Why We Overeat Part 3: Sleep

In part 2 of this series on overeating we discussed how the stress response we live with daily  contributes to overeating. Understanding the stress hormones and fight or flight is important to understanding today’s topic: sleep and overeating.

If you have not done so read Why We Overeat Part 2: Stress, before diving into today’s blog on sleep. Not getting enough sleep is a big stress on the body!

Getting a good night of sleep is vitally important to overall health and well being. Any efforts in the gym,kitchen or life to look, feel and perform better are stalled by not prioritizing sleep. 

If you are consistently not getting enough sleep there is a good chance you are  overeating as a result, and may not realize it.

What is it that causes us to overeat when we don’t get enough sleep ? Is it due to willpower ? hormones ? or is there an evolutionary advantage that is at odds with our current lifestyle ?  Read more to learn the answer!  

Sleep Makes It All Better!

Sleep is a basic human requirement, it is mothers nature’s way of forcing our hand into regenerating and rejuvenating.

Our endocrine, neurological, immune, musculoskeletal and digestive systems all rely on sleep to function correctly. This means every system in your body requires good quality sleep work at its best.

A good night sleep has  shown to increase memory and cognitive clarity, improve stress tolerance, better hormonal profiles, increased immune function, improved athletic performance, increased muscle mass, decreased body fat and better mood and energy throughout the day.

If I could  sell the benefits of sleep in a pill form I would be the most successful supplement producer in the world, living on a yacht, sleeping on a bed of gold coins and eating dinosaur eggs for breakfast.

I am here to tell you the health benefits listed above are not going to cost you a dime. All you have to give up is the mindless TV or facebook  and close your eyes when the sun goes down.

How We Are Designed To Sleep

From the smallest microbes in the soil to the largest elephant on the planet we are all synchronized to the orbit of the planet.

This synchronized orbit controls the light and dark cycles that tell us when we should be awake and when we should go to sleep  known as our circadian rhythm.

We have  special nerve cells in our eyes that detect the level of blue light from the sun. The light from the sun  helps signal to brain, and the body whether we should be wide awake or getting prepared for bed.

As the sun sets at night there is a signal sent to an area of the brain called the pineal gland. That signal tells the brain and body it’s time to start winding down. In preparation for sleep the pineal gland begins secreting the hormone melatonin.

We have a number of uses for melatonin in our brain, but one the biggest jobs is it  decreases the stress hormones that promote being awake and alert.

As we sleep melatonin also enhances the appetite suppressing effect of leptin in the body. Leptin keeps you feeling fed while you sleep, instead of feeling hungry and waking you up. The more you sleep the more melatonin is produced.

Sleep is also a huge driver in the production and timed release of our neurotransmitters. The most notable neurotransmitters regulated by sleep are serotonin and dopamine, and associated with mood regulation.

As you read in Why We Overeat Part 1: Feast and Famine;  dopamine and serotonin both play large roles in driving our behaviors to eat certain foods that hit the reward center in our brain and cause us to want more of that food.

While Serotonin and Dopamine play a role in mood they are also big players in focus, motivation and the ability to concentrate.

Serotonin is converted to melatonin, so by sleeping in alignment with our biological rhythms the body times the release of serotonin so it can be converted into melatonin allowing us to wind down at night and sleep through the night.

We are designed to wake up in the morning light with high cortisol secreted from our adrenal glands.The stress hormone cortisol allows us to be awake, alert and ready to handle stress. We should have declining cortisol throughout the day, with it lowest at night so we can wind down and sleep.

We should also wake up from our sleep hungry with low blood sugar levels, and low insulin (storage hormone) because it has been at least 8 hours since our dinner the night before so blood sugar will be low along with insulin.

A Light Accomplice

Electricity and light provided a new era in which humans could have greater control over our environment. While it lead to many great advances in society, it came with a cost disrupting our circadian rhythm, and sleep cycle.

Electricity gave us renewable, cheap, never ending light. This light was a  way to control our environment unlike we ever had before.

The biggest discovery before electricity was fire, it allowed us to cook food and control our environment in way unlike before.

When you start to control your environment it will also change you if you are able to adapt. We have adapted to the constant light, but not all adaptations are positive ones.

Long hours of artificial light and constant dense carbohydrates register as the longer days of summer. Summer means it is time to eat more and gain body fat.

A New Way Of Living

So What happens when we don’t get enough sleep and how does this impact our appetite and overeating tendencies ? I thought you would never ask!

With a lack of sleep you end up with extremely low energy, decreased willpower, lower cognitive function, obesity, type 2 diabetes, depression, fat gain and hormonal dysregulation.

