Suggestions on How to Maintain Your Blood Sugar Level to Feel Good All Day - Plus Related Nutritional and Exercise Health Issues.
The mammalian brain and the rest of the central nervous system (CNS) uses blood sugar (glucose) to keep it nourished with energy. Glucose is also the chief source of energy for the muscles and the red blood cells. When the blood sugar level falls below the fasting level (65 to 110 mg/dL) the CNS begins to have trouble functioning and if it falls to (30 mg/dL), the host passes out. Before that stage the CNS sends out many warning signals to let you know that it is suffering and that you should get alarmed and do something about it. These signals may include heart palpitations, rapid heart beat, sweating, chilling, nausea, vomiting, hunger, shaking, apprehension, loss of enthusiasm, a wooziness feeling similar to motion sickness, weakness of voluntary muscles, increased susceptibility to motion sickness (it's best to travel on a full stomach), irritability, "heart attack" like symptoms, clamminess, perhaps suicidal tendencies, low energy, "give a rip" attitude, headache, craving for quick energy sources such as junk food including candy bars, thirst and in general a bad case of feeling "lousy". In such a state, life isn't much fun.
Since the body's defense mechanism to get the blood sugar level up is to eat something (and in a hypoglycemic state, the higher the sugar content of the food the more appealing the food appears), it is very easy to over eat trying to correct a low blood sugar problem. In doing so, you usually end up with a positive caloric balance with a subsequent weight gain which only further reduces your ability and desire to be energetic. If the food you choose to eat is high in sugar you can actually exacerbate the low blood sugar maintenance problems by continuing to go for short term solutions such as eating candy and other junk foods. This can lead to more problems of low blood sugar and eventually to the opposite of low blood sugar; diabetes and high blood sugar.
Throw those candy bars and other high sugar foods out of arms reach and get sensible about your diet.
Now for some physiology. When the blood sugar level falls, it signals the brain to tell the body to eat. When food is consumed, the blood sugar level goes up and you begin to feel like you are alive and life is worth living again. The speed of this increase in blood sugar is dependent upon what you eat, which we'll talk a lot about later. The increased blood sugar level stimulates the release of insulin from the Islets of Langerhans in the beta cells of the pancreas. Insulin allows the blood sugar to be absorbed from the blood stream into the body cells for use in the glycolysis and citric acid cycles to produce energy in a form usable by the body. This energy is stored in the form of adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP) which is formed when adenosine di-phosphate (ADP) is combined with free inorganic phosphorus via the electron transport system in the mitochondria. (Ninety percent of the body's ATP formation is done by mitochondria.)
Mitochondria are the "power generating stations" found in most cells (not in red blood cells). A muscle increases in size when it is challenged, over time, to put out more energy than it has been accustomed to producing. The increased muscle size results from an increase in the "power generating" mitochondrial machinery located in the muscle cells. (When a muscle gets bigger, more muscle cells are not created but the existing ones get bigger.) The electron transport system can be poisoned by hydrogen cyanide, so don't eat a lot of apple seeds all at one time or drop hydrogen cyanide pills into sulfuric acid (or is it hydrochloric acid?) in a closed room.
If there is too much insulin released in relation to the amount of sugar in the blood stream, then too much sugar is removed from the blood into the body cells and you experience an unpleasant condition called "rebound" where the blood sugar level falls below the fasting level. This puts you in deep trouble again and you start reaching for the sweets and other junk foods. Changes need to be made in your diet for this "junkaholic" binge eating only encourages the continual cycling of your blood sugar level from low to high to low. This "roller coaster" effect between hypo- and hyper-glycemia will continue to reduce your feeling of well being in perpetuity. Life can be better than this if the necessary health habits are learned and instituted.
More physiology. Blood sugar doesn't have to come only from dietary sugar or starch. In fact, there may be better maintenance of the blood sugar level if some of the blood sugar comes from metabolized protein and fat. Complex carbohydrates are made up of various sugars (CHO) combined into either starch or cellulose. Glucose (also known as dextrose or blood sugar) is a six carbon monosaccharide. It is the most widely occurring of all monosaccharides.
Sugars have different levels of sweetness to the human taste buds. If sucrose is rated for sweetness at 100, then lactose is 16, galactose is 30, maltose is 33, glucose is 75 and fructose is 175. Artificial sweeteners such as cyclamate are rated at 3,000 times sweeter than sucrose, aspartate (Nutri-Sweet) at 15,000 times and saccharin at 35,000 times. The jury is still out on the long-term safety of consuming artificial sweeteners.
Desiring food to taste sweet is a nasty "health threatening" habit that can be broken by going through a "withdrawal" phase of not adding sugar to your food. After acquiring this new favorable health habit, adding sugar to your food and drinks (coffee, tea and iced tea) will make them "sickeningly" sweet. That's a good health habit to learn if you want to maintain a sustainable and desirable blood sugar level and keep your body weight under control.
Plants, using the energy of the sun, with help from metabolic co-factors, combine carbon dioxide and water together to form glucose. Glucose is then combined into long chains tied together by glycosidic linkages. (Photosynthesis of course also produces oxygen.) These glycosidic linkages are of two kinds. Glucose becomes starch if the glucose molecules are tied together by alpha-glycosidic linkages. If these same sugars are tied together by beta-glycosidic linkages, cellulose is formed.
While cellulose is always a straight chain of glucose molecules, starch can be either a straight chain, which is then called amylose (makes up about 20% of starch), or branched chains, which is called amylopectin (accounts for about 80% of starch). These glucose chains can contain thousands of glucose molecules in straight chains of starch (amylose) and up to 100,000 glucose molecules in branched chain starch (amylopectins). The amount of amylose and amylopectin varies from one plant source to another and affects the properties of starch. The consideration of these different properties is important in the field of cereal chemistry and baking.
One of the reasons that starch needs to be cooked for good digestion is because the branched chains of amylopectin starch in the raw state are woven into a tightly formed ball and are not available for enzyme attack, inhibiting the needed breaking off of individual glucose molecules that are then available for absorption. The breaking apart or opening up of the tightly wound "ball" of amylopectin is called gelatinization.
Gelatinization requires heat, water and time. Water must enter the ball of amylopectin to allow hydrolysis (breaking) of the branches of the amylopectin starch into long chain units that are then available for further hydrolysis into individual molecules of glucose. Adequate water aids in the gelatinization of starch. High temperatures speed up the gelatinization process and reduce the amount of time needed to hydrolyze the amylopectin. Boiling, baking and popping (popcorn) are all methods of gelatinizing starch that prepare raw starch for human consumption. Cooking of starch is not economical for pigs as they have enzymes that break down starch to simple sugars that humans and dogs don't have. Starch for humans and dogs should be cooked.
If gelatinization is not complete, the un-digested starch proceeds on down the digestive tract, causes some osmotic problems (too much water retention) in the lower bowel and will cause loose stools. This is a big problem if you're making a dog food because the major criteria upon which the customer will judge a dog food is 1. Does the dog eat the food? and 2. Does it produce firm stools? If these criteria are met, the dog owner will then, and only then, look at 3. How well is the dog nourished? If the dog doesn't eat the dog food or it produces a loose stool, the customer will generally make the first purchase of that brand of dog food his/her last purchase.
The mammalian body produces an enzyme (alpha-amylase) that breaks apart the alpha-glycosidic linkages of starch but it does not produce the enzyme that is needed to disconnect the beta-glycosidic linkages in cellulose. Enzymes are highly specific as to what substrate they will catalyze (affect) and alpha-amylase will break only the alpha-acetal linkages between two or more monosaccharides as in starch, leaving beta-glycosidic linkages unaffected.
