Imagine this energy scenario. Its mid afternoon and you are attempting to do your best productive work. The problem is, for the past couple of hours, you’ve been dragging your feet and quite frankly, a good lie down on the carpet is getting more appealing by the minute.
You start wondering how you are going to make it through till the end of the day until you hear THE voice. The voice that says, “Go and get something with sugar in it or people WILL be hurt.”
This sounds rather dramatic but given how you are feeling, it makes a lot of sense. You then begin the search for something that is quick and easy and chock full of energy to get those blood sugar levels up and running. Obvious choices pop into your brain. Sadly, none of which you actually have – a chocolate bar, a handful of lollies or a can of soft drink. Unfortunately in circumstances now totally out of your control, you do have to raid a colleagues desk drawer, your child’s coveted lolly jar or as a last resort make a dash to a vending machine, which thankfully contains every treat known to man.
Once you have inhaled that sugar, crisis averted. You now feel on top of the world and ready to tackle anything or anyone that comes your way.
All is well for 30 whole minutes and your productivity is on fire.
And then boom, shortly after you have finished congratulating yourself, the fire is well and truly extinguished and you are back to where you started.
This my friends, is the daily story of SO many people as a result of blood sugar levels being uncontrolled and is one of the factors that can lead to ‘presenteeism.’ This is one way of describing what happens in the body when the lights are on but no one at all is home. And there is definitely no production of anything useful about to happen.
Have you ever experienced this 3pm slump?
This tiring phenomenon is a result of your blood sugar levels taking a nosedive. It can be due to consuming the wrong type and amount of carbohydrate, inadequate protein or a combination of both.
Let’s Start With Carbohydrates for Energy
Good sources of carbohydrate include cereals, pasta, rice, some fruit, potato, sweet potato, corn, milk, yoghurt and most legumes. It is also found in sugary foods such as lollies, chocolate, soft drink, biscuits, cakes and other similar goodies. No matter in what food form they start, all carbohydrates eventually get broken down into glucose.
It’s All In The Speed
Once upon a time, carbohydrates were classified as simple and complex based on the speed of digestion. It was assumed that ‘simple’ carbs were digested quickly (lollies, soft drink, cordial, honey etc) and ‘complex’ carbs were digested more slowly (breads, cereal, rice and pasta, fruit and vegetables). We now know as research has progressed that foods do not fit neatly into these categories.
Carbohydrate foods are now classified according to how quickly they are digested and absorbed into the bloodstream as glucose. This is known as the Glycaemic Index (GI) but only refers to carbohydrate foods. Low GI foods are digested and absorbed slowly and high GI foods quickly.
The Ups And Downs of Energy
The GI is the clue as to how carbohydrates can have a direct impact on our energy, mood and outlook.
If we keep throwing carbohydrate rich food in, without adding enough protein, you will never feel satisfied and your blood sugar will be up, down and all around. Highs and lows can abound alongside your mood. Think about all those emoji’s – if you don’t get the balance of carbohydrates and protein right, you will likely experience all of those little guy’s faces.
At the moment, in this quarantined world of ours, carbohydrate in the form of rice, pasta and baking products are flying off the shelves.
By themselves or without enough protein, there are more energy downs than ups straight ahead.
And Here Is The Good News
Adding other nutrients into the mix, can rectify the 3pm low blood sugar slump scenario that we talked about earlier.
Many aspects of a meal can affect the overall glycaemic index including fat, fibre, protein, cooking methods and processing of the food. This is reflected by what is known as the Glycaemic Load.
When you put protein and fibre into the mix with carbohydrate, the end result is more stable blood sugar levels. There will also be a sensation of feeling satisfied for longer without the extremes of hunger and emotion.
This means smooth sailing straight ahead. How are your energy levels today?