The unending light registers to the body as as long days of summer. From an evolutionary perspective it is an advantage to eat more sugar and carbohydrates to gain fat in preparation for winter.

These days we live in a constant "summer" according to our biological rhythms, that signal us to constantly eat, and gain fat in preparation for reproduction. 

You are staying up late watching TV or checking facebook instead of sleeping, the excess light blue light suppresses melatonin production.

The extra blue light keeps the stress hormone cortisol elevated much later than it should be, causing melatonin to be low. 

This late night artificial light also interferes with conversion of serotonin into melatonin. We need melatonin production to relax and sleep.

Cortisol And Insulin

High cortisol raises insulin and  means low melatonin. Low melatonin  makes it even more difficult to get to sleep.

The elevated cortisol late into the night means that it will not be raised in the morning when we need it to wake up and be alert. Coffee anyone ?

You use caffeine to help with feeling tired, but it only causes cortisol to stay elevated when it should be reducing throughout the day. This constantly high cortisol makes you feel rushed all the time and in a stressed state.

Cortisol is a blood sugar mobilizer causing higher blood sugar throughout the day. Stress and blood sugar dysregulation both lead to overeating on their own, but there is a lot more to this puzzle.

Our circadian rhythms are supposed to control our insulin production  and stress mechanisms. When we do not sleep enough cortisol stays elevated to help mobilize blood sugar to aid in the stress of being awake longer than we should.

Because you haven’t slept enough the body is less effective at managing blood sugar causing you to be hungry throughout the day and night.

Less sleep means reduced willpower, leading to  more impulsive unhealthy food choices. The thing is you are not hungry, you are tired and stressed out.

Melatonin, Leptin and Ghrelin

Less sleep means less melatonin production. The length of prolactin secretion depends on melatonin production.

If melatonin is disrupted by too little sleep, prolactin will be secreted during the day instead of night time when it should be. Prolactin secretion has a relationship to the satiety hormone leptin.

Leptin is produced in our fat cells  and is used a dipstick that tells the brain what our body fat levels are, and helps regulate satiety.

Ghrelin works opposite leptin and is the hunger stimulating hormone.  Depending on the season, and our body fat levels our appetite will be adjusted to eat more or less through leptin and ghrelin.

When the production of prolactin is pushed into the day, it suppresses leptin’s signal to the brain. Suppressed leptin registers as a lack of body fat meaning we need to eat more.

As a result the brain increases the cravings for carbohydrates and sweets through Ghrelin. Decreased sleep leads to decreased leptin, and increased ghrelin meaning you are going to have an increased appetite

As you get fatter the leptin from the increasing fat on your body makes you leptin resistant meaning that your leptin receptors have been overloaded and do not work properly.

Without the adequate function of leptin,your appetite stays switched on day and night causing you to overeat constantly.

The signals that you are sending your body is that you are living in a constant state of summer with shorter nights and longer days, and stressed out.

The adaptation to the constant summer is to keep your appetite increased, especially for sweets and carbohydrates.

The problem is living  in summer with no winter to balance out the feast and famine is sending the signal to overeat and store fat year round.

All feast, and no famine to balance the equation has lead us to a state of fat gain, type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer.

Sleep Tips

A good starting place to avoid overeating and improve health is to prioritize sleep. When the sun goes down start winding down and have a routine for getting to bed.

Put away the screens at least an hour before bed to start making melatonin and calming down. If you have to be in front of a screen for work get a pair of blue blocker sunglasses. They block the blue lights and allow you to start making melatonin.

Avoid stressful activities and engage in some type of myofascial release such as using a foam roller or lacrosse ball to kick on the rest and digest parasympathetic and help you relax for sleep. Completely black out your room and make your room a little colder, both of these help with deeper more restorative sleep.

If you would like to read on more ways to improve your sleep read my blog post: 10 Ways To Improve Sleep

Fill out the form below if you’re looking for a coach who can help you adopt the simple habits necessary to reach your health, fat loss or muscle building goals.

These habits are based on getting you to your goal in a sustainable fashion that can be maintained, while keeping you accountable along the way.

 

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Why We Overeat Part 1: Feast & Famine

We have all found ourselves excessively full in front of an empty plate after a meal that we barely remember eating.

We will reach for more food even though we are no longer hungry, the chip basket at the restaurant keeps getting refilled and we keep grabbing more.

It's  not that the occasional over indulgence will lead to chronic health problems and weight gain, but overeating on a daily basis is a direct contributor to many of the health problems. Those health problems include obesity, Type 2 diabetes, Cardiovascular disease, hypertension and metabolic damage.

We all have the same mechanisms  that help us regulate the amount we eat on a daily basis. When we have eaten enough nutrients, our gut signals our brain to turn hunger off  because we are well nourished this system works efficiently for most folks.

