I have been living in the UAE almost 7 months now and the amount of people I see living day to day on low energy levels is amazing. When I watch people drag themselves to my training session and tell me they couldn’t get out of bed, or watch people queue up outside Starbucks every-morning for their coffee fix, I am shocked.
Not giving your body enough fuel is a common problem that many people suffer from.
Believe it or not, sugar is your body’s best friend! We all dread sugar because of its high calorie count and the so called weight gain that is associated with consuming sugar. Despite this, we are always ready to grab a sugary snack in an emergency situation when we are low on fuel. Your own body is screaming out for sugar because it is intelligent enough to know sugar produces the most fuel to give you the energy that you need.
What are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates include fruit, concentrated sugar, such as honey, cane sugar, maple syrup as well as grains, legumes and starchy vegetables. All these different forms of carbs break down into sugar and help your body move using the energy produced from them. The best form of fuel comes from fruit because fruit contains 2 types of sugars - glucose and fructose. Fructose helps suppress insulin, keeping your blood sugar balanced. Glucose, for its part, is found in all the other carbohydrates you may eat when you feel your energy levels are crashing, these include bread, rice, cakes etc. Glucose raises your blood sugar levels and stimulates insulin production. This why people typically crash again when eating these types of complex carbohydrates. There is no fructose found in complex carbs, therefore balancing out your insulin levels by relying on fruits rather than complex carbohydrates, will help to avoid a crash.
While your body is capable of using fat and protein to fuel you, neither has a powerful impact on your body as sugar does. Sugar has an effect on every single cell in your body and your glands, added to this is the fact that your brain operates almost entirely on sugar.
Sugar is so powerful it is used in emergency situations with trauma victims in hospital. They are given saline solution which is a combination of salt and sugar. Salt opens up the circulation system and glucose enters into the cells to reinvigorate them!
Anxiety, anger and insomnia; the chemical cause
When your blood sugar levels plummet, which can happen when you eat complex carbohydrates or encounter stress of any sort, Adrenaline (a stress induced hormone) rises in your body. Increased adrenaline causes many negative effects such as; anxiety, nervousness, anger, irritation and a short temper, poor circulation, bloated stomach and digestive issues, constipation and insomnia.
Also, adrenaline simulates the release of all stored sugars and some stored fat. Therefore, another stress hormone is released, called cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that simulates the conversion of protein (muscle & organ tissue) into sugar for the liver.
Long term effects of cortisol
The long-term effects of cortisol include loss of muscle mass, bones and organ tissue, lowered immunity, low energy production and the storage of fat around the mid-section of one’s body.
No one knows better than your own body. So when you get a sugar craving don’t fight it. Your body craves sugar as it knows you need fuel. Honey, maple syrup, cane sugar and fruits are all made from fructose & glucose, so these are the best choices to go for that will not give you a crash. Cakes, biscuits and muffins are made up of complex carbohydrates, these are the ones to avoid when you get the urge, as they will give you a crash and increase your insulin.
Concerned about calories and gaining weight?
Sugar actually sparks your thyroid gland to work and burn more fuel. Ever notice how when you eat sugar you may get warm hands and feet? It is that spark that gets the metabolism up again and burning more calories in your cells. Sugar also helps deal with stress and causes adrenaline levels to rise. Let me remind you of that vicious circle, when stress rises, cortisol breaks down your muscle for energy, therefore you must keep yourself fueled at all times. Another important factor; you want to maintain your healthy muscle tissue as muscles are metabolically active and burn calories through-out the day. So give sugar credit, it helps you lose weight not gain it!
So, lowering stress and increasing your energy levels is simple - eat sugar. Of course, this will work in the short term. For a longer term option always try to balance any meal or snack by eating carbohydrates with a protein source. Supporting your body with protein is crucial as well. Protein contains amino acids which help build muscle tissue and keep you full. Balanced with a fruit, carbohydrates will help give you the right energy your body so desperately needs.
Keeping your body sugar balanced each day will decrease your appetite for the wrong foods you crave. It will help increase your metabolism and reduce emotional or comfort eating. It will lower fat storage around the middle and increase your metabolism by supporting your thyroid, and so you’ll burn fat too!
Vahdaneh Vahid is a UK-based Personal Trainer who recently moved to Dubai. She has had an interest in fitness from a young age. Her motto is now "Train Don't Drain" and teaches her clients that a balanced understanding of their physical, mental and emotional wellness is key. She can be found on Twitter: @vvfitness