A Step One Side Benefit: Higher Energy Levels
Have you ever eaten something and then felt sleepy or just weak and draggy? You’re not alone. And if you’ve experienced these sensations you probably don’t need me to tell you that what we eat affects our bodies’ energy levels.
Food is a bioactive substance and the composition of a meal or snack can have a big impact on how our bodies function and how we feel almost immediately after eating.
Simple, processed carbohydrates like candies, white bread, and most breakfast cereals are easily digested and rapidly absorbed, leading to blood sugar spikes. Blood sugar spikes lead to insulin spikes. Insulin spikes then cause blood sugar levels to plummet. So you go from hungry, to full (and a little hyper), and back to hungry, weak and draggy in rapid succession.
A bowl of Rice Krispies with skim milk might look like a great food choice – after all, there’s no cholesterol or fat in the combination - but the biochemical rollercoaster a meal like this can unleash is hardly healthy. Making you hungry and zapping your energy not long after you eat breakfast leads to you searching for another quick energy boost. And being in an energy deficient state can make you less mindful – increasing chances that you reach for even more simple sweets that keep the roller coaster going.
Another counterproductive effect of high insulin levels is the shift of our overall biochemistry to storage mode. Insulin is a storage hormone. It acts primarily to store sugar but it also impacts our cholesterol profiles. What’s the storage form of cholesterol? LDL, bad cholesterol. When insulin levels are high, LDL levels go up. What’s the non-storage form of cholesterol? HDL, good cholesterol. When insulin levels are high, HDL levels go down. What’s the storage form of excess sugar and calories? Triglycerides. When insulin levels are high, triglycerides go up, sometimes way up. So that energy roller coaster can not only make you feel bad – it can also be a signal that you’re messing up your cholesterol profile.
And what about that nap you want to take after a really rich meal? That’s a side effect of your body deciding you’ve given it such a big digestive task it has to divert energy from elsewhere in order to deal with what you just consumed. Yes, chemicals like tryptophan in the Thanksgiving turkey can make you sleepy too, but it’s really the fact that you ate the turkey and the gravy and the potatoes and the green bean casserole and the dinner roll and the chips and the dip and the pie that’s tiring you out. Large meals like this are typically full of not only saturated fat but also sodium. Feel sleepy after a big meal? Your LDL cholesterol is likely higher – and so is your blood pressure.
Step One Foods might be filling, but that’s because they’re full of fiber and whole food ingredients, not because you ate massive quantities of them. That fiber not only keeps you feeling full, it also acts as a deterrent to digestibility, meaning it takes longer for the foods to be broken down and absorbed, leading to steadier blood sugar levels without the energy sapping spikes.
Plus they help keep you regular. And if there’s anything that will put a little pep in your step it’s having a digestive system that works like it’s supposed to.
Read the rest of the blogs in this series of Step One Side Benefits:
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