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Want To Be Motivated? Avoid These Three Foods

Written by S.O.

Posted on February 26, 2015 at 6:07 pm

In a lot of ways, our culture has conflicting ideas about food.

On one hand, we think of food as a way to experience pleasure, create – and then devour – aesthetically beautiful creations, or to satisfy a sometimes-unrealistic craving.

On the other hand, food is thought to be a significant part of a larger picture of human health. We are what we eat, we tell ourselves, and yet few people want to resemble a cake or a donut, let alone whatever the heck that was you gobbled down last night.

So it isn’t surprising when our concept of what certain foods do to us is as confused as our motivations to eat.

For instance, take the foods that we think give us energy. Often we look at our bodies as machines – Put in the right fuel and you can expect to keep our engines humming for a long time; put in the wrong food and you shouldn’t be surprised when your machine grinds to a halt.

But it’s not always that simple.

Below are three examples of types of foods that we believe give us energy to keep going throughout the day, even when our experience tells us the opposite is the case.

1. Pastas, breads, and starches

For many years, runners raked in the pasta the night before a race. The thinking was that, because carbohydrates are like fuel, this kind of meal would carry us over the finish line in record time.

Only later, though, did we learn that simply gorging on spaghetti before a race wasn’t enough – all those carbs needed something like protein to make them burn most efficiently and effectively. Why is that?

Even though our bodies do a good job of turning those carbohydrates into fuel, not all carbs are created equal. Certain carbohydrates – let’s call them ‘high glycemic index’ foods – actually do the opposite. Foods like white bread, instant rice, pretzels, mashed potatoes, and yes, pasta, actually counteract the energy-giving properties of other carbohydrates because consuming them causes our bodies to quickly release into our bloodstreams a substance called glucose. This is particularly true of processed foods, as often they contain what are termed ‘simple sugars’ or sugars that very quickly spike our glucose levels. Once that happens, the body responds by releasing insulin with the hope of balancing out the suddenly skyrocketing glucose levels.

Needless to say, this back-and-forth does quite a number on the body. Over time, the body can become insulin resistant, leading to obesity, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes.

But why do they make you tired?

One reason is this: because high glycemic index foods break down quickly in the body, the quick spikes in blood sugar cause our adrenal glands to produce chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline. Sure, those may cause a temporary rise in energy level, but much like diabetes, over time and repeated exposure causes our bodies to become depleted of those quick-energizing chemicals.

2. Fats

While everybody knows that a big hunk of fatty meat isn’t exactly health food, many of those same people believe that the high levels of protein in fatty meat is enough to overcome any sluggish feelings that result from eating said fatty meat.

Think again.

In fact, repeated exposure to any food high in fat content – including non-lean meats, snacks made with certain types of oil (processed cheese spreads, for example), and fried foods – will not only cause you to add weight, but will also make you feel tired.

One reason for this is rather simple: Digestion. It’s not easy for your stomach to digest that oily mess you just ate, and it often makes you pay for that lack of ease with drowsiness.

But there is another, more fascinating reason for this: A mid-2013 study by the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine found that people who routinely indulged in high-fat/high-calorie foods were less likely to get a full-night’s sleep. Though a causal relationship between high fat diets and less sleep has yet to be established, researched found that people in this category were less likely to consume water than people with other kinds of diets. High-fat eaters also were found to consume fewer carbohydrates.

3. Candy and other high-sugar foods

Yes, simple sugars and high glycemic index foods already have been covered. And yet, although the reason you might feel tired after consuming food high in sugar is the same as pastas, breads, and starches, this urban myth is even harder to kill.

Look at it like this – That excitement and burst of energy you claim to feel after a bag of candy indicates there is a really nasty chemistry project going on in your body.

What’s the reason for this? The body breaks down foods like candy and soft drinks, like other foods with a high glycemic index, very quickly, causing the body to release cortisol and adrenaline, which may give us that quick jolt of energy. In turn, the body then releases chemicals like serotonin and tryptophan that encourage things to slow down a bit. These countervailing forces will surely help you in a food emergency, but in more placid, normal surroundings, the advantage goes away.

In fact it becomes a disadvantage.

Of course, you can buck the entire system by eating lean meats and carbohydrates found in some lower-to-medium glycemic foods. Examples of the latter include: Peanuts, tomatoes, peas, plums, grapefruit, fat-free milk, low-fat yogurt, wheat spaghetti, apples, green peas, grapes, oat bran, bananas and sweet potatoes.

Sure, treasured opinions are hard to dislodge from our beliefs. But, no matter how much you think that piece of white bread, that fatty steak, or that bag of candy is going to fill you with energy, the more you know you haven’t really been listening all that well to your body.

So, do yourself a favor – drop the processed foods, the ground beef, and the candy bars. Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt to drop a couple food misconceptions while you’re at it.


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