Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Deal About Sugar and Carbs

Am I married to a smart guy, or what? (He's the reason why I think I'm so smart!) Mark was kind enough to chime in about sugars and carbs in regard to Cathy's question about sugar creating cravings for more sugar.

Here's the deal about sugars and carbs. To begin with, ALL carbs are basically sugar. In fact, ARE sugar, the only difference between a bowl of oatmeal and a bowl of sugar is that the oatmeal takes much longer to break down into pure sugar( and the fiber and nutrients, of course). Sugar is essentially ''predigested" which means as soon as it hits the stomach it hits the blood which raises your blood sugar.The faster the blood sugars go up, the faster your body sends out insulin to clear the blood of sugar which means the faster it goes down. Hence the 'crash' after eating too much fast digesting sugar products.

Complex carbohydrates such as oats, and beans and grains that digest slowly( have a LOW glycemic index) break down into sugar much more slowly,creating more of a sugar 'drip' into your system which means their is less chance of a sugar crash.If you add other ingredients into the mix it slows the process even more. For instance, if you add cream or butter into the oatmeal it will slow the digestion( conversion ) of complex into simple sugars even more.

Many foods you don't think of have sugar in them as well, such as milk. Lactose is the form of sugar in milk, and that is made up of galactose and sucrose.ALL carbs break down into sugar in the body. This is not a bad thing as the brains ONLY source of energy is glucose, that is to say, PURE SUGAR.

If one goes on a pure protein/fat diet the body will break down the protein into sugar( via gluconeogenesis) so that you can still think. No sugar for the brain, you start to lose IQ points rapidly. Any body that has gone under 60 gms of carbs per day will easily attest to how slow your thinking will get if your carbs get too low.

BUT a little carbs go a LONG way. Carbs are gasoline for your body's engine. Just that. An energy source, and unless you are burning THOUSANDS of calories per day with exercise and or activity you just dont NEED as many carbs as people think, or eat, every day.
Constantly filling up on carbs every meal,imo, is like filling up your cars gas tank, driving a few miles to the next gas station and topping off! But that's another topic. Carbs are energy and proteins/fats are repair.CARBS DO NOT BUILD OR REPAIR MUSCLE TISSUE!

Your bodies need for high quality proteins and fats, if you are training hard ,is equally or MORE important as your carbohydrate intake.People act like they are going to die if they don't have carbs every meal.This is especially true right before a workout. The energy you need for training should NOT, imo, come from blood sugar, it should come from stored glycogen in the muscles,i.e energy that has been stored there previously.If one doesnt drain those glycogen stores( if one trains on energy drinks or eating carbs right before training) it doesn't teach the body to store future carbs in the muscles, as they should be, but as body fat more preferentially.

All vegetables and fruits are carbohydrates but our bodies cannot access all of them equally.For instance, brocolli is a carbohydrate same as corn, but unless you have four stomachs such as a cow, your body cannot break down and access them. Thats why one can eat ALL the starchLESS carbs such as brocolli, spinach, celery, etc on a no carb diet and be fine.The body cannot convert those 'carbs' into energy.Of course most peoples favorite diet veggies usually are carrots, which happen to be the highest in available sugars of all the vegetables except for( sugar) beets,lol! People just crave and seek out sugar like crazy!

And, as Cathy pointed out, the more sugar you eat the more sugar you want! When I was bodybuilding we took out ALL the sweet things in our diets including fruits and artificial sweetners as we found that even the taste of concentrated sweetness in a meal would upset our insulin levels and make us MUCH more hungry.Proteins and fats will not have this effect.
There have been studies that show that some peoples blood sugar levels can go up just by LOOKING at pictures of chocolate cake!

My training partner, Scott Wilson, Mr America, would always say he knew when he was really getting in shape( bodyfat wise) when his oatmeal and brown rice would taste as sweet as sugar. He could taste the sugars in those bland foods from many months of no sugar at all.
To conclude, if one wants to control one's blood sugar it's important to choose carbs which have a low glycemic index and try NOT to have carbs at every meal.If you want get lean and burn as much body fat as possible you will do better turning your body into a diesel engine than an inefficient gas burner.

And remember ,if you are going to cheat, real ice cream has a very low glycemic index :))


Jen said...

Thank you Mark, that was great! I read what you wrote to my husband and I think the only part he really heard was that he could have REAL ice cream! :) LOL!!

Mark Reifkind said...

ice cream rocks.

Keturah Y. said...

Great share, Rif and Tracy!

I started ordering my 12 oz. (vente?) lattes with half the flavor syrup (not sugar free, but the real syrups) a year ago. I'm to the point where I rarely drink one with full syrup because it seems ultra sweet to me. And many times I just order a dry cappucino - plain, no syrup. The coffee shop I frequent understands my "odd" ordering habits now. But, I bet you can't imagine how the baristas look at me at when I order something without syrup or half the syrup at any other coffee shop!

fawn said...

Yep, just try hanging out with a competitive body builder the last few weeks out from the competition on a low carb day... you will get the meaning of slow thinking.

Mark Reifkind said...


lol, yup, that's for sure!

Anonymous said...

Great Post!

I definitely got very happy when i saw the line about having real ice cream! Yippee!! Interesting discovery I made at the store, I was comparing labels between the regular ice cream and the light versions and guess what..the regular ice cream had more fat but not a lot more fat and the regular ice cream had a lot less sugar. I am realizing now t that isn't the fat that is making me fat its the calories in more than going out and that I am eating far too many carbs that are not the good kind. Thanks for sharing your insights.


Mark Reifkind said...


just remember to get ice cream and not ice cream/candy mixes that are so can even get some cheaper brands such as breyers that just milk,cream and sugar( not hi fructose corn syrup)
( apologies if this comments comes up twice)