Micro-organisms living in the rumen of ruminants and the caecum of horses and rabbits can fortunately break these beta-bonds of cellulose, freeing the glucose for absorption, so that herbivorous animals can consume cellulose and thrive. Micro-organisms in the stomach of termites also allow the termite to digest cellulose and even lignin (found in wood).
It follows that humans (and other mono-gastric animals) would starve to death eating cellulose, while we can get fat eating starch. Find a beta-glycosidic enzyme that people (and pigs) can consume along with cellulose that will break the beta-glycosidic bonds of cellulose apart into individual glucose molecules that can then be absorbed and you can revolutionize how the world's monogastrics are fed - and win the Nobel prizes for Medicine, Chemistry and Peace all in the same year!
In our discussion of polysaccharides we have mentioned cellulose and starch. To make our discussion more complete, we need to mention glycogen as well. Glycogen is animal starch and serves the same food storage role in animals that starch serves in plants. After we eat starch and the body breaks it down into simple glucose units, some of the glucose is used immediately as fuel to produce ATP and heat. Sugar in excess of immediate energy requirements is stored in the body as glycogen for later use. There are usually 200 grams of glycogen stored in the muscles and 70 grams stored in the liver. The glycogen in muscle is used by the mitochondria in the muscle cells to capture chemical energy in the form of ATP while the glycogen in liver can be used to supply glucose to the blood and therefore the central nervous system. If we over-power the body with starch (over eat) and fill up the glycogen storehouses in the muscles and liver, the excess glycogen is converted to fat in the liver and is moved via the blood to the fat storage depots of the body. We usually want to avoid that.
Structurally, glycogen is similar to amylopectin in being a long polymer of glucose but it contains many more branches than found in amylopectin. It is also a much larger molecule than amylopectin with up to one million glucose units per molecule.
When a muscle is resting it is burning mostly fat for energy but when the muscle is called upon for a higher level of activity (fight or flight), it pulls on high-energy chemical storage compounds (creatine phosphate). This energy source lasts for less than thirty seconds. The muscles then draw on their store of glycogen, breaking it down to glucose that is then used to produce ATP's from ADP and inorganic phosphate via glycolysis and the citric acid cycle and the electron transport system. Less than one percent of the body's energy reserves are in the form of glucose and glycogen. Under normal activity this is enough to last 15 to 20 hours but in a marathon race it lasts for less than three hours.
If the level of activity is so high that aerobic conditions can not be maintained, the body's energy producing biochemical machinery goes into an anaerobic state and rather than using oxygen, produces energy without using oxygen but at the expense of producing lactic acid. After only a few minutes, the accumulation of lactate poisons the muscles and they become fatigued. The trick is to exercise at a rate just under this anaerobic state ("anaerobic threshold") so that the body can get enough oxygen to the muscle to produce enough ATP's by oxidative phosphorylation to fuel the muscle without the accumulation of excess lactate.
After strenuous exercise where lactate has been produced, the lactate must wait until the level of activity is reduced in order to be metabolized by the body back to glucose or to be used via the citric acid cycle to produce ATP's. Paying back this "oxygen debt" (metabolizing lactate) is why the heart continues to beat faster and body heat is elevated for some time after strenuous exercise.
Fortunately, the heart muscle is not poisoned by lactic acid and in fact can metabolize it. (Red blood cells also produce lactic acid) If the heart muscle couldn't metabolize lactic acid it would also be poisoned and would quit along with the other fatigued muscles. That of course would be lethal and we could no longer run and play with the other boys and girls. The "chief engineer" who designed and built this wonderful machine that we call our body, was "pretty clever".
With muscle activity, the breathing and heart rate speed up, supplying more oxygen carrying blood to the muscles. It would be nice if the needed energy could be generated from fat, as it is 2.25 times as high in energy as are carbohydrates, as we could then keep going at a high energy level for days. Unfortunately, fatty acids can't be delivered to muscle cells and metabolized fast enough to maintain the ATP level needed for running. Instead, the body uses glycogen or animal starch. (Racing sled dogs seem to be able to metabolize fatty acids for energy more so than can humans.)
The muscle stores of glycogen in a well-trained athlete performing near maximum output are a good energy source for two to three hours. Once the glycogen stores are used up, extreme exhaustion and mental confusion set in. This is a condition known among marathon runners as "hitting the wall." The body then has only fat to burn and fat doesn't supply energy at a fast enough rate to meet the needs of the marathon runner.
To delay "hitting the wall" as long as possible, glycogen synthesis is encouraged by diets high in carbohydrates (carbohydrate loading) prior to and during a race. In the hours just before the race, carbohydrates are to be avoided as they trigger insulin release, which is undesirable at this point because the resulting faster use of glucose will hasten the depletion of muscle and liver glycogen.
In starvation, glycogen is used first and then protein, with as much as 75 grams of body protein catabolized per day initially. (The dietary protein requirement is 0.8 grams per kg of body weight so the average 70 kg man requires 56 kg of dietary protein. The average protein intake in the USA is 110 grams, which is considered to be excessive.) Going on crash diets is therefore a good way to reduce body protein and not such a good way to reduce body fat, which is what you're trying to lose. Therefore, diet sensibly.
As the period of starvation continues the body begins to mobilize fat (which is the largest energy store in the body) at increasing rates. The rapid metabolism of fat in the absence of carbohydrates produces ketones. This can cause big problems, particularly so in fresh high producing dairy cows if they can't increase their feed intake fast enough to meet the rapidly increasing energy outgo in the milk. In such a ketotic state the cow further reduces its food intake and the cow loses body weight rapidly. When the cow is skin and bones with no more fat to mobilize to produce ketones and with milk production very low (and thus the energy needed is reduced), it regains its appetite but not its ability to produce lots of milk during this lactation.
By the 40th day of a fast a person is using about 25 grams of body protein and 180 grams of fat per day. This can go on for several months, with fatter people able to last longer than thinner ones of course. Since starvation diets attack the body protein first instead of fat they are not recommended.
Since you may not be interested in marathon running, starvation diets or dairy cows with ketosis, let's get back to talking about desirable blood sugar level maintenance for everyday "good feeling" living conditions.
The speed (and this is important) that the body absorbs sugar from the digestive system into the blood stream and the lack of a need for further biochemical processing means that sugar reaches the blood stream quickly after eating. Therefore, the speed of recovery from a low blood sugar level following eating depends upon the complexity (how many molecules of sugar in the starch molecule and how connected - straight chain or branched chain) of the starch.
Candy bars contain sugar that is rapidly absorbed from the digestive tract into the blood stream. If the sugar is in the form of pure glucose, it is absorbed without further break down. If the sugar is in the more common form of sucrose (a disaccharide and probably the most common organic chemical in the world), the single alpha-glycosidic bond of sucrose is broken to form a molecule of glucose and a molecule of fructose. This occurs rapidly. Glucose and fructose are simple sugars (monosaccharides) and thus can't be broken into smaller sugars. Lactose - milk sugar - breaks down to glucose and galactose. Maltose (malt sugar) is a disaccharide that contains two molecules of glucose. Glucose, fructose and galactose (all three contain six carbons) can all be absorbed from the gut into the blood stream and then enter the glycolysis cycle by specific pathways.
Because of the rapid availability to the blood of the glucose from the various forms of sugar in a candy bar, you can get hypoglycemic relief in a few minutes after consuming one. If you eat bread or more complex carbohydrates it will take a little longer to raise the blood sugar level as starch must first be broken down in the digestive system via a series of steps into glucose so that it can travel across the gut wall into the blood stream to be used to nourish the brain and the rest of the central nervous system.
