We mentioned last week that glucose found in fruit and sugars is one of the building blocks of life, feeding our cells and giving us energy. However, you may have also heard of the term “sugar crash”, which refers to fatigue after consuming a large quantity of sugar.
Simple sugars don’t quite hit the sweet spot
Sugary foods and drink provide the body with ‘simple sugars’. Imagine simple sugars as a standard math equation like 3+3. Simple sugars are processed fast by the body resulting in an initial energy boost that is much like this equation; short and not very satisfying. As simple sugars are processed so quickly by the body, they lead to an insulin spike caused by an increase of insulin secretion. Insulin acts as a key that opens up the locks on your body’s cells so that glucose can get in. This reduces and helps to moderate the levels of sugar in your bloodstream.
Complex sugars --- what are they?
Complex sugars on the other hand are like that algebra formula we tried to solve in Calculus class back in the day. They take a long time to be processed and broken down by the body; resulting in a slow, steady energy that lasts for hours.
Complex sugars are better known as complex carbohydrates or starch. They are made of a string of sugar molecules – imagine your mother’s string of pearls – and often found in foods that are high in dietary fiber. Common sources of these complex sugars include grains, legumes and starchy vegetables such as potatoes, corn and pumpkin.
These foods are rich in vitamins and minerals and take much longer to digest. As a result, the sugars are released more slowly into the bloodstream and keep blood sugar and insulin levels steadier, potentially protecting against heart disease and diabetes. Complex sugars also keep you feeling fuller for longer, reducing the chance of excess eating resulting in glucose being stored as fat.
The best thing is these sugars don’t tend cause a spike in insulin levels!
Other energy providers
The body not only gets its energy from the breakdown of sugar, we also gain energy from fat and protein.
Fats are the next favorite foods to make energy after sugars. They are made of two substances bound together called glycerol and fatty acids. Glycerol is easily metabolized and used to make glucose. Fatty acids are carried to tissues throughout your body where they help build cell walls, produce hormones and digest fat-soluble vitamins. They can also be converted by the body into energy.
Protein is made up of hundreds of amino acids and these are crucial for many bodily functions, including cellular and tissue repair as well as transporting and storing nutrients. As they are so vital, they are not the body’s preferred choice of energy. That is why a diet high in lean protein usually doesn’t result in weight gain.
Want to increase your energy levels naturally?
Watch your diet – Opt for complex carbohydrates, protein and fat that are slow to breakdown and keep you energized for longer.
Eat a quality breakfast - What you eat for breakfast sets the barometer for your day’s blood sugar. Eat a sweet breakfast and you’re bound for a blood sugar train wreck. But eat a high quality protein packed breakfast and you can hum along at a sustainable pace! If you want to make good choices, check out our Breakfast blog.
Take a walk - While it may seem strange to move when you feel exhausted, experts say that increasing physical activity, particularly walking, increases energy. Try to take 10 to 20 minute walks whenever possible.
Stop stressing – Stress-induced emotions consume huge amounts of energy. Talk to someone, or try something like yoga to introduce a bit more zen into your schedule.
Embrace the sun – Open the curtains and blinds in the morning and get out and about for some Vitamin D. Sun is a mood enhancer and can help you feel more energized. Exposure to light also stimulates your brain to stop producing melatonin (the hormone that helps induce sleepiness).
By now you should be able to make wiser choices to increase your energy levels without that sugar crash. Avoid those ‘simple sugars’ and your body will appreciate you for it!
In Good Health.
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