The question begs to be asked what causes some people to eat way more than their body needs while others can push the plate away when they are full ?

The first of this three part blog series I’m going explain how hunger works, how we are hardwired to overeat at times and how modern foods impact overeating.

How Hunger Works

Before we can talk about what might be going wrong in the hunger and satiety system it is important to get some context  of what hormones are at play, and how hunger is designed to work for people to balance the amount of food we eat.

Your stomach is empty and you have used up the fast acting energy. The stomach recognizes that we need fuel, and in response releases the hormone Ghrelin.

The hormone ghrelin interacts with the neurotransmitter in the brain neuropeptide Y (NPY). NPY turns on the desire  to eat and  we feel hunger signaling that we should eat.

After we eat a meal to satisfy our hunger ghrelin levels drop and Leptin is released from the stomach and fat tissue.

Leptin decreases the desire for food even further, and makes you feel full and well nourished. In a perfect world this is how our hunger and satiety is designed to work, however we do not live in a perfect world.

Primal Brains and Modern Foods

With this well developed system in place to help us regulate our energy balance in the body why can it be so easy to have a second bowl of ice cream or another handful of chocolate almonds even though we are full and satiated ?

To gains some insight into this questions lets take a look back in time. It is helpful to understand how our very distant relatives navigated their environment to ensure survival, and how that impacts us today.

When it comes to how our ancestors used to eat they regularly encountered feast and famine scenarios seasonally. When food was available they knew to gorge and eat as much as they could because those resources would not be available in the future.

We are hardwired to crave the taste of  energy dense foods to promote gorging.This was our way of knowing we needed to eat as much as possible to gain fat in preparation for famine.

From an evolutionary perspective we are hardwired to crave and gorge on these energy dense foods while they are available to ensure survival through  famines.

Using An Evolutionary Lens

Here is an example of how it worked in nature for our ancestors. When you saw a dense source of carbohydrates like fruit it meant it is late spring or summer and it is time to overeat and reproduce.

You eat lots of that fruit because the sweet taste signals this it was a safe and energy dense food. The sugar content of the fruit raises your blood sugar and the pancreas responds to the surge in blood sugar by releasing insulin.  

Insulin makes sure immediate energy reserves are met, and the rest of the sugar is sent to short term storage in your liver and muscles.

The short term storage is limited, and the extra sugar is converted to cholesterol and body fat as long term storage. Your body knows that with these energy dense foods available winter must be around the corner and it is time to prepare for a famine by gaining weight.

You have enough in short term and long term storage to get through tomorrow. This cycle is repeated on a daily basis while supplies last as an evolutionary advantage for times of famine.

The carbohydrate rich diet that we have adopted along with the low fat craze has dramatically tipped the macronutrient scale going against our biology.

Our hunter gatherer ancestors thrived on a seasonal diet for many years. The low fat craze along with the adoption of processed carbohydrates is a perfect recipe for more sugar we are designed to handle and in turn overeating and disease states as an adaptation.

We can use fat and carbohydrates for energy, if you remove one from the diet it means that we must rely on the other for all your energy.

Carbohydrates are fast acting source of energy but fat is a much longer burning source of energy. Fats help us to regulate our energy and keeps us feeling much fuller for longer. When fat was removed our foods we were forced to depend of processed carbohydrates as our source of energy all day long.

All Feast And No Famine

Our modern lifestyle is a mismatch with the hardwired feast and famine mentality. Today there is no famine, we are missing an important part of the equation that helps us to keep our energy balanced and prevent year round fat gain.

Energy dense foods were only available for part of the year as hunter gatherers, then they were gone until next year.

We now have energy dense foods  available 24 hours a day 365 days a year. Our ancestors energy rich foods  contained nutrients, vitamins and minerals that satisfied and nourished them.

Our modern energy dense foods, provide many calories with very few nutrients.

Nature is smarter than we are and provides cyclical eating to help us manage our energy balance. It is an evolutionary advantage to get fat for certain parts of the year, but because our energy is out of balance we stay fat year round.

Not only have we abandoned cyclical eating, but we eat  processed foods that hijack the reward center in our brain because of how they are designed to taste.

The man made foods that hijack the reward center in our brain are very addicting as well. That addiction leads to overconsumption of foods on a yearly basis keeping us much fatter and sicker than we are supposed to be.

The addiction and food flavor design is a rabbit hole for another part of this series though.

Quality Impacts Quantity

The quality of foods that we eat have a large impact on the amount of food we are going to eat. The calories from foods that stimulate the dopaminergic pathway such as bread, pasta, grains, sugars and other processed can promote overeating.