Eating a candy bar is only a temporary solution to raising the low blood sugar level and can actually complicate the long term solution of the problem. Here's why! When too much sugar is eaten all at once, particularly on an empty stomach (which is usually the case or you wouldn't be suffering from low blood sugar in the first place) it is rapidly absorbed from the gut into the blood stream. The blood sugar level skyrockets within minutes of eating and you feel good; but look out! The sudden increase in the blood sugar level signals an alarm in the pancreas, which thinks the body is "awash" with blood sugar and it must do something. Unfortunately, it doesn't respond in moderation. The pancreas doesn't consider that this "flood of sugar" crisis may be temporary as it can't tell that the digestive system is not going to sustain this high level influx of sugar into the blood stream. It puts out this high blood sugar "fire" by releasing an abundance of insulin into the blood stream to remove the excess sugar.
After feeling good initially (within a few minutes) you usually feel terrible within an hour or so because the high level of blood sugar sounded too big an alarm in the pancreas, too much insulin was released, the blood sugar level rebounded from being excessive to being below the fasting level (again since that's where we started) and you have another miserable first class condition of hypoglycemia which will encourage you to eat another candy bar and start this "feast and famine" of the CNS again. There are better solutions that can be long term ("sustainability" is a big word these days) that will make you feel like a viable human being again.
How do you eat to maintain the desired blood sugar level so that you feel good, maintain your desired bodyweight and feel full of energy for the entire day?
Reduce your intake of simple sugars (including honey) as much as possible. Don't poison yourself with candy. Alcohol can also cause big problems with the blood sugar level and besides, supplies too many "empty" calories and has other "nasty" side effects. (On a dry matter basis, carbohydrates and proteins supply the body with 4 kcal/gm; fats supply 9 kcal/gm and pure alcohol supplies about 7 kcal/gm.) Leave alcohol alone! Eat complex carbohydrates such as found in bread. Forget pies and cakes as they contain too much sugar. "I love those sugar laden pecan pies" and "this 'ain't' living" you say? One of my worst experiences ever with low blood sugar was caused by a rebound from high blood sugar that occurred after I had eaten a big piece of pecan pie.
You have a choice as to whether you get your kicks from short lived sensations via your taste buds or the longer term pleasure from feeling good and loving life. People are supposed to get past the "oral stage" at a young age. This should include saying "nyet" to cigarettes as they don't do you any good either. You wouldn't purposely throw dirt, dust and contamination into the air intake on your car, combine or tractor so why pay to do it with cigarette smoke voluntarily sucked into your lungs with all the body-poisoning chemicals that come with it? Illnesses related to smoking are among the most preventable of human health problems. Alcohol related problems are also preventable.
One of the things that you can control in this life is what you think and what choices you allow your body to voluntarily make. Think long term benefits rather than short term pleasures.
Blood sugar can come from "non-sugar" foods such as proteins and fats. Proteins are made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, just like sugars and starch but they also contain nitrogen. C,H,O and N can be combined to form amino acids, which form proteins. In the body, if necessary, the nitrogen from these amino acids can be removed (called deamination) and the C, H and O can be further metabolized into sugar (gluconeogenesis) that can be used to nourish the central nervous system.
Fat is made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, just as are carbohydrates, but in lipids there is a lower percentage of oxygen in relation to carbon and hydrogen. This gives fats their higher caloric content as the oxygen doesn't have to be carried in body reserves but is available when needed during respiration. This means the body carries only the carbon (atomic weight of 12) and hydrogen (atomic weight of 1) and breathing air supplies the oxygen (atomic weight of 16) when fats are metabolized to produce energy for the body to use. The number of carbons in the fatty acid chain and the number of hydrogens attached to each carbon determine the different biochemical properties of the various forms of fats. For energy metabolism, fats are broken down by the body into fatty acid molecules containing two carbons. The liver can metabolize these acetyl groups into sugars by a process called gluconeogenesis and thus the CNS can be nourished from fat sources also. Getting the liver to perform gluconeogenesis usually doesn't happen until you feel the pain of hunger and/or low blood sugar. Excess eating can give transitory pleasure but forcing the body to use up the extra calories stored as fat via gluconeogenesis is not so much fun. Therefore, don't over eat!
Here's a good place to summarize the hormonal regulation of blood sugar. The pancreas produces two hormones that affect (control) the blood sugar level: 1. Insulin, which is released from the beta cells when the blood glucose concentration rises and 2. Glucagon, which is released from the alpha cells when the blood sugar level falls.
Insulin's primary role is to aid the passage of blood glucose across cell membranes. When the insulin concentration in the blood rises and the glucose is transferred from the blood to the body cells, energy is produced by the mitochondria. If there is excess glucose above the body's energy requirement, it is converted to glycogen, then to fat and by the addition of nitrogen, even to amino acids and proteins. Fat, being high in energy and high in dry matter (in the fat stores), allows the body to accumulate and store lots of energy in an energy dense package. You have to lose a lot of calories to lose a kilogram of adipose tissue.
Insulin facilitates the movement of glucose from the blood into body cells, accelerates the conversion of glucose to energy via glycolysis and the citric acid cycle, increases the synthesis of glycogen from glucose in the liver and skeletal muscles and increases the use of glucose for the synthesis of lipids and protein. It is obvious that too much insulin will lower the blood sugar level below the desired level and cause greater fat production and storage. Don't cause the body to do this by consuming too much sugar with the resultant spiking of the blood sugar level followed by the release of too much insulin.
Glucagon is released when the blood glucose concentration drops. It has the opposite effect of insulin. It slows the removal of glucose from the blood to the body cells, increases the rate at which glycogen is broken down to glucose in the liver for subsequent release into the blood stream, increases the breakdown of protein and lipids into the raw materials for gluconeogenesis and speeds up the rate of gluconeogenesis (more input materials and faster biochemical processing to sugar).
It should be pretty obvious that the level of blood sugar that triggers insulin or glucagon to either kick in or to kick out is pretty critical to your feeling of well being, voluntary food intake and weight maintenance. More on this later.
It should also be pretty obvious that your blood sugar level will rise at a slower rate after eating protein and fat than after eating sugar as the body must use its metabolic machinery to metabolize (transform) the protein and fat into blood sugar whereas simple sugars (glucose) that are consumed are ready to be used by the CNS without further complicated and time consuming biochemical processing.
There is another big reason (other than how much metabolic conversion must take place to form blood sugar) that explains the difference in the relative speed of low blood sugar relief resulting from whether you eat protein, fat or carbohydrates. That difference is because the digestive tract processes protein, fats and carbohydrates all differently and at different speeds. Carbohydrates (starch and sugar - but not cellulose) are fairly rapidly digested and absorbed. The simpler (the fewer the number of sugars and the straighter the chain of sugars - less branching) the carbohydrate is, the faster the transfer of sugar from the gut to the blood stream.
Said another way, the more complex the carbohydrate, the less "spiking" and the more "sustainable" will be the increase in the blood sugar level. It is the "sustainability" of the blood sugar level that we want.
We have just introduced a new concept. We are concerned with the "sustained" maintenance of the blood sugar level at or slightly above the fasting level. We have already talked about what happens when there is a rapid increase in the blood sugar level. The body responds by releasing too much insulin to this high blood sugar "threat" with the resulting rebound (falling of the blood sugar level to below the fasting level) and subsequent hypoglycemic condition. We want to avoid that physiological "roller coaster" effect. I'd suggest that people consume sugar only in emergencies when they are in a critically low blood sugar level condition where they need sugar in the blood stream fast, such as when experiencing insulin shock or when the blood sugar has naturally dropped precipitously. "No sugar" includes "no honey." The body can't tell much, if any difference.
