What happens Carbs after you eat them – Part 2

 

I discussed the initial breakdown and digestion of carbohydrates last time. So, what happens from here? Where does all this glucose go in your body? What does your body do with it? This is actually where things get more interesting (I think) and how carbs get a bad reputation (and basically the whole premise of low carb diets).

So we just ate, digested (which really means, our digestive system broke down in tiny pieces) carbohydrates into little sugar molecules that get sent to your liver: mainly glucose and fructose. All carbohydrates contain glucose. But you also get a fair amount of fructose sugars too if you have eaten anything containing table sugar, maple syrup, honey, agave, high fructose corn syrup, and fruit! So now you have a bunch of glucose and fructose hanging out in your liver.

Your liver’s main job is to process everything that gets into it from your digestive system. Everything that gets digested and absorbed from your small intestine (except FAT), gets transported to your liver directly to be processed. Your liver basically decides if its good/useful (and sends it into your blood stream), bad (breaks it down to be eliminated) or needs to be changed into something useful.

Glucose is put in the “useful” category. Fructose is put in the “needs to be changed” category.

Fructose is then turned into glucose, to make it useful. So now, you have a ton of glucose hanging out in your liver! Three main things are done with it:

  1. A good amount is sent into you blood stream to be circulated in your body (this is your blood sugar). It does this because you blood is basically a highway to all your cells in your body. In order for the glucose to reach your cells, it needs to be put into you blood to actually get to them. Once they reach your cells,  your cells absorb it and turn it into energy. Your body uses this energy to keep your body running. This is why when your “blood sugar drops,” you feel tired and hungry. You body used up its quick, available energy source and is now telling your brain to add more (or eat something! to provide more glucose!).
  2. Extra glucose can be stored for later. It can be stored in your liver and in your muscles. The fancy word for this storage system is glycogen. You body only makes a limited amount of glycogen though. Enough to really last about a day. Your muscles use this stored glucose for you when you need extra energy (like heavy lifting or exercising), fasting (not eating), or in times of stress (both mental and physical stress). Once, your glycogen is used up, you will need to make more (eat more glucose!).
  3. Extra extra glucose gets converted to fat. Since your body only needs a limited amount of glucose for energy, and a limited amount to make glycogen, anything remaining gets converted to fat. Fat really is your body’s way of creating long term energy storage. Remember glycogen only lasts about a day (you need to constantly replenish it), but fat can last a long time, if its not used. Your body is very smart. It will put something it knows it can use into long time storage as a survival mechanism.

There is one important player I forgot to mention that is also involved in these three processes…INSULIN.

What is insulin? Its a hormone. What’s a hormone? Its a molecule whose sole purpose is to tell other things what to do. Hormones literally talk to your cells to get them to do things. Cells have these little “switches” on them that need to be turned on or off. Who controls these switches? Hormones.

So what switches does insulin turn on?

  1. Tells your cells to take in glucose to be used for energy.
  2. Tells your liver/muscle cells to store glucose (make glycogen).
  3. Tells your fat cells to make more fat!

Reason #3 is why low carb diets exist and a big reason why people are people told to limit their sugar intake. Insulin is only triggered when it senses glucose in your body. Therefore: no carbs = no glucose = no insulin

If insulin’s job is to tell your body to literally make fat, what happens when there is no insulin? There is nothing there to tell your body to make fat.

Now, if you are eating too much sugar/carbs over a long period of time, insulin is constantly being triggered. So any extra glucose that you body can’t use, will get converted into fat. ALSO, if insulin is constantly being triggered, your cells become desensitized to it (or “resistant” to it). So, what happens when your cells start ignoring insulin? There is nothing to tell the glucose where to go. This is bad. This is how diabetes is formed. Its almost like the “boy who cried wolf.”

Also, all this fat that is created overtime is what leads to obesity, heart disease and other problems.

So what to do? Obvious answer: eat less sugar! At least start with less “added sugars.” In the average diet in the western world (aka Standard American Diet or SAD), too many people are eating processed foods and not enough real, whole, home cooked food. Processed food contains a lot of added sugar

Just read the labels, if you don’t believe me. Look at the grams (g) of sugar in each serving. A teaspoon = 4 g sugar (if you need a visual).

