“Don’t eat carbs in the evening!”
“Don’t eat carbs, eat fats”
“Don’t eat carbs, eat protein”
“Eat good carbs with lots of fibre”
“Eat only good carbs and good fats”
and so on, and so on.
All these carbs and fats mantras they haunt me, like in Ella’s little song Ex’s and Oh’s.
(By the way, this is in my “Dance to lose a pound” songs list, very catching rhythm)
My ex’s and the oh, oh, oh’s they haunt me
Like gho-o-osts they want me to make ’em all, all, all
They won’t let go
Ex’s and oh’s
I’ve change it, just for fun, My carbs and the fa fa fats they haunt me …
Well, back to science and my personalized diet, what shall I do with all these carbs and fats tips?
I’m trying to paint a “naive picture” of what happens in my body whenever we eat, to understand somehow what fattens me.
Actually, it’s a very, very complicated and fascinating process, only partially known it seems, otherwise there would be no more obesity. I’d appreciate very much any comments or piece of research that will correct or improve my view.
When you eat food, it’s broken down into basic nutrients ( amino acids, fatty acids and glucose), which make their way into the bloodstream. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps moving the nutrients into cells. From the pancreas, insulin enters the bloodstream and travels to various cells, including muscle, liver and fat cells (all fat cells, including the white ones that store fat, the brown ones that burn fat). The cells are lined with insulin receptors. Once the insulin molecule docks onto the receptor, it signals the cell to open up and absorb the nutrients from the blood. As the nutrients are slowly absorbed, insulin levels drop, until finally all the nutrients are absorbed.
I don’t know what white fat cells use glucose for but for sure they are not just storage units, they do need energy. Among other functions, they make lots of hormones like leptin that helps to regulate energy balance by inhibiting hunger.
The liver and muscle cells convert glucose that is not needed immediately for energy into glycogen. At one point, some 500g of glycogen might be stored in your body, depending on physical training, basal metabolic rate, and eating habits.
This might explain some of the scale variations. If you are happy that your scale shows a pound less in a day, don’t. It’s just variation. Look for a longer period of time to jump to conclusions.
The cells feed off of this glycogen before using fat as energy.
When blood glucose level drops too low, insulin secretion falls and your pancreas releases the hormone glucagon, which prompts the reconvertion of the stored glycogen into glucose and releasing it into the bloodstream.
As only a limited amount of glucose can be stored as glycogen and as it’s not safe to have more than 4g of glucose in your blood, the excess amount of glucose is stored in the white fat cells. One more role for the insulin is to trigger conversion of glucose into fat.
Burn it or store it, it seems there’s no other way to get rid of it.
Keep in mind that insulin is not the only hormone involved in the process of storing fat.
Just to get a flavor of how complicated things are, there’s an enzyme called ASP (Acylation Stimulating Protein). This beast has the ability to directly store fat in the fat cells, completely bypassing the glucose and insulin pathways.
And then, there’s the bacteria in your guts…but this is another story, even more complicated.
Liver glycogen stores serve particularly the central nervous system. The human brain consumes approximately 60% of blood glucose in fasted, sedentary individuals. This is why, in my opinion, it’s not a good idea to eat low-carb for a prolonged period of time, even if your protein and fat intake might compensate. While I was on a no-starches-no-fruit diet for 2 weeks, I felt quite tired and couldn’t perform, my brain was sometimes “foggy”. Slept well, though and a lot.
If you eat lots of carbs with a high glycemic index (like bread or sugar) they will be processed rapidly and your blood sugar will spike rapidly. The pancreas releases insulin, lots of, which tells the muscle, liver and fat cells to take up the blood sugar and remove it from the blood. It seems that this spike in insulin might trigger the storage of excess sugar as fat. Rapidly. It makes sense if you already have more sugar in your blood than it’s safe and glycogen stores can’t take anymore glucose. Couldn’t find more information on this, though.