We need to realize that protein and fat take longer to digest than carbohydrates and particularly simple carbohydrates. (Digestion is defined as anything that happens within the gastro-intestinal tract - GI tract. It may seem like a strange concept but food inside the digestive tract is actually "outside" the body. The GIT is a long tube with an opening on each end. To get inside the "body" and to be available for use in metabolism, absorption of nutrients across the gut wall must occur.)
More digestive physiology. The stomach absorbs only some drugs and alcohol (no nutrients), which explains why drinking on an empty stomach can get you to feeling "happy" sooner than if alcohol is consumed on a full stomach. Also to consider: When empty, the stomach passes the alcohol into the small intestine, where most digestion takes place, at a faster rate than if the stomach were full of food.
The stomach can be viewed as a big sack at the end of the esophagus that holds the consumed food. While there is no nutrient absorption from the stomach, it plays an important function in digestion including the acidification of the ingesta (chyme) and the addition of enzymes that start the digestion of protein. At the outlet of this sack is the pyloric sphincter, which serves as the "gatekeeper" and determines how fast the "chyme" or ingested and now partly digested food enters into the small intestine where it is neutralized, more enzymes are added and absorption begins. The gatekeeper of the stomach gives starch and sugar (particularly if consumed on an empty stomach) the "high priority VIP green light" treatment and moves them rapidly to the duodenum (first part of the small intestine that is followed by the jejunum and the ileum) where rapid absorption occurs. This raises the blood sugar level quickly.
In contrast, if the "chyme" contains protein and fat the "customs officer" at this exit gate from the stomach wants to "inspect the documents" and this takes some time. This is fortunate because the protein must be broken down in the duodenum to amino acids. This occurs with the arrival of protein digesting enzymes from the pancreas. These enzymes take a while to get their job done so the customs officer doesn't allow more protein to pass the exit gate (be released) at one time than these enzymes can handle.
What does all of this have to do with the maintenance of your blood sugar level? Quite a lot! If the protein is released slowly from the stomach into the small intestine then the speed of absorption from the small intestine into the blood stream is also slowed, and very importantly, these amino acids are absorbed into the blood stream over a sustained period of time. If the amino acids are needed for blood sugar, they can help sustain the level of blood sugar above the fasting level. Eating proteins (and fats) doesn't cause "spiking" of the blood sugar level (as does ingesting sugars) leading to the rebound effect either.
There is the same effect on the speed of stomach emptying for fats as for proteins but for different reasons. Fats "glom" together and are a problem to digest. Fat digestion is a time consuming process. First, they need to be emulsified by the bile secretions from the liver so as to spread them out so that there is a larger and more available surface area over which the digestive enzymes from the pancreas can work. The stomach's customs officer realizes that this is also a time consuming process and he backs up the "chyme" line, just as he did with protein, but to an even greater extent, allowing fat to reach the small intestine at a rate that allows complete processing (emulsification and enzymatic breakdown) to take place. This results in a sustained absorption of energy into the blood stream and the liver without spiking of the blood sugar level. It also partially explains the high satiety value from eating fats. Fats are high in calories and they take longer to pass through the digestive system, thus giving a sustained release of energy.
When carbohydrates are consumed along with fat and protein the entire procession of the chyme mixture, including the carbohydrates, into the small intestine is slowed down giving a desirable sustained release of energy to the body. This results in less sugar at one time reaching the blood stream and thus less insulin is released at one time. This reduces the "spiking" of the blood sugar level and, most importantly, there is no rebound of the blood sugar level to below the fasting level. In addition to being a more moderate supply of sugar, the release of the sugar to the blood stream is sustained so that you have continual nourishment of the central nervous system for hours. You will feel good throughout the day. You should leave the candy bars and other junk foods in the store un-purchased and eat cheese, meat, nuts and boiled eggs instead.
It is a good idea to consume about 15 grams of protein for breakfast, which is the amount of protein supplied in a combination of a glass of milk and a couple of eggs. If you eat a breakfast consisting only of pancakes with lots of syrup and a glass of juice you get too much sugar and not enough protein and fat. The customs officer at the pyloric sphincter waves this high carbohydrate load through to the small intestine without any delays. The sugar in the duodenum is rapidly absorbed, the blood sugar level will spike early triggering an excessive release of insulin and you'll be hungry (experience low blood sugar) by mid morning.
One of the times when my blood sugar "cratered" badly was after I had consumed only a glass of sugar-rich orange juice for breakfast, jogged for about an hour and then came back and tried to function. I had to get some other food consumed. It took several hours to recover to where I felt good again. It seems like after the blood sugar level really falls to the crisis level that it takes longer for the body to recover than you'd expect. Eating something before the drastic blood sugar level crash occurs solves the problem in a few minutes. Waiting to eat until after the crash may take hours before you recover and feel good again.
Eat some high protein foods for breakfast. Milk or other dairy products and eggs along with a little cereal make for a good start. If you skip breakfast, eating a good lunch will not put you in as good a shape to function in the afternoon as if you'd eaten a good breakfast. You can't make up later in the day for not eating a good breakfast. You should eat like a "King for breakfast", a "Prince for lunch" and a "Pauper for supper". Most people get that reversed and then complain because they feel tired and because they get fat.
Eat smart! Learn and obey God's laws on digestion, biochemistry, metabolism, physiology and nutrition and feel and look good. Eating can be fun but don't let your hedonism replace what you're really trying to do when you eat and that is to supply nutrients to that wonderful "God designed" machine, your body.
Some other considerations. It takes about twenty to thirty minutes after eating before the body realizes that it has been fed. If you sit down to a big meal and "wolf" it down quickly you can really over do it. Before the body realizes that it needs to send out an "I'm full" signal to your appetite center, you have over-consumed. About half an hour after your food "orgy" your body gets the "I'm full" signal but by then it is too late. You feel stuffed and wish that you hadn't been such a glutton.
Muscles are made of protein. (Protein has other body functions than building muscles of course.) Proteins may build the muscles but carbohydrates fuel them so that they can perform work. Fat can also be used for energy (particularly by racing sled dogs) but at a slower rate. Please remember that fat is two and a quarter times as high in energy as the same dry matter of carbohydrates and protein.
Fat is also usually "packaged by God" in higher dry matter forms than is meat protein. For example, meat fat is about 80% dry matter whereas meat muscle is only about 25% dry matter, so a fork full of fat supplies more dry matter that is higher in energy per unit of dry matter than a fork full of lean meat. Eating a helping of fat adds a lot of calories. That's OK if you are a sled dog running the Iditarod and burning up 7500 calories a day and can't eat enough food to supply that much energy but usually man's energy output does not surpass his ability to consume energy.
Consuming some oils is necessary to obtain the essential fatty acids (linoleic, linolenic and arachidonic) so eating some lipids is necessary but the kind of fat and the total fat intake needs to be monitored. The U.S diet in the early 1980's supplied 40 to 45% of the calories from fats and oils. Due to increased health consciousness, this fell to 37% in 1990. It is recommended that no more than 30% of your dietary calories come from fats and oils.
In the United States it seems that bread is almost always eaten with butter or jam or some other spread. It's as if bread were just the carrier for the material that is put on it. In Russia and Ukraine bread is often eaten unadulterated without spreading on extra fat and flavored sugar. We Americans should learn this good dietary habit from our former Soviet Union friends.
What you eat for breakfast should be determined by what you're going to do that day. If you're a "desk jockey" and won't be doing much physical work, don't eat so much and particularly don't load up on carbohydrates such as a lot of pancakes or waffles. Protein is brain food. Carbohydrates are muscle food.