These processed foods block the leptin signal turning off hunger and  cause people to overeat. On the other side foods such as healthy fats, veggies and protein are all high satiety foods that leave people feeling fuller for much longer.

The quality of food that you consume have a different metabolic effect on the body and hormones. Two meals with identical calories but one highly processed and the other from natural whole foods will interact with hormones and satiety very differently.

When we eat meals that contain processed carbohydrates it causes a surge in blood sugar, and the hormone insulin is released to store the extra sugar.

Excessive insulin in the body will block the signal of leptin telling the brain that we are full and satiated. Therefore the hunger signal stays turned on. This allows us to overeat foods that are designed to help us store fat, when we overeat like this on a daily basis it is a recipe for obesity and disease.

If you’re tired of working hard, and not getting the results you want, I can help you adopt the simple habits necessary to reach your health, fat loss or muscle building goals. 

These habits are based on getting you to your goal in a sustainable fashion that can be maintained, while keeping you accountable and supporting you along the way. 

Get on a Strategy Call with me to Discover how to achieve your health or fat loss goals, and make them yours to keep this time around. 

Whether you decide to work with me or not I can guarantee you will leave this call with more knowledge on how to achieve your goals than before, nothing to lose. Everything to gain!


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How Many Meals Per Day ?

When it comes to changing how someone eats one of the most common questions is how many meals a day should I be eating ?

There are different views on the topic of how frequently people should be eating. Some believe that eating breakfast is how you jump start the metabolism for the day, while others believe that having six smaller meals a day keeps your metabolism from slowing down.

On the other side of the coin there are the people who skip breakfast all together, and do some form of intermittent fasting.

In this blog post I am going to  discuss the myths and truths around the ideal meal frequency. What you should  be taking into consider when deciding how many meals to eat on a daily basis and why calories and food quality both matter.

Is Breakfast Really That Important ?

Breakfast is really the first meal of the day no matter what time it is. You are breaking the fast from dinner and overnight.

We have been told our entire life that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and aids in losing weight by jump starting the metabolism.

There is nothing physiologically special about breakfast. It is not essential in any way for boosting metabolism, and is no different from any other meal eaten throughout the day.  

There is no legitimate evidence that breakfast helps people lose weight. Those who typically skip breakfast have a higher likelihood of obesity though.

People who skip breakfast in an unplanned fashion are more likely to make poorer decisions later in the day when hunger strikes.

For those who are less health conscious, and have skipped breakfast having a pastry or a big fast food lunch to make up for breakfast is normalized.

Many folks who do skip breakfast end up overeating to compensate for the missed meal without thinking about it.

There are people who go for periods of time where they plan to avoid consuming calories,this is called intermittent fasting. There are some interesting health benefits from intermittent fasting that could make up an entire blog post.

Verdict: If you are hungry when you wake up go ahead and eat breakfast. If you are looking to lose body fat focus on protein, fat and veggies for breakfast.

If you’re not hungry skip breakfast, but make sure your other meals are healthy and you are not overeating to compensate.

More Meals Boosting Metabolism  ?

We have all been told the folk tale about  frequent smaller meals boosting the metabolism, this is false though.

It is one of those relics that sticks around even though it is not true. old myths die hard.

It is true that eating and digesting food does raise the metabolism. This is the thermic effect of food. The total volume of food digested at the end of the day is what matters most.

The energy expended to digest 3 big meals or 6 smaller meals of equal size will be the exact same.

Eating 6 meals of 300 calories is going have the exact same thermic effect as eating 3 meals of 600 calories. There is literally no difference in the energy expended between these two ways of eating.

For athletes looking to recover or those looking to gain muscle you will need to eat more frequently to fuel your activities and give the body a caloric surplus to use.

Verdict: Smaller more frequent meals compared to fewer larger meals creates no difference on total fat loss or the metabolic rate. At the end of the day with the metabolism what matters most is the total calories consumed. 

Balancing Blood Sugar

There are people who have trouble with chronically low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). These people typically have adrenal glands that  are so worn out that they can not adequately raise blood sugar when it gets low.

For these folks eating more frequent smaller meals that are macronutrient balanced is better than three larger meals

For others who do not have adrenal dysfunction and can regulate blood sugar adequately, meal frequency is less important.

People typically think of larger meals as creating larger spikes in blood sugar, compared to smaller meals creating smaller spikes in blood sugar.

What matters the most when it comes to spikes in blood sugar is the kind of foods that you are eating.

If you compare a  large salad with dressing and a chicken breast  to a turkey sandwich on wheat bread. Even though the salad may be larger in size the bread in the sandwich is going to cause the larger blood sugar spike. 

