And how to have more energy all the time!
First, we need to enhance our mental clarity. But how do we do that? We’ve already tried the energy drinks, eaten our sugary-snacks, AND had a few donuts and bagels. But howcome we still feel slow, sluggish, foggy, and stupid? I mean, didn’t we do everything “they” told us to by keeping our blood sugar elevated?
Here’s what really happens when you eat sugar
After easily consuming hundreds of grams of some sugary-substance, either grains, soda, energy drinks, or snacks, we have THE DOMINO EFFECT:
Your pancreas kicks into overdirve and issues a flood of insulin to try and mop up that mess of sugar in your blood stream. Even though glucose is valuable fuel when your muscles need it during strenuous exercise, in excess this sugar is toxic to your system, and is treated as a threat. You might feel flushed, high, spastic, nauseous, or slightly drugged; unless you are insulin-resistant, in which case you might barely notice. If this is true, take note, because you are on your way to diabetes-ville.
The rush of insulin starts a chain reaction. If there is room in your muscle or liver glycogen stores, your insulin will try to store the glucose there. Chances are, though, if you follow the Standard American Diet, and eat your “healthywholegrains” every day, your glycogen stores are most likely filled to the brim. In this case, the excess is shuttled right into your fat cells. In reaction to this “quasi-emergency that looks like another life-threatening stressor”, the body steps up its efforts to achieve homeostasis by releasing both epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol from your adrenals. Your heart is racing, and you’re starting to feel uncomfortable, maybe even sweating. And we’re still likely within the first hour after you finished off that twinkie-pop-donut-cake!
Shortly after the adrenaline rush, the crash comes. Burnout. Oh yes, we’ve all had this before, the dreaded sugar-crash. All the glucose is now out of your blood stream, because you thretened the system and it over reacted. You start to feel sluggish and fried. Your orexin cells are yawning and putting you to sleep. Making you foggy-brained and slow to react.
Your immune system takes a hit as well. After the insulin, adrenaline, glucose, cortisol rush, your immune system starts to tailspin. Immunity related phagocytes can be impaired for up to 5 hours! Free radicals also go to town as sugar increases oxidative stress. Your blood even thickens as a result of the stress.
A large dose of sugar can even impair your immune system for up to 24 hours. Now you’re at risk for not just diabetes, but whatever bug is floating around the office now looms over your head.
So, how do you get smarter than everyone else?
Fat is a more efficient source of energy for your body, as your mitochondria have an easier time making the conversion. Sugar, on the other hand, is a very dirty conversion, and creates lots of free radcals, which induces lots of oxidative stress on your body.
Your brain would also rather run on ketones than glucose. A study presented at the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in February of 2003 verified that blood sugar excess is a major vector for memory problems.
Various factors were measured in the study including how participants performed on several memory tests, how quickly they metabolized blood sugar after a meal, and, through the use of MRI scans, the size of the hippocampus, the brain region responsible for for learning and recent memory. Results indicated that people who metabolized sugar slowly (where blood sugar levels were more elevated) had a smaller hippocampus and scored worse on tests for recent memory. The study is the first to show an association between the size of the hippocampus and the ability to control blood sugar levels in the body. Though further research is needed, this association suggests that delivery of glucose may influence hippocampal structure and function, researchers said.
Conversely, other studies have clearly shown indication that many natural dietary fats seem to have a cognitive and memory enhancing effect, as well as the effect of powerful neurological stabilization (as evidenced by the effectiveness of ketogenic diets for eliminating seizures).
Since glucose is reactive in the presence of oxygen and “sticks” to things, any amount of glucose is going to have glycating and undesirable oxidative effects throughout the body–particularly the brain. The brain is the most vulnerable organ to the effects of glucose because it lacks the ability to respond to insulin. SOME blood sugar is a necessary and unavoidable thing (due to the unique needs of our red blood cells)…but the less dependent we are upon it, the better.
Your liver is also able to create whatever glucose the brain and body needs for normal function via gluconeogenesis, the process by which the liver converts protein to glucose. So why load up on dietary sugar?
The less the brain has to depend upon glucose as its primary source of fuel, and the more it can be trained and adapted to depend upon ketones for energy, the better, healthier and more efficient brain function becomes.
Nature would never have been so stupid as to design the human body and brain to be chronically dependent on so unreliable, inefficient and damaging a fuel as glucose. For one thing, we are descended from hunter-gatherers. Sugar and starch were not readily even available through a significant portion of our evolutionary history (ice-age or seasonal times). Glucose is naturally meant to be the body and brain’s emergency fuel–used mainly in more extreme and anaerobically demanding circumstances (read: demanding situations that leave you out of breath or during moments of major exertion).
If you examine the value of both of our utilizable fuel sources, glucose/sugar and ketones/fat strictly from the perspective of the energy they provide the truth becomes obvious. Sugar, as a quick burning fuel can be viewed as a form of “kindling”. Commonly prescribed “whole grains”, brown rice and legumes can be looked upon as “twigs” for feeding the metabolic fire. Potatoes, white rice, bread and cereal can be viewed more like “paper”. Alcohol is the equivalent of “gasoline” on the fire–supplying a ball of flame and not much more. People who are ultra dependent on glucose will crave alcohol regularly as an emergency means to keep their metabolic fire going. A reformed alcoholic that has not dealt with the underlying blood sugar dependence issue will compensate for the elimination of alcohol with an ongoing perpetual sweet tooth (and likely, ongoing cravings for alcohol, as well). Changing one’s metabolic fuel dependence to ketones/fat instead of glucose/sugar changes everything.
Fat, unlike sugar, is the fuel equivalent of putting a nice big log on the fire.
Your brain is metabolically the most expensive organ in the human body (relative to energy demands). It occupies less than 5% of your total body mass but uses 20-30% of your total energy every day, just to maintain itself. Doesn’t it make sense that fat would be the far better choice for this? –Particularly since fat is what the brain is overwhelmingly made of and because healthy natural fat has no detrimental glycating or damaging impact by its presence.
The quicker you drop sugar and switch over to fat, the better (as opposed to “gradual changeover”). Supplements such as L-glutamine, L-carnitine help facilitate the metabolic changeover more rapidly and with far less discomfort for some. But just go all out and get it over with already!
So–to put it all in a nutshell–what’s the single most beneficial step you can take to greatly improve the function and performance of your brain and memory?