It's 7:30 am, and your alarm is going off. As you sit up in your bed and go to turn off the alarm, you realize that you were supposed to be up by 6:30 am. Uh oh!
As you're simultaneously getting dressed, brushing your teeth, and doing that one-legged pants hop thing, you rush into the kitchen to grab anything you can get your hands on to eat. "Fruit pastry! Perfect," you say as you're running out of the house to rush off to work. Not too bad, and you'll make it work with one minute to spare. Nice! As you're going through your morning tasks, you feel great. "Oh boy, that pastry sure hit the spot this morning. Gave me energy, too!" All seems well enough, until around noon. You feel your performance start to dwindle, a yawn emerges from out of nowhere, and the inevitable sugar crash begins.
The Real Problem With Simple Carbs
We've all been there. While a pastry as an occasional treat is fine, choosing one for breakfast is rarely, if ever, a good choice.
Breakfast is often referred to as the most important meal of the day since it helps to replenish our blood sugar level after sleeping. Healthy choices like fruits, proteins, and fiber-rich foods will help increase our blood sugar levels and do so in a stable way that's long-lasting. On the other hand, the pastry contains simple carbs quickly absorbed by the body and gives more of a 'jolt' to the system instead of a steady release of consumable energy. This is because they lack the longer sugar structure of complex carbohydrates. As a result, they are converted into glucose at a much faster rate. This is why when we eat a pastry, we may experience a 'sugar rush,' followed by the inevitable crash and a feeling of increased hunger.
The Difference Between Simple and Complex Carbs
Complex carbs and simple carbs are structurally different and affect the body differently. A simple carb is usually only a single sugar molecule (monosaccharides) or two bonded simple sugar molecules (disaccharides).
All this to say, not all simple carbs are bad! It's a bit tricky to grasp at first. For simple carbs to provide sustainable energy, they ideally need to contain a buffer: fiber, protein, vitamins. This allows the body to absorb the sugar at a slower rate. The slower the digestion, the longer we'll feel full. This is also true of our energy levels. A slower breakdown of carbohydrates results in more stable energy.
We want to avoid the dreaded crash commonly associated with simple sugars alone. The temporary spike in blood sugar levels from the fruit pastries might appear to give you a boost in energy, but that energetic feeling is short-lived. Once all those simple carbs are processed, your energy will suddenly decrease, and you'll likely feel more tired than before you ate in the first place.
Fruits often have simple carbs, but they contain other healthy nutrients like vitamins and fiber. These "extra" ingredients act as the buffer and slow the absorption of the sugar, and a slower sugar absorption means less insulin secretion.
This is where the tricky part comes in. Technically speaking, candy bars that contain nuts may seem like a good idea since nuts have fiber, fats, and proteins. However, they still hold an extraordinary amount of sugar which may negate any of the benefits of the nuts, especially considering the low quantity of nuts in the average candy bar. In this scenario, the nuts would provide a better overall energy source without the chocolate and would be better off eaten on their own.
An important thing to note about these 'slow-burn' foods is that they all contain fiber. Fiber can make a big difference in both carbohydrate absorption and sustainable energy.
How to Eat for Better Energy
Mornings can be hard. Not getting long-lasting energy from your morning foods can make the whole day even harder. The next time you're in a rush, aim for a sustainable energy source instead of "empty calories." Grabbing an apple or a banana instead of the pastry will show a noticeable difference in overall energy, hunger management, and even your mood. And when you have the time for a complete breakfast, remember this:
Protein is first, fiber in all; too many carbs, and you'll hit the wall.