“I eat and eat and eat but I’m still hungry!”
Is this something you find yourself saying on a regular basis?
You’ve had toast or cereal at home, picked up a scroll or some biscuits at morning tea and cracked a can of Coke in an attempt to pep yourself up. And even though there’s still two hours until lunch time, and you’ve only been sitting at your desk all morning, your tummy is still grumbling.
Maybe you don’t eat exactly the same foods as above, but the common thread is the same: you are constantly eating but not feeling satisfied. The food you are trying to fill your belly up with is not doing the trick.
Everything we eat is digested and used by the body differently, which in turn, can greatly impact how we feel. The example above is loaded with not much else but simple carbohydrates. In a nutshell, these are empty calories that although provide many kilojoules, they pretty much leave you hungry and searching for more, not long after eating. When we eat foods containing carbohydrates, the body converts it into glucose which is our body’s main energy source.
The example above contains a lot of carbohydrates, but the important thing to remember is that there are different types of carbohydrates: simple and complex.
These guys cause a rapid spike in blood glucose, giving you a quick burst of energy that also quickly slumps because your body digests simple carbs much quicker. Our body doesn’t require energy so quickly (unless you have just completed a big workout and are lacking in glycogen stores), so it usually stores these carbs as sugar in the cells or converts it immediately to body fat to be stored away.
It can be a bit of a vicious cycle, because the more simple sugars that we eat, the more our body craves the quick energy rush that follows.
Simple carbs are found in foods like cakes, pastries, white bread, white rice, chocolate, processed cereals, soft drinks, savoury and sweet biscuits. They are also found in table sugar, honey, corn syrup and jam to name a few extras we can easily add without a second thought. Really anything that is highly processed is a simple form of carbohydrate.
On the other hand, carbs that are complex result in a much more gradual increase in blood sugar levels, meaning you do not feel that instant rush of energy followed by the nasty decline. Your body takes longer to digest complex carbs as it has to work harder to break down the molecules. Complex carbs give you a continuous stream of energy throughout the day.
Complex carbs are found in foods like vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, boc choy), fruits (apples, blueberries, strawberries), whole grains (quinoa, buckwheat, oats) and legumes (chickpeas, beans and lentils).
As explained above, the body processes these types of carbohydrates very differently, and this is the key to why eating either simple or complex carbs make you feel hungry or satisfied.
This is not saying that you can’t enjoy simple carbohydrates that are found in the foods in the opening example. Just be cautious that eating these foods every day may be problematic for your energy levels, concentration and attempts at weight loss (because they are very high in kilojoules and tend to be stored as fat if all of this energy isn’t burned).
Take a look at the graphic, courtesy of Fitness 1440 that gives a simple overview and read Part 2 where I share some tasty breakfast, snack and lunch suggestions to keep you going all day.