Verdict: If you have blood sugar regulation problems eating more frequently can be helpful to avoid letting levels get too low.

When it comes to balancing blood sugar the focus should be on the quality of foods.Certain foods even in small amounts quickly spike blood sugar such as bread or pasta. Other foods in large amounts have little effect on the blood sugar levels such as a salad with lots of leafy green veggies, nuts, seeds or coconut.

 Fasted Or Fed ?

intermittent fasting is strategically planning to avoid eating certain meals or during a period of time. Some people will choose to do 24 hour fasts or choose to skip breakfast daily.

Fasts usually last between 16-24 hours, and a large chunk of that time is going to be when the person is asleep ideally.

Living in our abundant society food is literally everywhere, so when someone chooses to not eat for an extended period of time they are likely to get questions and funny looks.

When looking at our eating from an evolutionary standpoint we are well adapted to handle both feast and famine. Today however we have a society of all feast and no famine.

Every religion in existence today has a form of fasting. In many cases it is viewed as a cleansing ritual which is funny because we now know that we have a cellular cleaning that happens during fasting.

This cellular house cleaning is named autophagy. During autophagy the body works on making cells function more efficiently and cleans up any waste products.

 Insulin sensitivity will be increased, which  means the body will more efficiently use carbohydrates due to fasting. This insulin sensitivity can also be achieved by strength training.

Verdict: Intermittent fasting has very interesting health benefits, but just like anything else in nutrition it may not work for everyone.

Intermittent fasting is a form of stress and those who are dealing with blood sugar, adrenal or sleep problems will not feel good if they attempt intermittent fasting. The key here is to experiment and see what works for you and fits your lifestyle. 

Closing Thoughts

At the end of the day what matters most is food quality and the total number of calories. In regards to fat loss and metabolism how many meals you choose to eat on a daily basis is up to you and makes no real difference.

Breakfast has no special metabolic effect, but can help prevent overeating and cravings.

If you are someone who has adrenal or blood sugar problems smaller more frequent meals or snacks may be helpful. Fewer meals would be a good option for folks who have digestive problems.

Some people will prefer to skip breakfast and have an intermittent fast. Finding what works for you is going to be individual.

Make sure that you are taking steps towards your goals and don’t blindly follow someone else's advice. Test and see what works best for you and helps you to reach your goals.

If you’re tired of working hard, and not getting the results you want, I can help you adopt the simple habits necessary to reach your health or fat loss goals.

These habits are based on getting you to your goal in a sustainable fashion that can be maintained. I’ll be there every step of the way to support and keep you accountable.  

Get on a Strategy Call with me to Discover how to achieve your health or fat loss goals, and make them yours to keep this time around.

Whether you decide to work with me or not I can guarantee you will leave this call with more knowledge on how to achieve your goals.

 

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Why Is Sugar Addictive ?

Why Is Sugar Addictive ?

There is no little doubt that sugar is one of the most damaging parts of our modern diet. Many of the diseases we suffer from as a society today are tied to excess consumption of sugar and processed carbohydrates.

Obesity, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol, fatty liver disease and even Alzheimer’s (Type 3 Diabetes) all have links to excess refined sugar,  carbohydrate and calorie consumption.  

We have been conditioned to accept the amount of sugar in our modern diet and think of it as normal. Next time you go to the grocery store flip over the packaged foods and read the ingredient list.

You will absolutely find a form of sugar listed. Even the “health foods” at supermarket are going to be loaded with sugar.There are over fifty six names for sugar, and food manufacturers use this to their advantage.

Even foods that are considered “healthy” such as granola, low fat yogurt and breakfast cereals all have so much added sugar they are more like a soda than a health food.

Why is it that all packaged foods at the grocery store contain so much added sugar ? and how did sugar become such a large part of our foods ? There are a two very important events that dramatically altered food industry and our intake of refined sugar as a society, lets take a closer look.

Two Big Milestones

The introduction of refined sugars into our diet took place about four hundred years ago. As societies grew larger, more people needed to be fed.

For our society to continue to grow we started to move away from more natural foods that easily perished and adopted more industrialized processed foods.

These industrialized foods needed to be able to last longer while they were shipped and delivered to different regions and sat on food shelves.

It was quickly realized that refined sugar made foods taste much better, and was a very cheap preservative. Making foods last longer and taste better by adding refined sugars became the industry standard.

Without any consideration of the health consequences this extra refined sugar would have, it  became an ingredient in all processed and packaged foods.

Another huge milestone that changed the way we still eat today was the low fat movement. On the advice of our government society was told to eat less saturated fat and cholesterol at all costs.

