Normal blood sugar or blood glucose levels are crucial to every activity you perform. When you are tired, your blood may be circulating too little glucose. A momentary boost in energy usually accompanies the ingestion of any type of sugar, which raises the blood sugar level, usually in no more than five to ten minutes. However, this rise is temporary. If you’ve ingested too much sugar, your blood sugar levels will then fall precipitously. This then puts you on a metabolic roller coaster, causing a new craving for sugar to overcome the effects of fatigue. Don’t give in to the craving for quick-energy, high-sugar foods that add calories and little else. To maintain proper sugar levels, consume a complex carbohydrate food, such as brown rice, grains, nuts, and seeds, or a complete protein. This will allow your blood sugar hence, your energy level to be maintained at normal.
r energy level to be maintained at normal. If you feel fine able to focus your energy on the task at hand, whether it’s reading a newspaper or swimming forty laps your glucose levels are probably near normal, which means between 90 and no milligrams per milliliter of blood. Unless you are planning something as stressful as a tennis tournament, you have the fuel you need.
If your blood sugar level drops due to a stressful event, there is no need to rush out for a candy bar. Your body will automatically normalize blood sugar levels by calling up the glycogen it has in storage in your liver. This transforms by freeing glucagon hormones in your pancreas and which results in a flood of new glucose. Fat or protein from your diet or from body stores can also be converted into fuel in a crisis.
If no source of glucose supply were available, this would be grave, indeed, since all the cells in your body which make up your bones, skin, liver, brain, heart, muscle, etc. need this glucose to carry out their activities. A long-term condition in which not enough fuel is consumed is called starvation.
Because of the risk human beings (like other animals) face of not always having food available whether due to natural causes or manmade disasters we have evolved the ability to store fuel at many sites.
in the body. When there is a shortage, this fuel comes into play. Your body knows which supplies to use and in what order. First, your circulating blood sugar is drawn upon. Next, your muscle supplies are used. Then the glucose is made from stored fat. And last to go are those precious proteins because these are the least efficient raw materials for energy and the most valuable building materials.
If you are the athlete in the family, then, like a workhorse, you have generous amounts of glycogen stored in your muscles. That concentrated, caloric glycogen has to be at the ready when you run, swim, or pole vault. Your body energy bank holds about 245 grams of glycogen in your muscles plus slightly more than 100 extra grams in your liver. The availability of glycogen right in your muscles means there’s no low-energy delay while you wait for glucose to be carried from your liver to your hardworking heart or legs, for example. It’s already there in the glycogen chains.
There is one organ that uses glucose differently than the others, and that organ is your brain. One-quarter of your total fuel supply is used to meet the needs of ongoing cerebral activity. In other words, even though your brain constitutes only 2 to 3 percent of your total weight, it is greedier than any other organ as far as fuel is concerned. Furthermore, this organ hoards the fuel it has and will not release it in a crisis. This is another reason to obtain adequate carbohydrates in your diet. Unlike other body organs, your brain cannot turn fat into glucose.
O f course, the brain, like the rest of your body, needs oxygen as well as glucose, in order to transform the blood sugar into energy. Just as heat and light are released when you burn wood in a fireplace, so energy is provided for all your activities by the oxidation of fuel in your cells. If the supply of either fuel or oxygen is cut off to the brain, this can spell disaster; this is why a stroke can cause brain damage.
Taking a run will frequently make you feel a little brighter, a little more energetic. But taking a refined carbohydrate snack while you watch somebody else exercise may or may not have that effect, because you may already have enough glucose for your energy and glycogen storage needs. If that’s the case, triglycerides and other fats are manufactured and stored up in your adipose, or fatty, tissues. You need generous amounts of thiamine, Bi, to digest carbohydrates and that’s one of the vitamins of which a junk food diet is unlikely to give you very much.
So why satisfy a snack attack with empty calorie food? It is better to ignore the urge and exercise or to have an intelligent snack that builds health rather than boosting fat stores.
While it is important to have some potential energy stored for an energy-low day, you don’t need much unless you are faced with a true crisis such as starvation or an extended fast. When you must break down the extra stored fuels in your body the fats and amino acids your body
uses after exhausting its glycogen supply you don’t even get all the caloric energy contained in those stored supplies. And, besides, there is a certain threat of sodium depletion when you use up the carbohydrates that you have readily available.
Although carbohydrates are the first choice for energy, don’t forget there is more to well-being than energy. You must take in balanced amounts of protein, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water so that your dietary carbohydrates are able to function as they should.
Too Little Carbohydrate: Are There Consequences?
