When you eat refined carbs it will cause a spike in blood sugar and you will soon crash causing tiredness and more hunger. Avoiding empty calories such as pasta, bread, cereals, and most fast foods will make fasting easier.
Here is why the Western way of eating has a lot of problems.
The first issue is that we’re too focused on short-term energy. We know we’re hungry because our serotonin levels are depleted and so we are motivated to increase that serotonin and our energy levels as quickly as possible. And the best way to do this? Eat a quick release, simple carbohydrate such as a bag of chips.
Serotonin is often described as the ‘feel-good hormone’ and is associated with feelings of well-being and happiness. Generally, we think of serotonin as being responsible for our pleasant moods and think of it as a neurotransmitter that has a role in a number of psychological conditions. Low serotonin for instance is correlated with depression.
What you may not have known though, is that serotonin is also crucial for our regulation of hunger and plays a key role in our satiety.
Like ghrelin, serotonin is also a hormone that tells the brain that we’re full and that we don’t need to eat any more. This occurs partly through our consumption of carbohydrates, most of which will contain some amount of tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid and is also found in protein but there’s only a small amount of it in most foods compared with other amino acids, which prevents it from having any major effect.
When you eat lots of refined carbohydrates then, you actually flood the bloodstream with tryptophan and this then remains in the blood once the insulin kicks in and you start absorbing the nutrients.
This then leads to a surplus of tryptophan which reaches the brain and guess what happens then? It turns into serotonin! This happens because tryptophan is actually a precursor to serotonin and one of the key building blocks used to create it.
All this explains why you tend to feel in a very good mood when you’ve just eaten and why your mood can plummet when you start to get low in blood sugar. This is where ‘hangry’ comes from!
The good news is that this is actually just one of several mechanisms that the body uses to tell how full it is. Leptin for instance is another hormone that is produced in the gut and which tells the brain to stop eating too.
If you are eating a diet that consists mainly of modern ‘snacks’ then you’ll be flooding the body with sugar and then seeing it through very quickly afterward. That then means you need to snack again. It also means that the body won’t use up the energy as quickly as it receives it, which leads to it being stored as fat.
It’s always better to use a complex carb diet rather than one that completely eradicates this whole food group from the diet and that means that you should be eating things like tubers, berries, and vegetables instead of things like crisps, white bread, and pasta!
The bigger problem with eating things that give us a quick ‘kick’ is that they often don’t contain any of the crucial nutrients that we described above. And this is where the idea of ‘empty calories’ comes in.
That means no protein to build muscles, no vitamins, and minerals to help you think better or feel in a better mood, and nothing else that the body needs. That doesn’t only apply to donuts either though – it also applies to ready meals, fast food, and anything else ‘processed’.
When you buy a ready-made lasagna from the store, you actually get very low-quality meat that will have been blended together with other meats and has lots of sugar added.
Despite getting a lot of mince, your body won’t actually be able to use many amino acids or other nutrients. The calories are increased but the nutritional benefits are drastically reduced.
This then means that you would not be as efficient at burning fat because your mitochondria would perform more poorly and your metabolism would be slowed by impaired levels of testosterone.
(By the way, if you think that testosterone, thyroid, and other hormones don’t have a big impact on weight loss then just ask someone who suffers from hypothyroidism or consider the difference between natural endomorphs and ectomorphs!)
When you don’t get the nutrients you need, your body actually makes you crave more food. The body knows what it needs and it sends signals that encourage you to want to eat those things.
So the bottom line is to eat nutrient-dense foods (quality protein, and fats) and avoid processed foods to make fasting throughout the day and night a lot easier.