To meet the new demand of society the food industry quickly began making low fat “health foods”. The problem is that when a natural flavor profile such as fat has been removed the food tastes terrible. Luckily the food industry is great at solving problems to make sure they don’t lose money.

This problem was  solved  by adding mass quantities of sugar to these low fat foods. Because people were told to be concerned about saturated fats and cholesterol the extra sugar injected into the diet went unnoticed.

People were far more worries about seeing the words fat free or low fat on their foods they were about the grams of sugar on the label.

People in the United States are consuming mass quantities of refined sugar everyday, even if they don’t know it . When you combine this excessive intake of refined sugar with processed carbohydrates and calories it creates a perfect metabolic storm and sets up strong cravings for sugar.

It isn’t until people reduce sugar and processed carbohydrates that they quickly realize how strong their cravings and addictions to sugar are.

No one is to blame for this dysfunctional relationship with sugar, except the food industry. We are hardwired to enjoy and crave sweet foods, they provide a strong evolutionary signal of nutrient and energy density.

Primal Brains, Modern Foods  

Our brains have built in evolutionary mechanisms that are major drivers for our behavior. Many of these evolutionary drives are meant for survival, one of the main drives is eating.

When we eat sugar there are certain reward systems in the brain that are stimulated releasing neurotransmitters such as dopamine.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that makes us feel good. Because dopamine causes us to feel good we have the evolutionary instinct to repeat that behavior.

This reward system is designed to help us navigate the behaviors for survival. These reward systems played pivotal roles in our survival during times of feast and famine.

A Hijacked Reward System

Today  we have the same primal reward systems in place that guide our decisions around food. The refined sugar  that we eat these days is much sweeter and concentrated  than what could be found in nature.

As a result of this concentrated and hyper sweet energy source our brain becomes flooded with dopamine causing an overstimulation of the reward system.

The dopamine signaling that is meant to guide our dietary decisions has been been taken over by these sweet foods. A much stronger pleasure signal is sent than what we would find in nature and our reward system becomes overwhelmed.

The same opioid pathways in the brain that sugar stimulates are similar to those  which heroin and morphine use. This is why some people seem powerless against sugar laden foods, and can’t control themselves.

Cravings Or Hunger ?

A lot of people mistake cravings for hunger, but there is a significant difference between the two. When a person is hungry they have physiological need for energy, when a person has a craving the brain is looking for a reward.

The perfect example is someone who just finished a big meal and if full but still craves a bowl of ice cream. The meal has satisfied their hunger and the body is well nourished, but the brain is looking for that reward, regardless of how well nourished you are.

The brain is looking for the dopamine and opioid signal to stimulate the reward system in the brain, and the quickest way to stimulate the reward system is with a large quantity of refined sugar.

More Is Less

Because of the easy access to refined sugar we begin abuse the reward system and signal too much dopamine release too often. Our body has protective mechanisms in place to make sure we keep things in better balance.

The brain downregulates (reduces) the amount of dopamine receptors, and as a result the same amount of sugar does not provide the same amount of pleasure as before.

Our solution to this problem is to consume larger quantities of sugar in an attempt to elicit the same dopamine response. Developing a tolerance to any kind of substance like sugar is a strong sign of addiction.  

The Poison Is In The Dose

As a person gains a greater tolerance to sugar more is needed to elicit the same feeling of pleasure because there are fewer receptors for dopamine.

While this person may not realize it they are are chasing the “sugar high” and the feeling becomes more important than the volume of sugar they are consuming.

Chasing this feeling and not worrying about the volume of sugar can lead people to binging in an attempt to feel pleasure.

The problem is that with far fewer dopamine receptors available the person may not reach that high they are looking for because of increased tolerance.

The Sugar Blues

Once a person realizes their sugar consumption has gotten out of f hand they commonly cut back or eliminate sugar from their diet.

Without  sugar to stimulate the pleasure center, and far less receptors for the dopamine being released the person does not feel the same pleasure they did before.

Your body is looking for sugar to stimulate pleasure, but it is not present. As a result the cravings mentally and physically get much stronger for the sugar. This experience is what has been coined withdrawal.

Tolerance and withdrawal are the hallmarks of addiction, similar to what people experience with cigarettes, alcohol or cocaine. This withdrawal and extreme cravings that people experience are what makes eliminating sugar from the diet so difficult.

An Interesting Correlation

Because many people who are in recovery from a alcohol, cigarettes or drugs are still seeking that pleasure they once felt with their drug of choice, many of them turn to sugar.

The brain of those who struggle with addiction still crave the stimulation of the pleasure center. While they have made the choice to avoid their addiction, sugar plays on the same reward pathway and causes an identical addiction, but to sugar instead.  