If I'm going to be doing mainly mental work I usually eat cottage cheese for breakfast. I've done so all my adult life (so far) except for over here where I usually eat a boiled egg or cheese, milk (also useful to wash down my "magic" vitamin, mineral and herb pills) and yogurt with a little carbohydrate from bread, fruit or cereal. If I'm going to jog or lift weights, then I eat some carbohydrates fifteen minutes or so before exercising.
If you're going to be doing physical work, eat 15 grams of protein plus increase your intake of carbohydrates. Eat for what you're going to be doing but be particularly aware of how to eat to maintain blood sugar between meals. That means forget about eating sugar and rapidly digested carbohydrates and eat some complex carbohydrates, protein and even some fat.
Since the objective of all this food intake is to process it through the body's complex digestive and metabolic machinery, you need to be sure that you have an adequate intake of the metabolic co-factors (nutrients) in addition to proteins, fats and carbohydrates. That means you should pay attention to your vitamin and mineral intake - and of course all animals should have free and easy access to plenty of clean fresh water.
The first symptom of dehydration is often fatigue rather than thirst. If you're in a hot environment where you are losing a lot of water from perspiring, force yourself to drink to stay hydrated. Do the same in cold dry climates where you're losing a lot of water by breathing out warm moist air and breathing in cold dry air. The members of the climbing team that made the first successful assault on Mt. Everest credited some of their success to the fact that they carried enough fuel to melt adequate quantities of snow to supply them with sufficient drinking water to stay hydrated. You can't play "guts ball" if you're thirsty. Keep your liquid intake up.
If the biochemical machinery of the body isn't working properly then maintenance of blood sugar is problematic. Hypoglycemia is usually associated with low levels of blood potassium and magnesium. When your blood sugar level falls you often get thirsty and crave salt so you pour on the sodium chloride table salt and drink even more water (and of course make frequent trips to the bathroom). You can reverse this situation by using potassium chloride salt (salt substitute) rather than using table salt. It is real easy to get too much intake of sodium while it may be a problem to consume enough potassium. Manage your electrolyte intake to help you maintain your blood sugar level. Your well being depends upon it.
Sodium is the main extra-cellular cation. Potassium is the predominant intra-cellular cation. Moving back and forth between the cell and the fluid that surrounds it is the chloride anion. If these three electrolytes are not present in the proper proportions then the osmotic pressures are disturbed. This reduces the ability of the body to move nutrients in and wastes out of the cells and body performance, as measured by the work that it can do and how a person feels, is compromised. Goof up your electrolyte balance and you're in tough shape.
When an animal is stressed, it excretes potassium and retains sodium for "flight or flight" scenarios. This is good for short-term "cave man" challenges but most of our modern day stress isn't solved by physical shows of muscle strength. It is easy to have the sedentary stresses of modern man/women lead to a deficiency of potassium. This leaves the body's voluntary muscles flaccid and tired and the blood sugar level usually low. Throw away your sodium chloride salt shaker and replace it with one filled with salt substitute. When you're stressed, shake on some more potassium chloride.
Potassium chloride is a great natural diuretic also. You can usually forget the prescribed diuretics that poison your kidneys and try potassium chloride instead (under the supervision of a doctor of course). Many diuretics cause a loss of potassium and contribute to hypoglycemia and all the problems associated with low blood sugar. As a result, you don't feel "so swell". Try reducing your sodium chloride intake and use salt substitute before resorting to a diuretic. Again, this should be done after consulting with a physician. Messing with your electrolyte balance is serious business.
When feeding racing sled dogs for long distance races like the Iditarod we were always careful to feed them so as to keep their potassium level up. Dehydration is a major problem with sled dogs running long distances in cold dry weather. Balancing their electrolytes by feeding supplemental potassium and giving them water at a temperature that they could drink easily and in adequate amounts is critical if you want them to keep running.
You should also get the potassium level up for shipped in cattle that have been stressed and for high producing milk cows, particularly if they are milking in hot climates. Humans particularly need supplemental potassium when they are stressed or living and working in tropical conditions.
Potassium deficiency symptoms are quick to abate when supplemental potassium is consumed. I've seen dramatic and rapid changes in racing sled dogs and also in myself. I can remember being stressed out in an airport from too much plane travel, too little sleep, too much pressure and poor nutrition where I could hardly function. Ingesting a small amount of salt substitute (a few shakes into my palm and then consuming with plenty of water) gave me relief within 15 to 30 minutes.
Milk contains more potassium than any other mineral, including calcium, and is an excellent beverage for stressed executives who want to keep their energy level up. Drink your milk! Besides the potassium, you also need the calcium and the protein. Low milk fat is preferred so as to keep the caloric intake level down since stressed executives are probably not doing a lot of physical work and they don't need the extra calories.
Low dietary magnesium can also lead to a low blood sugar level. Since magnesium is a natural tranquilizer you need to be careful of how much supplemental magnesium you consume. If the dietary magnesium is inadequate, the body's energy producing mechanisms are not able to work at full tilt and you will feel tired but if you overdue the magnesium supplementation you can also feel tired, just as if you had been tranquilized.
It is a good idea to supplement your diet with 200 micrograms of chromium daily. Chromium is a metabolic co-factor needed for gluconeogenesis (generation of new sugar that takes place in the liver). Chromium therefore helps to maintain the blood sugar level. For years it has been referred to as "the glucose tolerance factor". I've been taking it for over four years and during that time I've had very little problem with low blood sugar while before taking a chromium supplement I did have some trouble. This doesn't really prove anything as there have been some other variables in my life but I think the chromium is helping. It has been shown to improve muscle growth in young pigs and to be helpful in the immune response in cattle. It's kind of an exciting nutrient. I think it is real important for the maintenance of your blood sugar level at or slightly above the fasting level. Perhaps chromium has a favorable effect on the release of glucagon and thus encourages gluconeogenesis. I don't know how, but it seems to help me maintain my blood sugar level. Normal diets are deficient in chromium so go buy some and start taking 200 micrograms every day.
The body creates energy by a series of complex biochemical reactions that include the glycolysis and citric acid cycles and the electron transport system. There are a lot of metabolic co-factors needed to keep this biochemical machinery functioning. These include the B-vitamins and some trace minerals. Be sure you get enough of these metabolic co-factors. I get them through supplements plus what is normally in food. You don't want anything to impair the generation of energy so keep the body well nourished.
The vitamins are divided into water soluble and fat soluble vitamins. The water solubles are the B-vitamin complex and vitamin C. The B-vitamins are metabolic co-factors that allow the body's biochemical machinery to function in good order. A B-vitamin complex deficiency will lead to lots of problems including a lack of energy. Be sure you get enough. Liver and brewer's yeast are good sources. B-vitamin supplements work also.
I take at least one and a half grams or more of vitamin C per day. Linus Pauling suggested that you should get two to three grams per day. If I'm feeling tired or a little sick I take more. If I'm catching a cold I take a whole lot more - like maybe a gram every half an hour. The body knows when it has more than is needed to fight infections and tells you by making your stools loose.
Primates need supplemental vitamin C but most other animals have an enzyme that allows their body to manufacture ascorbic acid from our old friend, glucose. Humans, monkeys, guinea pigs, the African fruit bat and the Red Vented Bulbul are deficient in this enzyme. Other animals that have the "gulono lactone oxidase" enzyme may not always manufacture enough ascorbic acid under some conditions of stress.
In a feeding experiment at Cornell University we fed guinea pigs (they require a dietary source of vitamin C) an ascorbic acid deficient ration. After several weeks, symptoms of scurvy appeared and the guinea pigs were near death. A solution of vitamin C given orally had them up and running around in just a day or so. It was pretty impressive.
