17 July 2009

Carbohydrate overload...

Carbohydrates are a pretty interesting breed of macronutrient. They provide our bodies with a fast and easily digestible source of energy needed to get through our day. Let's discuss the metabolic pathways that carbohydrates take... Whoa. Don't get too excited.

Upon consuming a slice of bread, a Dr. Pepper, or a banana, your blood stream begins the process of carrying the sugar (glucose) created from the starch you have just ingested throughout the body and to your cells for a quick fix of energy. Next, a hormone you are probably familiar with called insulin is released shortly thereafter which tells your liver to begin the process of taking the excess glucose out of the blood stream. The liver stores it as glycogen to be used over the next few hours until your next meal. Insulin levels slowly taper off back to normal levels during this fasting period.

Lipids (fats), on the other hand, digest much more slowly. Fats takes over as your source of energy after all stores of carbohydrates are depleted in the liver. One gram of fat provides an amazingly efficient amount of energy per gram compared to carbohydrates (9 kcal/g as opposed to a carbohydrate's 4 kcal/g).

So let's say, in typical American fashion, you awake at 8AM, climb out of bed, and drag yourself into the kitchen. Breakfast consists of a bowl of cereal or bagel, a banana, and maybe some milk. You're looking at close to 100g of carbohydrates in that one meal (well on your way to the recommended 300g per day! Great!). So around 12PM, you get a break from work, head home, and hit the kitchen. Let's try a sandwich this time. Two slices of bread and few slices of turkey sounds good. How about some chips? Add a soda and we are talking a possible 150g of carbohydrates. For dinner, your wife/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/whatever wants to go out to eat. Italian he/she says. Everything on the menu looks great, but you decide on the spaghetti. Add another 5o to 100g of carbs to your total for the day (depending on the serving size). Oh, and we forgot that snack around 3PM and the dessert at the restaurant...

The trouble with this typical scenario is the kind of carbohydrates and the total amount consumed. By noon, your body hasn't really gotten done using all those carbs you fed it for breakfast. By dinner, your body is really only getting started on those carbs from lunch. Get it?

What happens to carbs when you don't use them? Chronic elevated insulin levels and lipogenesis....

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