Closing Thoughts

Sugar is one of the most widely accepted and used drugs on the planet. Just like with other drugs sugar causes a tolerance and withdrawal and can cause people to lose control over their behavior.

Once you are addicted to sugar, it is very hard to give up and avoid.

Because of the way our food system has been developed it is more difficult than ever to avoid refined sugars. It is present in all prepackaged foods that make up the majority of  the modern diet.

As a result the health of our society has been in a downward tailspin. Most of the modern diseases we are suffering from as a society can be linked back to excess consumption of sugar and processed carbohydrates.

If we are going to improve our health as society we need to break the cycle of sugar addiction, and eat foods that do not contain refined sugar or processed carbohydrates.

If you’re tired of working hard, and not getting the results you want, I can help you adopt the simple habits necessary to reach your health or fat loss goals.

These habits are based on getting you to your goal in a sustainable fashion that can be maintained. I’ll be there every step of the way to support and keep you accountable.  

Get on a Strategy Call with me to Discover how to achieve your health or fat loss goals, and make them yours to keep this time around.

Whether you decide to work with me or not I can guarantee you will leave this call with more knowledge on how to achieve your goals.

 

Evolve Nutritional Therapy Strategy Session


Name *
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Are Carbohydrates Bad For You ?

We are reductionists, things need to be good or bad and it is easier that way. This isn’t always the case, especially in nutrition. When it comes to nutrition context is king.

Everybody has different goals, genetic predispositions, sleep habits, familial medical history, metabolic flexibility, ancestry, stress levels and many more  factors that make the one size fits all nutrition approach a disaster. Are carbohydrates bad for you ?

Just like your ex that you still “hang out” with, Its complicated.

Because people differ so greatly, their ability to handle carbohydrates will also be different. A highly active athlete is going to require more carbs to fuel their activity and recover compared to a sedentary desk jockey who will need less.

Those who are obese or suffering from metabolic problems are going to do much better or fewer carbs because they do not metabolize carbohydrates very well. Your individual circumstances really dictate how your body is going to respond to carbohydrates.

For the average person who is noticing their waist growing each year and their belly getting larger and larger, dialing their amount and quality of carbs in the diet is going to be an important part of moving towards getting healthier and maybe losing some body fat.

If the weight gain stays steady year after year chances are there is some metabolic damage that could be addressed by lowering carbs as well.

Our standard american diet is very very heavy on the processed carbs and sugar, compared to how we have evolved to eat. This new carb dominant diet lacks the balance and nutrients  we have historically gotten from our diet.

There are absolutely cultures that eat a carbohydrate dominant diet and are in peak health. The carbohydrates in these cultures diets are natural sources though, not from cereal grains and sugar.

We have never before in mankind had the emergency need to lower blood sugar due to diet, until recently. It is not that carbs are evil, but a lot of times the poison is in the dose, and out standard american diet is causing us to overdose on carbohydrates.

This overdose of processed carbohydrates and sugar is reflected in the overall health of our society.  We are experiencing skyrocketing rates of obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease as a society due to the way we are eating and living.


Abbreviated Blood Sugar Explanation

You consume a carbohydrate rich food which turns into glucose when broken down. The pancreas releases the main storage hormone insulin in response to the glucose in the system.

The body converts and stores that sugar in the liver, muscles and a little bit in the skeleton. When the basic needs for sugar are met the body gets the signal that all the necessary areas are topped off.

When the cells no longer accept any more sugar the body pumps out more insulin in the hope that more insulin will convince the body to respond. The body is smart and realizes that we are topped off, but have unlimited energy storage all round the body in the form of body fat.

This body fat can be utilized in times of food scarcity, the only problem is that the scarcity never comes and the body continues to get an influx of carbohydrates and sugar daily continually storing more body fat.

This daily blood sugar roller coaster keeps insulin elevated meaning that accessing that body for energy is impossible. Eventually our cells stop responding to the storage hormone insulin because it is constantly circulating.

You combine that insulin resistance with poor sleep and a basic sedentary lifestyle and you have a one way ticket to a wrecked metabolism and a host of health problems.

The Trinity

Carbohydrates comes in three basic forms glucose, fructose and fiber. The body uses glucose and fructose to produce energy. The body prefers to use glucose as its fuel over glucose.

Glucose in large amounts from non foods such as high fructose corn syrup is treated like a poison and shunted to the liver where it is processed. Fiber can’t be used as energy for the brain or cells, but does feed the beneficial bacteria in our gut.

An interesting fact is that carbohydrates are the only non essential macronutrient. macronutrients are protein, fats, carbohydrates and water.

