Sweet is simple, sweet is fat

A couple of hours before gym, I try to take a source of energy, so that I don’t tire too soon during training.

It’s 4pm and there is a small bar of chocolate next to my nuts-raisin-cereal mix. I am tempted. I know that if I eat the chocolate, it will be digested very quickly as refined carbs and I have to burn it off soon if I do not want it to become fat. The nuts take longer to digest/convert to energy, which is why they are a healthier pre-gym snack.

Just how long does it take for the stomach to digest refined carbs, though? I remember my trainer saying, “Immediately”. Really?

Curious, I made a quick search on Google, and came across this article that nicely sums it up and explains the bit on energy. Here’s the gist:

Basically, our bodies derive energy from three types of food compounds:

  • Protein,
  • Fats
  • Carbohydrates.

When protein and fats are eaten, they are used primarily to repair and manufacture cells. In order for them to be burned as energy, they must first be absorbed into our cells. Carbohydrates, on the other hand, are immediately useable as energy by the body.

(Incidentally, this also explains why if you UNDER-eat carbohydrates, you not only start to burn fat, which is a good thing, you also burn muscle (protein), which is a bad thing).

When consumed, carbohydrates are converted into simple sugars which is a fuel for all cells.

Complex Carbs: carbohydrates in this form are slowly digested. Thus the release of their sugars/energy occurs slowly over hours. Complex carbohydrates are termed complex because the sugars are binded with fats, proteins and cellulose. It’s just more difficult to break down.

Complex carbs sources include .. well the keywords are “whole” and “unprocessed”. So, they would include whole foods like whole grain brown rice, wholemeal bread, whole fruits and vegetables such as potato, sweet potato and beans.

Simple or Refined Carbs: These are immediately broken down – within minutes. They also give the body a blissful but dangerous sugar rush. After such a meal, your body has a sudden excess of sugar. If you do not use it immediately, it does the next logical thing as a survivor – it keeps it safe. It stores the sugar in the form of fat, expecting you to use it some day.

Don’t blame your body, this is a survival mechanism that we inherited, and many animals in the wild still live by it.

Another important participant in this story is insulin – but that’s another story for another day. For now, take note of this non-exhaustive list of refined carbohydrates, and say goodbye to most of them, most of the time, if you want to lose weight.

Donuts

These you already know:

All sugars and syrups
Products with excess sugar
Soda drinks
sugary drinks, including sweetened fruit juice concentrates
Cookies and biscuits
Ice cream and most desserts
Chips and crisps
Pastries, pies, pizza and cakes
Candy, sweets, chocolate

These many may not realize:

White rice, pasta and noodles
All white breads, buns, wraps

In general, you can identify refined carbs by one main characteristic: mankind made them unnaturally yummy and you always wish you could have one.

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