that), and by eating certain types of carbohydrates. You may have heard of this crazy thing called the Glycemic Index. It has come under a bit of fire recently, and personally, I have a couple problems with it, but overall, it has a lot of truth to it. The concept is that different carbs give different amounts of insulin release.
Examples... if we look at Jelly Beans, which are pretty much just sugar (sucrose). They have a value of 78/100, while Brown Rice has 55/100. What this shows is that if one kid ate 1 lb of jelly beans, while his twin ate 1 lb of brown rice... the first kid would have more insulin released in his body compared to his brother. They would both probably have stomach aches, and while the first kid would be much happier, his blood glucose would have a hard time normalizing, and returning to releasing glucagon. Ever eat Jellie Bellies... something is very wrong about a jelly bean that tastes like movie theater popcorn :) It sort of blows my mind.
So, if you have questions about what kind of carbs to eat, the answer relies behind the glycemic index. That's why TV, books, and nutrition classes stress the usual - Eat whole wheat bread, brown rice, durham flour pasta, sweet potatoes, etc. These 'healthier' carbs also contain fiber, which does many good things for your body, while keeping your insulin response low.
However, there may be times when you want to signal a rush of insulin. This includes whenever you have depleted all of your stored glucose. These crucial times often are before or after a workout, or competition. Some of the runners in the blog universe (they know who they are :) already know this concept. They need their glucose reserves filled... they just used a bunch while running. Weightlifting, heavy yard work, anything physcially demanding requires the same thing.
So Adam, that was a TON to read... what do I need to know for the test? Ok that's easy...
- Eat low glycemic carbohydrates throughout the day so you can return to a 'energy/fat burning mode' faster
- Try to have grain based carbs earlier in the day, and eat more vegetables, which tend to have more fiber and water (to fill you up) towards the end of the day
- Always have protein and/or fat with your meals... it further lowers the insulin response
- Limit refined, sweet carbs to before or after workout when you need a quick carb refill
- Fiber is your friend, and slows down insulin, while making you feel full
So there you have it. What to eat and why eat it in a nutshell... carb-wise. Hey look at me I'm in a nutshell... how'd I get in this crazy thing?
I think that's going to wrap up carbohydrates for the day. If anyone has any questions, feel free to contact me. Good quality, healthy carbs can be quite the asset in your quest to maintaining a healthy weight. Next week... it's going to be all about protein. A bodybuilder know a couple of things about that :) I should go find him...
Oh and couple of thanks: First, thanks Jenn for the shout out in FFF... ya know Finest Foodies Friday... not this FFF. It is quite an honor, my dear. Second, thanks for all the cool Tag comments, it's cool learning about each other. Have a great weekend :)