The body is able to makes its own glucose using amino and fatty acids through a process called gluconeogenesis, however this process can fall short in providing what some will need.

This glucose is then used by the brain and the rest of the body. While this is an interesting fact I do not believe that going low carbohydrate is the best choice for everybody, but for some it can be very therapeutic.

Context is king, and your individual context matters in this equation.

Anti Nutrients: Phytic Acid & Lectins

Phytic acid is an anti nutrient found in large amounts in  commercial grains and legumes. Phytic acid is found in the bran of a grain and along with the protein layer in legumes.

Phytic acid binds to minerals in the body rendering them unavailable for absorption and turning into phytate.

Phytates prevent minerals from absorbed in the small intestine and negatively impacts the digestion of protein, fats and carbs causing digestive issues.

Lectins are a protein that can bind to cell membranes, and are found in high concentrations in commercial grains and legumes.

Lectins found in grains and legumes are resistant to digestion allowing them to pass through the digestive tract undigested. Lectins resistance to digestion causes gut inflammation by damaging the gut lining quicker than it can repair.

With the constant damage and inflammation, the gut starts to become leaky. Leaky gut allows undigested foods into the bloodstream causing inflammatory responses. When leaky gut happens it also allows essential nutrients to pass through the gut lining instead of being digested and used.

Gluten and Leaky Gut

Gluten, you knew it was coming and that I was going to to talk about it. Before we can talk about the negative impacts of gluten we should define it clearly.

Gluten is found in wheat, rye and barley and is the protein combination of gliadin and glutenin. While there are people who have zero “reaction” to gluten on the outside, every client I have worked with has seen improvements in blood sugar and digestion after removing gluten containing foods.

The protein gluten is very difficult to digest and break down causing aggravation in the gut.The lining of the gut eventually gets worn down by the constant irritation of undigested foods.

Because the gut lining is worn down and beat up it allows improperly digested foods into the bloodstream.

The body only recognizes properly digested foods in the blood stream, and our immune system views these undigested foods as a foreign invader that needs to be attacked.

This also allows essential nutrients to pass through the gut lining instead of being digested and used. This chronic use of the immune system to attack foods leads to chronic inflammation and over time food allergies can develop.

The Good: Carbohydrates That Come From Nature

On to the good stuff already, enough doom and gloom already When you consume carbohydrates that come from nature, and are not man made many of these problems are avoided.

These sources of carbohydrates that come from nature are rich in vitamins and minerals and are packaged with enzymes that are beneficial to health.

Some great sources of carbohydrates to consume are: Spaghetti squash, Sweet potatoes, White potatoes ( if tolerated), Plantains , Acorn, squash, Beets , Parsnips, Winter squash, Cassava, Taro root, Butternut Squash, Yams.

The carbohydrates that are available from nature do not cause the same kind of blood sugar surges and insulin secretion that we experience from processed carbs for most people.

Have you ever eaten a bowl of pasta and felt tired/bloated afterwards ? You would be hard pressed to get the same feeling from eating blueberries or a sweet potato.

While they can be vilified carbohydrates do play some important roles in the body. Carbs provide a quick source of energy for muscles and help to shuttle protein into muscles for recovery after exercise.

Glucose is a source of fuel for the brain, but the brain and heart can also be fueled by fat in the form of ketones. Carbs do help with the lubrication of joints and contribute to the protective mucus produced in the highly acidic stomach, and can be helpful to some people who struggle with constipation.

Where to go from here ?

I hope that given the insights from above you have a general idea of where you fit from highly active athlete to sedentary with constant growing waistline or metabolically damaged.

I highly encourage you to experiment and find out where your specific sweet spot is with carbohydrates. Use the Primal Carbohydrate Curve from Mark's Daily Apple to help you find that sweet spot. 

The average american or those  looking to lose weight would do better to lower their carbohydrates, and make sure they are consuming enough healthy fats and protein.

There are some folks who would even do much better going very low carb and shooting to get into ketosis where the body uses dietary fat and body fat as the main source of fuel.

Those who are serious athletes or are frequently engaged in explosive physical activity such as crossfit or mixed martial arts are going to need more carbs to fuel their athletic endeavors.

If you’re tired of working hard, and not getting the results you want, I can help you adopt the simple habits necessary to reach your health or fat loss goals.

These habits are based on getting you to your goal in a sustainable fashion that can be maintained. I’ll be there every step of the way to support and keep you accountable.  

Get on a Strategy Call with me to Discover how to achieve your health or fat loss goals, and make them yours to keep this time around.

Whether you decide to work with me or not I can guarantee you will leave this call with more knowledge on how to achieve your goals.

 

Evolve Nutritional Therapy Strategy Session


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