A spoonful of sugar helps the mid-section grow round… in the most delightful way. Sugar consumption is the biggest reason for fat gain. If you want to lose fat and prevent any further fat gain, it is crucial to understand the sugar-insulin response and its relationship to fat storage. This extract from my book, “The Bottom Line Of Fat Loss”, discusses sugar and its impact.
Insulin response to food
When you eat a meal high in sugar, it gets broken down in the stomach into glucose, which enters the bloodstream via the small intestine. A portion of the glucose goes to the brain, as glucose is the brain’s only fuel. The rest swims around the blood stream looking to provide energy for the exercising muscles.
If the body is sedentary and the demand for energy is low, the pancreas releases the hormone insulin to mop up the excess sugar. Insulin escorts the excess sugar into the muscles’ storage cells. Once the muscle cells are full, insulin helps the liver store the surplus glucose as glycogen.
Once the muscles and liver are full, any excess blood sugars gets converted into fat and stored around the body according to the person’s dominant endocrine glands and hormonal and stress profiles. Most commonly, elevated insulin response stores fat around the hips (mid-section) first, commonly called a “muffin top”.
The energy availability of carbohydrates, fat and protein
Please bear in mind with any calculations regarding food that:
• Carbohydrates have 4 units of energy per gram, with the cost of delivery of that energy being around one unit, for a net of 3.
• Protein has 4 units of energy per gram, with the cost of delivery around three units, for a net of 1.
• Fat has 9 units of energy per gram, with cost of delivery around four units, for a net of 5.
Insulin and glucagon
The most important endocrine gland for fat loss is the pancreas and its two blood sugar hormones, insulin and glucagon. Mastering your body’s blood sugar balance is the key to your food’s role in fat loss and health.
Insulin and glucagon have a yin/yang relationship. Insulin responds to high blood sugar while glucagon response to low blood sugar. Both are responsible for balancing blood sugar in a continual calculation.
When there is low blood, brain, or organ sugar, glucagon generates new sugar in a process called gluconeogenesis by first converting liver glycogen into glucose. When liver stores are depleted through exercise, or not available because of starvation, glucagon helps to cannibalise the body’s own muscle proteins into sugar. When the body eats its own proteins, the thyroid gland slows down the body’s metabolism to reduce the energy demand and the muscle wastage.
• Insulin is the fat-storing hormone and is associated with high blood sugars.
• Glucagon is known as the fat-burning hormone and is associated with low blood sugars.
Sugar is as addictive as cocaine
Sugar was introduced to Europe around the 16th century. It was expensive, so only the noble class could afford it. Sugar was kept under lock and key. To be seen eating sugar was a status symbol, and the upwardly mobile and the common people created a demand.
Supply was increased, and price dropped down so that everybody could afford sugar and, as it was delightful (and prestigious) to eat, demand kept going up. New ways to eat and add sugar to food have continually been invented, and we have become physically and psychologically addicted to it.
Sugar begets sugar
When you eat sugar you get a “dopamine” high (similar to a cocaine high) because insulin allows an amino acid called tryptophan to travel across the blood-brain barrier and stimulate serotonin production. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that makes us feel good.
After eating sugar we get a high, then a crash comes on that makes us feel so lousy that we have a strong urge to climb back onto that high again. We eat greater and greater amounts of sugar to get the same high because over time we become resistant to insulin while also depleting our own natural serotonin-producing ability.
When we use an external source to get a high, we are reducing our natural ability to produce a high. Your sugar addiction will be so great that you will be snacking on sweets at 3pm, 10pm, and between 1 and 3am. You will not be able to resist the urge to buy the bags of sweets at the supermarket checkout counter. You may also carry them in your purse or in the glove box of your car.
When the blood sugar crashes, this is the point you put on fat, and further rides on this roller coaster lead to diabetes, coronary heart disease, and more.
Waking up at 1 to 3am
Waking up at 1 to 3am is caused by the liver’s detecting low blood sugar levels due to the last meal being too high in sugar.
Food labels list ingredients from the largest quantity to the smallest. Sugar comes in many disguises, many with secret identities. Some give a faster and more violent insulin response than others.
Read out loud the ingredients in order to get an idea of the sugar content and therefore the insulin and fat storage response. Most ingredients that end with the suffix “-ose” are sugar.
• destroys B-complex vitamins and phosphorous.
• causes inflammation, cavities and osteoarthritis.
• Sugar is the food of cancer.
• Muscle cells have sugar receptors. When you deplete muscle mass, these receptors decrease and excess sugar is converted to fat.
• When fat cells are filled and the body becomes resistant to insulin, sugar has nowhere to go and remains in the bloodstream. This is called Type II Diabetes. Type II Diabetes also causes coronary heart disease.
Not all sugar is created equal
Starches, fruits, and vegetables are all carbohydrates, but not all carbohydrates enter the bloodstream so fast as to provoke a sugar-insulin rollercoaster.
The Glycemic Index ranks carbohydrates based on their immediate blood glucose response. A working knowledge of how and why carbohydrates elevate your blood sugar and how to balance them is crucial to controlling the rate of fat gain and loss.
The Glycemic Index
The Index is measured against pure glucose, with a score of 100, and has three broad categories of high, medium, and low.
Please note that fats and proteins do not elevate blood glucose (and cannot be turned into stored fat) and can be used to offset the insulin response of carbohydrates.
The basic idea is to eat low to moderate Glycemic Index foods to reduce the insulin and fat storage response.
(Click to Enlarge)
If you want evidence of how fast refined sugar gets into the system and sends your body crazy, give your kids a soda and then batten down the hatches as all mayhem breaks loose. About 10 minutes of frenzy will be followed by a crash of lethargy and calls for more soda–a setup for addiction.
Benefits of eating low Glycemic Index foods
• Lower blood glucose levels
• Decrease in fat weight and storage
• Lower poor-quality cholesterol
• Decreased risk of Type II Diabetes
• Decreased risk of heart disease
Glycemic load measures the degree of glycemic response and insulin demand produced by a specific amount of a specific food. Glycemic load reflects both the quality and quantity of dietary carbohydrates.
Factors that affect glycemic rank and speed of digestion
The higher the glycemic index of a food consumed, the faster it turns into blood sugar, the more insulin is released, and the harder it is to keep your blood sugar balanced and your waistline and cravings under control.
Some factors that affect digestion are:
• High sugar content equals fast digestion.
• Food processing speeds up digestion.
• Starches with large molecules absorb water & pass quickly through the digestive process.
• Cooking swells starch molecules, softens foods and speeds up digestion.
• Fat and protein slows down digestion.
When you eat sugar, exercise!
Sugar is an immediate fuel for the brain and exercising muscles. Sugar is such a good fuel that we can store it for use later on (although in limited quantities). Sports people use sugar-based drinks and gels because they digest quickly to fuel the metabolic demand, thereby avoiding hitting the wall. If you eat sugar, be sure to exercise; otherwise, it will be stored on your hips, abs, and thighs.
My 5 top tips for fat loss
1. Sleep eight hours per night.
2. Reduce alcohol to one day per week.
3. Reduce starches and refined sugars unless exercising for 90 minutes or more.
4. Increase fat and protein consumption from real foods.
5. Perform high intensity resistance training to increase insulin sensitivity.
“The key is to eat in a way that stimulates the fat-burning hormone and limits the activity of the fat-storage hormone.”
~ William Wolcott –“The Metabolic Typing Diet” ~