Sailors on long ocean going trips used to get scurvy (vitamin C deficiency) and die. The British found that if their sailors ate oranges and lemons and other citrus fruit that contained ascorbic acid they were protected from getting scurvy. That's why they're called "Limies". That was an important early naval military secret.
Taking vitamin C has also been shown to improve mental function. I carry a few grams in my pocket all the time and take it before I give a speech or if I'm feeling tired. It helps to wipe away the "cobwebs" of my mind and to increase mental alertness. An adequate potassium level with a blood sugar level above the fasting level is also important for good mental function. Vitamin C is required for the formation of collagen, which is the body's "glue" that holds the cells together, including maintaining the integrity of the blood vessels. If you bruise at all or your gums bleed you're probably low in Vitamin C.
The fat soluble vitamins are A, D, E and K. I take 25,000 units of vitamin A as beta-carotene per day. The more work you do under fluorescent light the more vitamin A you need. I'm also a big believer in vitamin E and take at least 1000 mg of vitamin E a day. Vitamin E along with vitamin C, beta-carotene and selenium are important anti-oxidants that protect the body from free-radicals. I take some of each every day.
I don't worry about vitamin D and Vitamin K as there is some in the multi-vitamin that I take. If you're in the sun some, the vitamin D pre-cursor in the natural oils on the skin (7 dehydro cholesterol) is activated to vitamin D and then absorbed. Vitamin K is manufactured in the gut and isn't a problem unless you kill off the microbial function of the gut with high levels of antibiotics.
Since the body stores the fat soluble vitamins, it is possible to consume toxic levels of vitamins A and D. Vitamin E and vitamin K are not a problem but don't over due your intake of vitamins A and D as the resultant effects can be "bad news". Admiral Perry died at the South Pole from an overdose of vitamin A that was the result of eating polar bear liver, a particularly concentrated source of vitamin A.
The water soluble vitamins are not stored in the body so excess oral intakes of vitamin C and the B vitamin complex are not dangerous as they are excreted in the urine. When you take supplemental riboflavin (vitamin B2) the excess is flushed out of the body in the urine, giving it an extra bright yellow color. It's money going down the drain but then you know that you got enough.
I know that "they" say that you can get everything you need in a well balanced diet but I'm not buying that argument, particularly over here. I may have the most expensive urine in the world from all the "stuff" that I take but I'll let the body sort out what it wants from the generous intake of nutrients and supplements that I offer it and let it discard the rest. I feel good so don't argue with me or confuse me with facts to the contrary.
College nutritionists (both animal and human) have worshipped the almighty minimum requirement for long enough. I decided a long time ago that since nutritionists kept discovering that you could really use more of a certain nutrient than they previously had thought and since I wasn't going to live long enough for them to get it all sorted out, that I would just beat them to the punch and fortify animal feeds and my own diet with enough supplements to have a little margin of safety. My experiences in feeding dairy and beef cows, pigs, dogs and humans (including U.S. space pilots while I was a Captain in the USAF working on space nutrition research and later as a consultant to NASA on space nutrition) for maximum performance have justified this approach as far as I'm concerned.
I remember a few examples. When I was in Hungary ten years ago I was visiting a large state farm that had cattle. The man in charge was pretty progressive. I saw what I thought was a copper deficiency and suspected other mineral deficiencies. I made some recommendations for trace mineral supplementation (all above the minimum recommended levels). The man in charge followed the suggestions. A year later he wrote and said that the growth performance of his heifers had increased seven to eight percent and the mineral deficiency symptoms had disappeared. (No I don't know what other variables came into play.)
Several years ago I was on a very large modern dairy in Central Mexico. The animals weren't milking well and looked terrible. I made some vitamin and mineral supplementation suggestions (again, all above the National Research Council's recommended dietary allowances). Several months later I returned and you wouldn't recognize the animals. Milk production was up dramatically and the animals looked slick and fit. I was even more convinced that the new vitamin and mineral supplementation that I had prescribed was responsible when the herdsman said that after feeding the new mixture and noting the improvements they had gone back to feeding up what they had left of the old mineral mix. The old symptoms returned and were ameliorated only when the new "over fortified" vitamin - mineral supplement was fed.
I've seen old dogs that just wanted to curl up and rest by the fire get "young" again and dramatically increase their activity when they were fed properly. I've seen cows whose nutrition was improved increase their milk production, increase their breeding performance and reduce their health problems as measured by lower Vet bills during the following years. A little extra intake of vitamins and minerals isn't very expensive and is a lot cheaper than the cost of the problems that result when there is a vitamin-mineral deficiency. Besides, I like to feel good, so why take a chance of being under nourished?
God knows how much of all of these nutrients to feed but I don't, so I just add enough to be sure that all are at or above adequate levels and let the animal sort it out while it is running faster, growing faster, giving more milk, staying healthier and feeling better. Besides, what they used to set for minimum requirements was where an amount any lower would cause a definite biochemical lesion. They didn't consider that higher levels might protect against infections and diseases and might make you and your animals feel better. There is also considerable variability among animals of the same species in their nutrient requirements.
I say "Out with feeding to the almighty minimum requirement!" Let's feed our animals and ourselves for top performance. I like feeling good! And I like seeing livestock producers make money from high performing animals. Your own body is the most important animal for whom you are responsible. Nourish it with adequate amounts of all the nutrients.
Any discussion about maintaining an adequate blood sugar level should include some comments about the effect of a low blood sugar level on weight maintenance and more specifically, how to maintain your body weight at your "fighting best" instead of getting "couch potato" disease. To lose weight a person must get his blood sugar level under control. No one is going to stay on a diet for long if their blood sugar level falls much below the fasting level causing them to suffer all the symptoms of low blood sugar described at the first of this monologue. Therefore, blood sugar management is the first thing to consider and to get under control in a weight loss (maintenance) program because without doing so, weight is not going to be lost and in fact weight gain will probably result.
Here's the challenge! To lose weight the blood sugar level must fall low enough to signal the liver with a message via the pancreas (glucagon) to start gluconeogenesis. After liver sources of glycogen are exhausted, if a strong enough message occurs, then body fat and protein are mobilized to supply the acetyl groups that the liver transforms to sugar to be released into the blood stream. Weight loss occurs as the body fat and protein are mobilized for transformation into glucose.
If the blood sugar level falls too far below the fasting level you feel terrible and say "forget the diet" and you start eating. The trick is to let the blood sugar level fall just low enough below the fasting level to trigger gluconeogenesis without causing you to eat too much. This is a fine, vulnerable and fragile line and a delicate balance between when the body mobilizes fat and protein (glucagon release) and when the blood sugar level falls (too much insulin release and/or no food) too far below the fasting level and you go off your diet.
What you're trying to accomplish here is to manage your body's biochemistry (including glucagon and insulin release) and physiology so that the body "wants" to maintain the proper weight and will cause you to voluntarily adjust your food and calorie intake to the proper amounts. That makes it a lot easier to stay on a diet than if the body is "screaming" at you to feed it and you're trying to resist. The squeaky gear gets the grease and the screaming hypoglycemic body usually gets fed.
If the body needs just a little more food than is necessary for weight maintenance in order to keep the blood sugar level up to where you feel good, then there is a long-term and undesired weight gain. Reversing this to a slight negative caloric intake is "painful".
Each person should "experiment" with their own body to see what health habits lead to having the blood sugar level stay at the fasting level without having to over-consume calories. You know the feeling. You feel good, your blood sugar level automatically stays high enough to nourish the central nervous system, you don't feel like over eating, you feel like exercising and life is good.
Compare that to the opposite feeling of having to over-eat to keep the blood sugar level up in order to keep going, having trouble going between meals without "binge" eating, not feeling like exercising and knowing that you're gaining weight but can't stop it. Turn your body into a physiological research laboratory by studying yourself and decide what works for you.