So a really good place to start if you are in this category, is to start eating more real food and less processed food (basically anything that has ingredients in it you can’t pronounce, don’t know what it is, or is a laundry list of things). Stick to actual veggies and actual fruit. Make more meals at home. This is a really good starting point. Then you can tweak it from there. But by adding in more real food, you will naturally eat less of the other stuff and probably already will start feeling better.

Also, the more sugar you eat, the more you will want to eat it. And good news! The opposite is true too! The less you eat sugar, the less you will want to eat sugar! I would suggest a slow transition out. Just slowly start cutting out sugary things out of your diet. Give your body (and taste buds) a chance to adjust. This will be much more sustainable then the all or nothing approach. Slowly add in healthier foods to compensate. Or add in more protein/fat in your diet to curb cravings and also satisfy hunger (you will naturally eat less because you will get full faster).

You can also send me a message too, if you need help! If this was an easy task, no one would have health problems, so I get it! My job is to help in this transition and make it easier and sustainable for the long term.

Do you have any tricks to help cut sugar out? I would love to hear them!

 

What happens to Carbs after you eat them?

white ceramic mug filled with dessert

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

 

What happens to Carbs after we eat them?

I was thinking about what topic to write about this month and I figured in continuation with our digestion discussion last month, I will discuss how our body actually digests carbs and how that can be related to unwanted weight or even health problems down the road.

Remember digestion occurs in the mouth, stomach, small intestine and large intestine. So, lets dive into what happens in each, that’s specific for carbohydrates: 

Mouth: The enzymes in your mouth actually begin to break down carbs into smaller pieces. However, because food only spends a few seconds in your mouth, this is short lived. This is why the longer your chew (especially with starchy, or bready foods), the better. Gives your digestion a head start. Then it travels into your 

Stomach: The acid in your stomach actually shuts off these enzymes from your mouth, preventing them from working further. This means, that carbs are not digested at all in your stomach (boring!). They just wait there until they enter your

Small Intestine: Enzymes (lots of them!) are released here to really break down all the carbs you have just eaten. How fast this occurs depends on the type of carbs you just ate. I think most people have heard of simple vs complex carbohydrates. But what does this actually mean? Actually, it goes back to molecular chemistry (yay chemistry!) So get ready for some science talk real quick: 

Technically all carbs you eat contain a small sugar molecule called glucose. It doesn’t matter if its a candy bar, an apple or a piece of bread. They all contain glucose. What differs between them is the amount of glucose and how glucose is arranged. 

It can be just 1 or 2 glucose molecules together, or glucose can be with another sugar, like fructose. These tiny sugar molecules are what are classified as Simple sugars. Because they are only a few of them with only 1 or 2 bonded together, they are “simple.”

Table sugar (sucrose) for example, is 1 glucose molecule attached to 1 fructose molecule. Or lactose (like in milk products) are 1 glucose molecule and 1 galactose molecule (another type of sugar) bonded together. Since, these are small molecules, it doesn’t take any effort to digest them. Your body absorbs these little guys very fast, since they are already small. 

What has simple sugars in them? Anything with table sugar (sucrose), high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, honey, agave…..basically anything we would classify as “sugar.” It doesn’t take a lot of effort to digest these things because they are already small. So, the sugar gets absorbed into your blood stream very fast (high blood sugar).

Now imagine you have 1000’s of glucose molecules attached to one another. That’s a lot of glucose! These are your complex carbs. Much bigger molecules, compared to the simple ones that only have like 1 or 2 sugars, hence why they are “complex.” 

These complex carbs are found in your starchy foods (like wheat flours, bread products, potatoes, rice, etc). The enzymes can still break these down into tiny sugars because they are still technically sugar, just more of it. However, it will take longer to break down, because the molecules are bigger, but it still will happen. Once, they are broken down small enough, all these tiny sugars are also absorbed into your blood (high blood sugar). 

This is why if you were ever to measure your blood sugar after eating a candy bar vs. pasta, your blood sugar will be high. It doesn’t matter the source of the sugar, its all sugar and your body treats it the same way.

But if it doesn’t get broken down in the small intestine, the carbs end up going into the

Large Intestine: If you have eaten too much carby foods that your small intestine can’t break down, it is all is up the bacteria in your large intestine to handle. This is why people complain about bloating when they eat too much bread or pasta. That’s the bacteria having to eat all the leftover sugars, causing gas and discomfort (not fun!). 

Now what about fiber?

