Carbs

Long story short, I’m trying to put on a little bit of useful weight. Skip to the bottom for the delicious recepie I’m using to jam breakfast back into my mornings.

Unfortunately, I’m not bulking up just for the hell of it. In order to continue being competitive in higher level jiu-jitsu competitions, I need to be stronger than I am.

As it turns out, this is harder do than I thought. First of all, getting strong hurts. A lot. Which doesn’t make training jiu-jitsu any easier either.

In spite of the pain, I’ve just started the Stronglifts 5×5 workout program. A number of muscly people I trust have reccomended it as a good starting point for building the type of strength required for jiu-jitsu.

The program consists of two alternating body weight workouts, each comprised of compound free weight exercises with the intent of progressive overload.

If that was gibberish to you (like it was to me a few weeks ago), what this means is that the program has you switch between two workouts which don’t involve any machines or special equiptment. You show up, lift free weights and progressively add a tiny bit more weight each session until you can no longer complete 5 reps at a given weight in an exercise.

Avoiding machines at the gym and focussing on free weights means there is a whole lot more balance and posture involved in the lifts. Because Each exercise activates (and agitates) a big portion of your body, so you have to focus on keeping your whole body activated throughout each lift, and need to focus on less total exercises to get results.

I’ve never been one to get motivated by superficial physical incentives. Muscles are nice, but if I were desperate for them I would have started going to the gym a long time ago.

I’m going to the gym primarily to hone the tools I take to war on the mats.

But what I’ve found out is that in order for all that work to mean anything on the mats, I need to pay a lot of attention to what I eat while I’m off them.

If I want to gain muscle mass, I need to be consuming roughly 4000 more kilojules than I’m used to eating every day and a large portion of that needs to be protein. At my current size, I’m simply not putting in enough food to offset all the energy I expend exercising. Which is a good problem to have. But still…

As someone mostly disinterested in the prospect of breakfast most mornings, this was a troublesome fact to uncover.

However, I think I’ve stumbled across something which is going to solve my problem; peanut butter protein shakes.

Luke’s Peanut Butter Protein Shake

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2 scoops vanilla flavoured protein powder (whey or plant based)
  • 1 banana
  • 2 table spoons 100% peanut butter
  • 1 table spoon chia seeds
  • 1 table spoon honey
  • 1 date
  • 3/4 cup frozen blueberries
  • 2 cups milk of choice

The best thing about this recepie is that you can prepare it ahead of time.

Just put everything except the milk into a container or zip lock bag and pop it in the freezer. When you’re ready to have it, empty the contents of a container into your blender, add your milk and blitz away!

I’ve prepared a batch of these in advance, and am now looking forward to each morning when I get to slurp down a meal which feels like a treat, even though it’s a necessity.

Today I realised that I didn’t really know what a carbohydrate was.

I knew they were delicious. I knew that I should try and eat complex ones instead of simple ones, and I had a vague understanding that carbs had something to do with sugar.

If you know what a monosaccharide is and how the glycemic index of the food you eat relates to your insulin resistance, now’s the time to stop reading.

Otherwise, here’s what I learnt today.

Carbohydrate is the food category for sugars, and molecules which your body breaks down into sugars.

Carbohydrates can be simple or complex.

Simple carbohydrates are broken up into two categories; monosaccharides which include glucose, fructose and galactose; and disaccharides including lactose, maltose and sucrose, each which are each a combination of two monosaccharides.

Qa’ed Mai

Complex carbohydrates have three or more of these simple carbohydrates strung together, and are broken down into to further categories; oligosaccharides and polysaccharides.

Qa’ed Mai

During digestion your body breaks down the linked sugars within complex carbohydrates into their simple parts so that they can be transferred into energy.

As these carbs are processed, your blood sugar rises. The simpler the carbohydrate, the faster your blood sugar spikes.

These complex polysaccharide carbohydrates are not all created equal either.

Starch and fibre are both polysaccharides sourced from plants, each contain hundred to thousands of monosaccharides connected together, but the way in which these monosaccharides are linked together varies greatly.

The linkages in starch (which is found in foods like white bread and pasta) are called alpha linkages. Alpha linkages are a weak bond which is easily cleaved by your digestive enzymes.

On the other hand, fibre (think green vegetables) is connected up by beta bonds, which cannot be broken down by your body.

As a result of this difference, starch and fibre have quite different effects on your body.

The way we measure this effect is by rating foods on their glycemic index.

Glycemic index refers to the amount that a certain food raises your blood sugar.

Starchy foods like crackers, white bread, pasta or soft drink have a high glycemic index.

Foods with indigestible beta bonds like fruit and vegetables have a low glycemic index.

The foods with the lowest glycemic index are proteins like meats, eggs and fish.

When blood sugar rises, our bodies release a hormone called insulin from our pancreas. Insulin serves as one of the body’s main tools for regulating blood sugar.

It prompts your muscle and fat cells to let glucose in, and jumpstarts the process of transforming sugar into energy.

The degree to which a unit of insulin lowers blood sugar informs your insulin sensitivity.

Basically, insulin tells your muscle cells to eat the sugar you’ve just consumed.

We can measure how well insulin does its job my measuring insulin sensitivity.

Insulin Sensitivity is the degree to which your blood sugar goes down in response to a unit of insulin being released into your system.

If your blood sugar drops dramatically in response to insulin being secreted, you have high insulin sensitivity.

The problem with eating too much junk (simple carbohydrates) is that it can cause your insulin sensitivity to decrease.

When insulin sensitivity falls too low, this is known as insulin resistance.

When carbs are introduced to an insulin resistant body, the pancreas continues to create insulin, but cells (especially muscle cells) are less and less receptive to it.

When insulin can’t do its job, it can’t help convert carbs into energy. Blood sugar fails to decrease and blood insulin levels continue to rise.

Insulin resistance leads to a condition called metabolic syndrome, which involves high blood pressure, high blood sugar and increased waist circumference, and also increases risk of type two diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Not fun stuff.

If you’re having trouble wrapping your head around that, check out this awesome illustrated video from TED-Ed which spelt it out for me.