The most frequently discussed people likely to use up all their stored carbohydrates are victims of a mysterious disorder, both mental and physical in nature, which has been termed the “dietary teenager disease,” or anorexia nervosa. But this disorder is only one way to run short of carbohydrates. Those high-protein diets whose effectiveness is dependent on deliberately, sharply reduced carbohydrate levels can produce the same effect. This effect is usually not dire. But there are some disadvantages:
- A no-carbohydrate diet is stressful. Fats and proteins, says Rachmiel Levine, can pinch-hit for carbohydrate for short periods: when you eat very little carbohydrate, your liver is alerted that carbohydrate is running out, so it mobilizes your stored fat to produce energy. It also releases free fatty acids to keep the hundreds of muscles throughout your body doing their energy-intensive jobs. Ketone bodies are also produced to fuel cerebral cells. In other words, the excess fat you may have in your liver and tissues is being used up to keep you alive and functioning. However, this is a stressful deviation from the usual metabolic process. It puts a strain on the liver, which already has an estimated 500 major and minor jobs to perform, and on the kidneys, too.
- It is hazardous if you are diabetic. Ketones can build up to a threatening level in such a sufferer. If you live with a diabetic who must follow many restrictions in diet and lifestyle, you may know some of the warning signals that insulin levels are dangerously low because of carbohydrate depletion and that a state of diabetic ketosis has been created. A common one is the smell of acetone, the most primary of all the ketonic substances, on the breath. To counteract this condition, which has been known to lead to unconsciousness and can even be fatal, insulin must be administered without delay. This measure enables the cells to recover and resume their uptake of life-sustaining glucose again.
- It is a threat to seriously underweight individuals. Anorexia victims, as well as any person of any age threatened with starvation, are doubly threatened if they have low or no carbohydrate reserves because at this stage they will have depleted stored body fat, too. The only source of energy that’s left is protein. Protein is the wrong source of energy. The transformation of protein into energy is called gluconeogenesis and it is something to be avoided if you wish your kidneys and liver to last you a lifetime. Protein depletion can lead to death, and it’s easy to understand why. With protein as raw material, new body cells are manufactured and old ones are kept in good repair. Protein is also the only way, in many cases, that important hormones, enzymes, and nerve-impulse transmitting chemicals that allow one organ to communicate with another in the body are produced.
The moral of all this is: get enough unrefined carbohydrates each day and protect your supplies.
Enough Is Enough: What Happens When You Get Too Many Carbohydrates
You know what happens when you follow a careless diet heavy in bread, cookies, and French fries, or even too much stir-fried rice, beans, and homemade com fritters. You get too many carbohydrates, and with them many more calories than you need, so the extra energy is stashed away at various fat depots in your body. In other words, glucose you don’t need is turned by your fatty adipose cells or your kidneys into that problematic padding on your thighs, buttocks, and elsewhere.
Carbohydrates only seem to cause the pounds to pile up faster than any other food group. Actually, they don’t. You just eat more of them because it’s easier to overindulge on carbohydrates like bread or cake than it is on fatty foods like butter, nuts, or fatty meats, for example. Another reason you may indulge more in this area is that carbohydrate foods, especially those from the shelves in any lower-income neighborhood supermarket, tend to be cheaper than foods that provide chiefly fat or protein. In addition, they are often prepared with a lot of fats or oils, which add even more calories.
Apparently, however, carbohydrates may also lead to extra poundage because they cause insulin to collect in the bloodstream, and this can affect fat metabolism.
Too much-refined carbohydrates can lead to B-vitamin deficiencies since this vitamin complex has usually been removed from unrefined carbohydrates. Adequate amounts of B vitamins must be available so that your liver can produce glycogen. Glycogen is fuel, but it also aids in metabolizing fats, and in the proper use of protein. Glycogen, its presence made possible by adequate carbohydrate intake, will improve your immunity to disease as well.
Eating too few carbohydrates can have serious health consequences especially if you are diabetic. Fad diets, starvation, and fasting can all create carbohydrate shortages. To compensate, your liver must work overtime to turn fats and protein into energy. This can also strain your kidneys.
But a diet too high in carbohydrates, especially the kind that has been overprocessed, the kind found in fast foods and empty calorie junk snacks, can result in excess calorie intake and fat deposits throughout the body. These extra pounds place stress on your major organs. Also, high levels of serum insulin may occur.
Refined carbohydrates deplete your body of B vitamins, needed for the production of glycogen. Glycogen is not only a fuel, it aids in metabolizing fats and transforming the proteins you eat into the proteins of your body. Getting enough carbohydrates helps you use proteins and fats properly, and can help you ward off disease.