You know that sometimes reducing caloric intake works and sometimes it doesn't and you give in and eat. What is the difference from when it works and when it doesn't? I have found that avoiding sugar (including honey), being sure I get adequate rest and exercise, eating enough to relieve the hunger pains but not enough to feel full plus being careful to get an adequate intake of all the required nutrients is usually effective. Sometimes it is hard for me to get into this "zone" of fairly comfortable weight loss while it is easy to get out of it by violating the principles that we have been discussing.
It takes just a few calories below your maintenance level to challenge the blood sugar fasting level to hold and to be maintained by gluconeogenesis. Sometimes the blood sugar level falls too much and you just have to eat. In comparison, it isn't hard to eat WAY above the maintenance level, so a day or two of bingeing on food and alcohol that is far in excess of caloric needs can take a lot of pain and a long time to undue to get the body back to ground zero as you can't reduce the intake of calories to the same degree as you can over-consume them.
It seems to me that the easiest time to get the weight off is just after the over-consumption while the extra calories are still captured as liver glycogen and before the liver converts them to fat and the fat is deposited on the body. Once the calories are deposited as fat, it is painful to reverse this process so as to use up the excess calories. Besides, in trying to remove adipose tissue you also cause catabolism of protein and the loss of muscle. Most of us don't have enough of those to start with.
Is the temporary hedonistic pleasure of over eating really worth the pain that it takes to reverse the caloric over consumption and if you don't reverse it, does it feel good to be fat?
Therefore, don't eat more than is necessary to "almost" relieve hunger pains. You want to continue to challenge the body to mobilize excess body fat to be used in gluconeogenesis so that the "new" sugar from fat can supply your blood stream requirements. Managing this very fragile and sometimes elusive goal of trying to keep the blood sugar level from being excessive while not letting it fall below the fasting level so far that is gets so uncomfortable that you eat, is the challenge. The body chemistry has to be working well for this to happen and for weight loss to occur. Be aware of how your body works and feed and pamper it accordingly.
Following the above suggestions for maintaining your blood sugar level may mean a big change in the way you eat, sleep, exercise and basically "live". Losing weight and keeping it off is a life-long challenge for most of us. It means using some discipline to make life-long good dietary decisions. Eat slowly and frequently so as to avoid over consumption. Eat enough to chase away the hunger pains but not to feel full. Remove the simple carbohydrates from your diet and consume complex carbohydrates plus adequate protein and even some fat. Be sure you balance your electrolytes by using salt substitute (potassium chloride) and refrain from adding sodium chloride salt as you get enough and probably too much from your normal diet. Consume some fiber to keep the digestive tract healthy and to give you some bulk. Eat your vegetables. Drink your milk (unless you're lactose intolerant). Take some supplemental vitamins and minerals. Drink plenty of water. Eat according to what you're going to do that day. Exercise regularly. Get adequate sleep. Remove stress by surrounding yourself at home and at work with people you love and who love you. You can put up with a lot of external stress if you reduce the stress within your family and work group.
Remember that food is for nourishment. I eat primarily for the biochemical benefits that food supplies. Taste and pleasure are secondary. Why spend all day getting every pot, pan, dish and utensil in the kitchen plus the stove dirty trying to make food taste so good that you're encouraged to eat more than the body needs? God made food to taste good enough relative to the need to satisfy our taste buds so that we'd eat just enough to maintain our weight and to keep the body functioning at peak performance but not to over due it. Why disturb this tender balance, particularly when it is so time-consuming to clean up the kitchen after you've worked so hard to disturb your body's attempt at caloric homeostasis? There are greater pleasures in life than over eating; like feeling good the entire day and all your life.
With good cooks, taste buds usually win out over self-discipline, so give your will-power ("won't" power) a fighting chance to manage food intake sensibly and save yourself time in preparation and clean-up. That will give you time to go jog or lift weights or to do aerobics. Which brings me to the next important part of maintaining blood sugar and the proper body weight and feeling good.
When I was in college they used to say that you didn't burn enough calories from an exercise program in relation to the calories in the pounds of fat you wanted to lose to make exercise an important part of a weight loss program. I didn't believe it then and I sure don't believe it now. Someone forgot about the favorable effect of exercise on the voluntarily reduction of food intake.
The human male body requires one kcal of energy for each kg of body weight per hour for maintenance. For a 70 kg man this would mean about 1700 kcal per 24 hour day for maintenance. In addition to the maintenance needs, a fairly sedentary person would require 30% more calories (2200 kcal per day). A slightly active person requires 50% above maintenance (2500 kcal per day) and a construction worker or athlete in training may require 100% over maintenance. Even that would be only 3300 to 3400 kilocalories of energy per day for the average 70 kg man who was working hard.
Women require 0.95 kcal of energy per kg of body weight per hour for maintenance. A 50 kg women would need 1140 kcal per day for maintenance plus the additional amounts based on her activity (1480 if sedentary, 1710 if moderately active and 2280 if an athlete in training or doing heavy work).
Compare the caloric needs of a human male athlete weighing 70 kg to the 7500 kcal requirements of a racing sled dog that weighs only 20 to 22 kg. No wonder a dog running the 1050 mile Iditarod sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska in several days less than two weeks must be able to metabolize calories from fat. Feeding a racing sled dog under such conditions is a challenge.
Looking at the kilocalories of energy used in various activities is enlightening. The kcal used per minute in various activities are: sleeping, 1.2; sitting reading, 1.3; listening to a lecture, 1.7; weeding the garden, 5.6; walking at 3.5 mph, 5.6; pick and shovel work, 6.7; recreational tennis, 7.0; soccer and basketball, 9.0; walking up stairs, 10 to 18; running 12 minute miles (5 mph), 10.0 and running 5 minute miles (12 mph), 25.
A kg of pure fat contains 9000 kcal of energy. Body fat deposits (adipose tissue) are about 80% pure fat. Therefore 9000 kcal times 80% would equal 7200 kcal per kg of body adipose tissue. Jogging for one hour would use up the calories in 0.08 kg of body weight. Said another way; you'd have to jog for 12 hours with no increase in caloric intake to lose a kg of body weight. That's 5.5 hours of jogging to lose a pound. [Since, as discussed above, the body doesn't use just fat for energy and instead also uses protein; these figures on weight loss are only approximate and underestimate the actual weight loss expected for a given amount of caloric expenditure. Unfortunately, this unexpected extra weight loss is from protein (muscle and body organs) and not from fat.]
It would be natural to think that food intake and exercise have a linear relationship from the time you crawl off the couch, turn off the TV set and start to run or lift weights or whatever kind of exercises you choose to do.
You'd think that right from the start of zero activity, as you expended more calories through exercise, the body would voluntarily increase caloric intake. Not so! It's not even true for animals forced to run or not run in a squirrel cage with unlimited access to food and water. Starting from a sedentary state (such as watching Monday night football), as some activity is done so that some energy finally begins to be expended the voluntary caloric intake actually goes DOWN. This is a nice combination as more calories are expended while less are voluntarily consumed, which is the only way to lose weight unless you go in for lipo-suction or other drastic measures. As the level of exercise increases beyond the initial moderate energy output, the body will voluntarily increase caloric intake but if you're over-weight and manage your food intake by the above principles, this intake will usually lag behind caloric output and the desired weight loss will occur over time.
What is going on here? The "appestat" for the body is located in the hypothalamus of the brain. It determines when you have eaten enough. Attempts to regulate this part of the brain with drugs have not been successful. There are no magic pills for dieters.