Fiber is technically a complex carb too. It contains 1000’s of glucose sugars (and maybe some other things too). However, the way the glucose molecules are attached is very different than they are for starches. The enzymes in your small intestine cannot break these molecules down because their bonds are too strong.

This is why we like fiber. Fiber doesn’t get broken down into tiny sugars, but just keeps moving through your digestive system. Because of this, it actually helps slow the process down, and gives your body a chance to break down other things more effectively, so they can be absorbed at slower pace (avoiding that high blood sugar spike!). It also attracts water to your intestines, helping things move along too. This is why you are told to eat fiber to help your digestion. It just helps to “keep things moving.” Which, is what you want. 

So, eating an apple vs. a candy bar is different because an apple contains fiber (and vitamins and other good stuff too!). The fiber in the apple slows the body’s ability to absorb sugar, delaying it from entering your blood. However, the sugar from the candy bar just absorbs directly into your blood (blood sugar spike!), plus it has no other nutrients. Yes, you are still getting sugar from both, but since an apple has other helpful things in it, its actually better for you.

The same principle applies to white bread vs. whole grain brain. The whole grains still have their fiber intact (plus other nutrients!), and the white bread does not.

Now what?

All the sugar you eat, whether its from a simple (sugar) form or a complex (starch) form, enters your liver. Your liver than decides on what to do with it. It sends some to your bloodstream to be used by your body for energy. It stores some of it (for when you need energy later), or it converts it to fat.

You body only needs so much for energy purposes. And your body will never waste anything, it thinks it can use later. It loves to store fat. That is why any extra sugar you eat, will get converted to fat. That’s just your body’s survival mechanism. Unfortunately, this fat (too much of it over time), can lead to problems, like obesity, heart disease and diabetes. This is why we need to be careful.

So, how do you know if you are eating enough carbs, or too much? Well, first: Are you gaining excess weight (or having trouble losing excess weight)? Do you feel bloated or uncomfortable after eating something that is too sugary or carby? Do you get “sugar highs” and then “sugar crashes?” Another symptom, I’ve noticed is heart palpitations after eating too much sugar. Too much sugar can also wreck havoc with your hormones (leading to acne, or even fertility problems overtime). Brain fog, poor sleep, and just lack of energy are also signs of too much sugar. Basically,  you need to watch your physical symptoms after you eat. Everyone is different and there isn’t a one size fits all. The best way is really to just pay attention to your body’s cues. If you think you are eating too much, cut back and see what happens. (Be careful because your body can literally go through a sugar detox, which can take some days to work through). Also, if you cut back on carbs, your body will be looking for an energy source: healthy fats or protein need to be added to compensate. 

If you still are unsure, let me know! That’s my job is to help. Unfortunately our society makes eating healthy very difficult. It’s also a very sugary world out there. I can help you navigate it.

What’s your experience with eating carbohydrates or sugar? Do you feel low carb is better for you? How do you navigate this sugar world? I’d love to hear your experience!

 

April Catch Up

(reprinted from April)
Hi Friends,

Sorry for losing touch this past month. I really feel like March came and went and I didn’t even have a chance to process it. And now, April is basically doing the same thing.

Things are super busy with me. I am flying through my nutrition program at IIN (which is fantastic, I am learning so much), teaching at night, trying to get through my day job..and trying not to forget my amazing Arbonne clients in the process (thanks for the patience guys!).

Oh and one more thing! I am 4.5 months pregnant. 🙂

Yep, many years and months of trying..it finally happened in January. We are very happy, but at the same time taking things day by day, as to not get overwhelmed. It probably helps that I barely have any extra mental energy most of the time. But, I know some of you were probably sensing something was up with me, haha.

I am due Oct 2, and I will write out a separate post talking about this!

 

“Good Carbs” 

Anyway..back to the nutrition stuff. It’s been hard coming up with an interesting topic this month,
mostly because my eating is totally out of whack right now. But one thing that has caught my attention these past few weeks were whole grains (I know..doesn’t sound that exciting, but hear me out)

This is coming from a sort of carb-fearing person because pre-pregnancy, I always felt like just by looking at carbs, they made me bloat, lost my focus..and gain weight. I never paid much attention to whole grains. Sure, I kept hearing from “nutrition experts” that they were good for you (but I still kinda ignored it).

