If you’re always feeling tired but can’t pinpoint the reason, what you’re eating could be the problem.
You may be familiar with the term sugar rush, but if you haven’t already heard of it, this usually refers to a burst of energy experienced after consuming large quantities of sugar. While sugar is most obviously present in sweet snacks and drinks, large quantities of sugar are often masked by the savoury taste of refined carbohydrates such as sugary cereals, fried foods, pastries, and white flour pasta.
But carbohydrates are not the enemy. In fact, simple carbs such as whole grain pasta, leafy greens, beans, lentils and starchy vegetables, are a great source of energy to fuel athletes during exercise.
How carbs turn into sugar
As your body breaks down the carbs you consume, your digestive system converts the carbs to a sugar called glucose, which then enters the bloodstream to be used as energy or to be stored for later. It’s the amount of carbs you store that often presents a problem. Studies show that there is no benefit to consuming added sugars such as refined carbs to your diet, and in addition, the American Heart Association recommends that women limit added sugar intake to 6 teaspoons (24 g) of sugar per day, while men are recommended to limit their added sugar intake to 9 teaspoons (36 g) of sugar per day.
This may seem like an easy task when you are cutting out the obvious sweeteners such as white sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar, maple syrup and honey but it’s a little trickier when you consider the amount of refined carbs, fruit and starchy vegetables one can consume in a day.
The difference between good carbs and bad carbs
Fun fact: your body doesn’t discriminate against consuming a ‘good carb’ or a ‘bad carb’. As far as the intake is concerned, sugar is sugar. Even when consuming fruit such as a medium-sized apple which contains roughly 19g of sugar, you’re basically consuming just under 5 teaspoons, which nearly exceeds the daily limit of added sugar intake for women.
The difference in consuming complex carbs such as whole foods is that the added nutrients and fibre slows the digestive process and helps your body regulate blood sugar levels so that you don’t experience an unusually great boost of energy, followed by fatigue. This is also why many dieticians recommend consuming nuts with fruit, which has a longer digestion period and slows the glucose conversion process.
More sugar, more cravings
Likely the biggest downside of consuming high quantities of sugar is that it prompts your body to produce more insulin, a hormone that promotes glucose intake, and once your insulin levels are high, your body will expect to receive more energy, leaving you feeling hungry and experiencing cravings.
You may experience fatigue after consuming high quantities of simple carbs since your body also requires energy to digest food but receives little to no nutrients.
How to boost energy levels without sugar
According to Mayo Clinic, consistent strength training not only helps to sharpen your thinking skills but also improves your ability to do everyday activities. While helping to increase your energy levels, it also reduces your risk of developing chronic conditions such as heart disease, back pain, diabetes and depression.
Read more about the health benefits of strength training here.
You might also be interested in 5 alternative sweeteners you’ve never heard of.