In the 1930's it was discovered that a drug called 2,4-dinitrophenol would "uncouple" ATP to release heat rather than have the ATP's produce body work. Taking this drug meant that the body would have to keep mobilizing fat to supply the energy to manufacture enough ATP's to keep the body going and thus fat would be utilized and weight loss would occur. (I imagine the person on a diet taking this drug would feel hot.) It worked fine for weight loss but there was one slight problem. The difference in the dosage level between where it caused "moderate" uncoupling of ATP to where it caused "complete" uncoupling was not much different. An overdose uncoupled all the body's ATP leaving none for maintaining body functions and was of course lethal, so the drug was removed from the market.
There is a natural ATP uncoupler in nature that is important. Babies and hibernating animals have "brown fat tissue". The brown fat tissue contains an unusually high amount of blood vessels and lots of mitochondria. It contains a special protein that "uncouples" the ATP so that it releases its energy as heat rather than from muscle work. Therefore the newborn baby and the hibernating animal can stay warm without the body activity that is usually necessary to produce heat and maintain body temperatures.
When the body produces ATP, all of the energy present in the substrate being metabolized through the glycolysis and citric acid cycles is not captured as high energy phosphate bonds in ATP. That means that not all the energy of the substrate can be used to power the muscles, etc. The lost energy becomes body heat rather than a high energy phosphate bond. Therefore, when you exercise you get hot from the uncaptured energy that is lost as heat.
The only known way to reset the appestat in the brain so that it signals the body to eat less and to lower the caloric intake level is through exercise. Money won't do it; only will power! Therefore, when you don't exercise you will actually voluntarily take in more calories than you would if you were doing mild exercise. That is a bad combination. Get smart! Exercise! At least go for a walk!
Did I hear someone say "golf"? I think that golf is the biggest waste of time ever invented by man if you're doing it for exercise. If you're doing it for fun, then that's OK. You don't use up many calories sitting at an opera, ballet, concert or ball game either. But for serious exercise the only thing a golf course is good for is to jog on and, from my experience, it isn't much good for that as the ground is usually too uneven.
Remember that body muscles burn more energy than body adipose tissue (fat) so when you put on more muscle your basal metabolic rate goes up. This of course helps you to maintain the proper weight.
In contrast to no exercise, with mild exercise you actually eat less than when you are sedentary. Therefore, any weight loss program that doesn't include an exercise regime is undoubtedly doomed to fail. I have found it much easier to maintain an acceptable blood sugar level if I exercise regularly. There is something about jogging for an hour or lifting weights two to three times a week or even walking briskly (as I did for an hour a day for the two years that I lived in Moscow) that helps the body to maintain the blood sugar level and thus make it easier to reduce caloric intake without having a low blood sugar level crisis. Exercise may have something to do with the release of glucagon from the pancreas so that a low blood sugar level isn't much of a problem. Couple that with eating so as not to trigger excess insulin release (no sugars that spike the blood sugar level) and losing weight becomes easier.
Exercising is not easy to start when you're out of shape but after a few weeks of running or lifting weights or doing whatever exercise you choose, the body begins to "beg" you to continue, so starting is tough but after a while stopping is not such a temptation. In fact the body will "ask" to be exercised. Don't neglect this signal for it is easy to revert to being a couch potato and then the body will play every mind trick in the book on you to keep you from getting off your back side and doing your exercise program.
If you combine your exercise program with sensible eating as outlined above, the body begins to respond giving you positive feed back that makes it easier to continue on a regular exercise regime. This healthy lifestyle of exercising and eating correctly is easier to maintain if you live in a "monastery" where you can control your schedule. In real life it is a little tougher.
In most executive jobs you're stressed, so you already are "messing" with your ability to maintain your blood sugar level near enough to the fasting level to lose weight (or maintain it) and to still feel comfortable for the reasons outlined above. Exercising can help to relieve this stress, help keep the blood sugar level up, uses up calories, helps to reduce voluntary caloric intake and builds muscles that will burn more basal metabolic calories than the fat they replace.
It's a lot easier to stay on an exercise and healthy eating program if you get adequate sleep. A lot of executive jobs also make this a challenge.
Eating what you should eat is also compromised for most executives because of the frequent meals eaten out over which they don't have much control. These meals on the road are usually too high in salt, fat and total caloric intake and too low in fiber. When you're on someone else's schedule you tend to eat when they say to eat and to consume what they serve as you don't know when you'll be fed and watered again. If you come from a "clean plate" family like I do, it is hard to leave food on the plate, even when your logic says that it is better left there than to consume it and put excess fat on your body.
This combination of stress, irregular and inadequate sleep, irregular and usually nutritionally unbalanced or inappropriate meals, adjusting to someone else's schedule, being served alcohol and being expected to consume it, perhaps smoking, not enough exercise, so much work to do that it is the exercise time that gives way to the work time, situations that make it hard to do exercises, and other challenges that makes it really tough to lose weight and to maintain an adequate blood sugar level to allow you to be in control of your body rather than your body in control of you. It can be a real frustrating situation where you know what needs to be done but you can't get control of your life and do it. Try to manage so that you don't let your body get out of control.
I have found that when I've been subjected to "too much of the above" that it then can take a week or even two of real discipline and doing the "right" things to get my blood sugar level back under control and with that the voluntary reduction in food intake, starting on an exercise regime again, etc. In contrast, after living correctly for a while, you can go on a trip for a week or two and break all the rules and still feel OK but you pay for it when you return home and try to get back into training.
An executive's lifestyle is going to make it tough to maintain the proper blood sugar level, keep your weight down, exercise and to feel as good as you know you can. Managing all of this is just one of the things an executive must do if he/she wants to feel good and to continue to function at peak capacity. Actually, when you eat and exercise properly, you have so much more energy than you do when you don't live properly that you can get much more work done. In comparison to what you can accomplish when you feel good versus what little you get done when you don't, it makes exercising and living right a good investment and doesn't take any more time, and probably less, "per unit of work output", than when you work all the time. Besides, jogging or lifting weights stimulates thinking and is good for "problem solving". You may have some unexpected mental "flashes of brilliance" during your exercise routine. As a result, the time spent exercising may not reduce your productive "brain" time at all. But we all know that it is darned tough to quit doing a deadline job and go do the body conditioning things that you know need to be done in order to feel good and to remain productive in the long term.
As stated throughout this paper, managing your blood sugar level to keep it comfortably near the fasting level so that the brain and the rest of the central nervous system stay happy is critical in order to be able to control food intake, maintain the proper bodyweight and to have a personal feeling of well being while enjoying the feeling of having high energy. I've written about those dietary and exercise practices that I have found to be of importance to me as I've tried to maintain the proper bodyweight and to stay in a "feel good" state. I hope the presentation of this material will help you (and others) to manage your life so that you optimize your good health and thus increase your life's total output of productivity and feeling of satisfaction.
This advice also applies to me as I now have to live up to my own suggestions. "Coaching and playing" or "teaching and doing" or "preaching and living" are different functions. Since I also want to continue to feel good, I'm going to try and follow my own suggestions. Please write to me to be sure that I keep "my feet to the fire", "practice what I preach" and eat correctly and keep up my exercising.
I'll be real interested if what I have written works for you, Dr. Harris (or anyone else who reads this). Specifically, I'd be interested in what works and what does not work for you. Your feed back will add to my knowledge bank. More importantly, knowing that this article helps you and/or others to cope and to actually excel in a really tough high stress job would really please me.
May your blood sugar level always be optimum for high energy output and for feeling great! How you treat your body will have a big impact on how it performs for you.
Roy E. Chapin, Ph.D.
P.O. Box 575
Ternopil 282027 Ukraine
Permanent Home Address:
11145 Chapin Lane
Amity, Oregon 97101