We need sugars for survival. Glucose is the primary fuel of the brain and without
adequate blood sugar levels, illness and even death can result as anyone who
has suffered with hypoglycaemia can attest. When we consume carbohydrates (sugars)
in a meal, depending on the type, several things can happen. Complex sugars are
first acted upon in the mouth by the enzyme amylase. Amylase begins breaking the
bonds between sugars, which helps to make digestion of the smaller molecules a
more easy and less time-consuming process. The action of amylase is halted in
the stomach, and carbohydrates are further broken down in the small intestines.
Soon, they are absorbed throgh the intestinal lining and enter the blood stream
Upon entering the blood, sugars are then transported to
the liver, where some are stored and the rest are stored in muscle tissue. In fact,
a high carbohydrate meal can temporarily increase the size of a muscle. This is
why after a high-carbohydrate meal, we can feel a "pump" in the muscle. This is
beneficial after high-intensity activities such as weightlifting.
In the human, sugars are stored as as large carbohydrate molecules. Storing
sugars in this fashion allows for space conservation, similar to packing boxes
in a limited storage room. When sugars are required for energy, they are simply
removed from the larger molecule.
When we choose our diet, it is a good strategy to consider what type of carbohydrate
to consume and for what reason. For example, during the early and mid-day,
consuming "processed" or "simple" sugars will give us a very quick "boost" in
energy, but most likely for only a very short while. The reason for this short
boost in energy is obviously because by eating a candy bar or other foodstuff
containing simple sugars, we quickly increase the level of sugar in the blood.
However, the higher than normal level of sugar is quickly detected and in response,
the pancreas liberates a hormone called insulin.
Insulin functions in causing
sugars to be stored for later use. The higher than normal level of blood sugar
causes a surge of insulin secretion. This is, of course, to return the level of
sugar in the blood back to normal. However, the large surge of insulin can cause too
much sugar to be moved out of the blood for storage, and this results in even
lower amounts of sugar in the blood than before. This can cause fatigue, tiredness,
and sometimes depression. Complex carbohydrates, however, are digested more slowly and "burn" or
metabolize more slowly. This is a good strategy to control your insulin levels, and
is also very important for modifying health and maintaining mood.
Using this strategy, we can see that a light, sugar-containing meal in
the evening may even help us fall asleep !! What other strategies
can help us to sleep. Read about the amino acid called