Enter pregnancy and all new cravings…

I very much believe that cravings are your body’s way of telling you something, like if you are missing a nutrient or in need of a nutrient, your body is trying to tell you that..hence cravings. So..I get pregnant and then I instantly started craved carbs like crazy! Like, I was literally daydreaming of stealing someone’s bread out of their hand one day because I had to have it..right that second.
(I didn’t….so you know, I’m not that crazy).

I realized that it’s really my body’s way of telling me, it needs more energy (to prepare and make baby). Then, I watched an amazing lecture about whole grains, and how much more nutrition they contain..in addition to carbs. Now, at this point I am intrigued, because my body is literally yelling for carbs and I am also trying to supplement with as much nutrient dense food I can, because I figured in growing a human, you need to make sure you are loaded up.

What struck me specifically about whole grains, was how much more was in it besides the usual suspects of carbs/fiber. They are basically a solid source of minerals…like ones you don’t hear about much..like manganese. Then they started talking about different whole grains.
(side note: before this, whenever I heard “whole grains,” I just envisioned whole grain bread. Just me?)
Buckwheat, quinoa, brown rice, millet, etc..are actually really nutrient dense foods.

I’ve been obsessed with breakfast porridge lately. I was making just regular oatmeal, but then I
discovered you can make a “porridge” out of a lot of things. Buckwheat has been my new favorite (its also more filling than oatmeal). Took some practice getting it right, but it really is delicious (the one I got is from Thrive market). I top it with berries (organic because berries are loaded with chemicals, like 100’s of them!), drizzle with coconut nectar (I like the taste, maple syrup or raw honey would work too), and maybe some almonds and/or coconut flakes.

Fiber is your friend. You need to eat more of it, especially when eating carbs. It slows everything down in your intestines, so you don’t absorb sugar fast (which is what you want).
Fast sugar absorption = high blood sugar = bad.
Fiber is usually the piece people forget about or don’t understand why “sugar” from fruit is considered better. (Hint: It’s really the fiber component). Sugar is always sugar..no matter the source But if we could get it into our body slower, the better.

Minerals are also your friend. Minerals literally control every chemical reaction in your body, but they aren’t talked about enough. Sure, most people hear about the importance of electrolytes and hydrating..but that’s just one reason. Minerals keep your blood the right pH, your muscles working properly, your heart working properly, your digestion working properly, your metabolism working, etc..etc..etc…Eat lots of minerals and all of them!

Also, these bonus minerals are only found in real food. Nothing processed, at all. Hence, I tell my students and clients..real food first always. There is more to food then just the protein/carb/fat content. Lots more. If you are going to eat carbs…make them good ones.

 Lia’s Favorite Product of the Month

So, the products I want to tell you about this month are more like “aha!”
products for me. If you wear makeup…like at all, and you haven’t found
primers yet..you need to, like right now.

Disclaimer: I have always been skeptical of makeup primers in the past
because “I did not want one more thing on my face, ” you know what I
mean?

Then, I started to work long days. So first, I started with just the face
primer, and I realized that in addition to increased longevity of my face
makeup..it makes the makeup go on BETTER. Like, I cannot put
foundation on without it now because it doesn’t blend or melt on my
skin the same way! LIFE CHANGING. Also, the one from Arbonne,
literally feels like silk..no joke. This is amazing stuff here.

Then, I was very hesitate about the eye primer and it took me awhile to
even try it. But again..I was proven wrong. Longevity..yes, but it also
made my eye shadow go on BETTER and it even increased the color
pigment of the shadow, so it looked more professional and just better
overall. So now, I am a makeup primer convert and regardless of how
long my day is, I put them on.

Seriously, if you wear makeup at all, you need primer in your life. Your
makeup wearing life will be forever changed.

                      What’s new this month: 

Daily life musings can be found on Instagram @balancedlifewithlia

Arbonne products can be seen here! Liaplaner.arbonne.com

ALSO: I need some help from you guys! As part of my health coach training, I need to
start practicing on real people. If you are interested in a free initial health consult
with me (so I can practice), please let me know. I will be forever grateful! It can be
over phone, in person, or via video chat!



Want to be part of May’s healthy living group to help
you get (or stay) on track this spring? We have
coaching, accountability partners, recipes and
everything you need to help! Let me know. I will get
you started right away! (Bikini season will be here sooner then you realize!) 

Thanks for reading and your continued support of me
and my new journey!

xoxooxox   Lia