Carbohydrates and the Sugar Burner Cycle
When we eat any type of carbohydrate, our digestive enzymes break it down into glucose, or simple sugars. Bread or pasta, banana or potatoes, sweets, fruit juice or whole grains and legumes – when these carbohydrates slip into the bloodstream and are broken down, it’s all sugar. Glucose is quick and easy for the body to burn. When it’s consumed alongside proteins and fats, it’ll always burn the glucose first.
But too much glucose in the bloodstream is deadly, so high blood sugar levels trigger a genetic response to save us.
Remember that our genes promote our survival in the here-and-now. They don’t care about the origin of the glucose. Whether the source was ’healthy’ like whole grains or ‘unhealthy’ like sweets is irrelevant. When blood sugar levels are high, the genes respond in order to get things back to normal as quickly as possible. They stimulate the pancreas to produce the hormone insulin. Insulin pulls the excess glucose out of the bloodstream and puts it into storage so that its energy can be accessed when blood sugar levels run low.
Carbohydrates Block Our Internal Energy Supplies
The main storehouses for excess glucose are in the liver and in the muscles which store it in the form of glycogen. Glycogen which is stored in the liver can easily be converted back to glucose and re-enter the bloodstream, but that which is stored in the muscles can’t be put back. It can only be used by the muscles themselves. This means that if you’re not doing much exercise – especially explosive, high intensity exercise – you’re not burning muscle glycogen.
When the liver and muscle storehouses are full, excess glucose is converted into palmitic acid. Palmitic acid binds with glycerol to form triglycerides. Triglycerides are stored in the adipose tissue, that is, they’re turned into body fat.
When blood sugar levels are low, that body fat can be utilized. The hormone glucagon, also produced by the pancreas, is responsible for getting the triglycerides out of the fat cells. It converts them back into “free” fatty acids so they can be “liberated” back into the bloodstream. But here’s the trick: the pancreas doesn’t multi-task. It can’t produce glucagon and insulin at the same time. When insulin levels are high, glucagon is suppressed.
Chronically elevated insulin levels prevent the body from accessing and burning stored body fat.
Excess Carbohdrates and Insulin Resistance
When our fat cells are full of triglycerides, things start to get serious. They put a “No Vacancy” sign on the door and leave it there. But the excess glucose has to be put somewhere, so the pancreas pumps out more insulin. It’s like insulin starts shouting out loud, but the cells have turned a deaf ear. they’ve become insulin resistant and as a consequence they stop assimilating energy and nutrients.
Because insulin levels are high, blood sugar levels drop. The body/brain goes into panic because there’s not enough energy in the bloodstream for survival: it thinks you’re starving to death. In a sense it’s true because despite all the energy stored in the fat cells, as well as in the triglycerides that are now floating around in the bloodstream, there’s no way to access it.
The Sugar Burner Cycle
For the brain/body this is a life-or-death situation. You’ll be manipulated to eat because your bloodstream needs glucose now. Only carbohydrates can satsify the craving because you aren’t able to burn fat. Healthy or unhealthy, in some manner or form, you get carbohydrates into your system. The bloodstream receives it’s hit of glucose, raising blood sugar levels. The pancreas pumps out insulin again, which pulls the excess glucose out and looks around for somewhere to store it. But your fat cells are already full. Triglycerides in the bloodstream rise. Within a short time blood sugar levels drop low and once again you’re starving. What’s more, you’re anxious and horrible. So you eat more carbohydrates … and the cycle continues. You’re trapped in the metabolic state of the Sugar Burner.
For the body/brain all of this is incredibly stressful. The stress causes the release of cortisol, and the chronic high blood triglycerides make things worse…
Why You Can’t Lose Weight
When trapped in the Sugar Burner Cycle you simply can’t burn fat. It doesn’t matter how much exercise you do. It doesn’t matter how little you eat. “I don’t eat much but I can’t lose weight” is a typical comment from someone who is trapped in the Sugar Burner cycle. If your blood sugar, appetite and stress hormones become disrupted, you’ll never lose weight.
What you will do is head down the path towards Lifestyle Disease.
But that isn’t your destiny. You’ve got a long, healthy and lean life ahead of you. You just need to shift your metabolism from Sugar Burner to Fat Burner – which takes less a month – and then keep your carb intake and insulin production low.
You can do it. But in order to start burning fat, you’re going to need to start eating fat, which may seem counter inuitive. As part of your metabolic reset, you’ll learn how to make a balanced, healthy meal based on complete protein, healthy fats, salad and vegetables. Balanced and compete means that it will keep you going for hours, and will provide your body with the nutrients it needs to heal and thrive.
At the beginning it will take a bit of effort to get all of the healthy practices up and running, especially when the new behaviours and eating patterns are vastly different from the way you’re living now. Surround yourself with support. Most people get help, in one way or another.
Online you’ll find blogs, communties and success stories of people who have made the change. Health Coaching programs are particularly powerful.
Get started by downloading my free Health Reset Guide. And don’t hesitate to contact me for Coaching when you’re ready.