For sure, too many spikes, too frequently, will damage in time the communication between pancreas and your cells. You’ll get to a point when the cells become insulin resistant. They do not respond to the insulin trigger and don’t absorb the glucose.
Except the fat cells, it seems.
In time, the pancreas gets tired and will produce less and less insulin and you’ll get seriously ill with diabetes.
Can you avoid this spike scenario with our modern lifestyle?
You eat a hearty breakfast, go to your daily activities, eat something at a quick lunch, no too much and then comes dinner. You swallow like a wolf maybe, a nice hearty dinner to compensate for a long hard working day. If you eat lots of carbs (as recommended by almost all guidelines), you might end with a spike in the morning and one in the evening, Many nutritionists recommend you to eat your carbs in the morning, not in the evening.
Is this working to avoid the spike effects?
Recently I’ve watched a very interesting BBC documentary, “Trust me, I’m a doctor”.
Among other subjects, a little experiment was conducted to check if eating carbs for breakfast is better than eating a lot of carbs in the evening.
Surprise, none was the winner. What matters is not so much when you eat your carbs but the length of the carbs-free “fasting” period that precedes your meal. Of course, this was a limited study and more research is needed.
Their advice so far is “not to worry too much about what time of day you eat carbs, as long as you’re consistent and don’t overload with them at every meal. If you’ve had a lot of carbs in the evening, try to minimise them in the morning. On the other hand, if you’ve had a pile of toast for breakfast, go easy on the pasta that night.”
You might like this article, it’s quite interesting http://www.bbc.com/news/health-42705852
What’s in all these for a personalized diet?
Based on my new knowledge, this is what I’m willing to try and hope it will help me in time. Follow me, if you find it interesting too, I’ll keep you informed on my progress.
I do have in fact implemented some of them quite successfully, while being on the South Beach & Mediterranean diets. At least, I’ve stopped putting on.
– “Fast” from time to time, to let the body rest. I can’t and I don’t see the reason to fast by limiting calories to a ridiculous small number. I know myself, this is not going to happen.
But it’s worth trying and I can do it, 1 day a week with low Glycemic Index foods. That is, no starches (bread, pasta, rice, bulgur, biscuits, pizza), no sweets, sugar, fruits loaded with carbs like bananas.
Don’t try this before you asks your doctor, if you already have serious health problems, whatever they are.
I’m already having 1 vegan day a week, it’s a tradition and religion custom in my country. I do feel better after my “no animal products” day and I’ve increased my veggies and fruit intake.
– Don’t overload with carbs, at any meal, in any day. If you eat a lot of carbs at a meal, take care not to overload the next meals too. If you eat too much in the evening, eat less or even skip breakfast if you are not hungry.
It remains to decide what “lots of carbs” means to my body. A simple test, measuring my blood sugar after eating certain foods, will help me. Measurements have to be taken at the first bite, half an hour after, an hour, an hour and a half and two hours after. Draw a graph and compare graphs with that of some reference food. Look for spikes. You should read this interesting book for details and other options The Personalized Diet by Eric Segal and Eran Elinav.
– Avoid over-processed foods like white bread, snacks, chips, confectionary, foods with added sugar, sweet beverages. This is easy, I’ve already got rid of most of them, I can live without.
– Lower the Glycemic Index of some foods by properly cooking them. Eat pasta al dente, combined with cheese or tomato sauce, for example. Or, eat potatoes boiled in skin and refrigerated overnight. I’ve already tested my reaction to pasta with tomato sauce and potato salad. I’m so happy they are “good” for me.
– Stop adding sugar in foods that are not deserts, like salads, sauces, soups a.s.o. This is quite difficult to do when you eat at a restaurant or buy some processed foods. It seems sugar is added in almost anything in a supermarket shelf.
– Learn to “read” your body signals. Don’t eat if you’re not hungry. Try to eat slowly, don’t swallow, give time to your body to decide if you’re still hungry. This I’m fighting with and it’s tricky.
– And, more than anything else, exercise more and often to burn that glycogen and maybe some of the stored fat! Yeap, this is the hardest.