Why do I crave carbs?
Why does the smell of baking bread or chocolate cake or cookies or hot chocolate or popcorn or…well, you get the idea…why does that stuff make me so hungry?
Why don’t I crave broccoli or tuna fish or butter?
Why am I such a slave to sugar?
Insulin, my friends, insulin.
And here’s why.
The Science behind Insulin and our Addiction to Carbs
Insulin is secreted by the pancreas.
It’s job is to take glucose from your blood, store it in your liver and muscles as glycogen and stop the use of body-fat for fuel.
It’s your storage hormone.
This you may know.
You probably also know that the glucose in your blood comes from eating carbohydrates.
Carbs = Sugar.
What you may don’t know is that insulin isn’t being secreted all the time. It is produced in waves or pulses.
- The first insulin pulse comes just seconds after you eat carbs
- This insulin pulse occurs before the sugar in the food even reaches your bloodstream
- This burst of insulin lasts for 20 minutes before dying down
- As the first insulin pulse fades away, a second, more gradual injection of insulin is released by the pancreas
- This pulse lasts for several hours
So what does this all mean?
This means that:
- The first insulin pulse is designed to prime your body for what is about to happen.
- Your mind tells your pancreas that sugar is about to be released into the bloodstream and that it had better get ready
- Ergo, it starts squirting out the insulin
Why does the pancreas need advance notice?
It takes 20 minutes for insulin to have any significant effect on blood-sugar.
Without the advance notice, and the pancreas’ early warning system, a heavy carb meal could result in symptoms of hyperglycemia:
- A feeling of nervousness or jitteriness
- A racing heart and pulse
- Sweaty palms
- And also a headache
So, is this is a good thing?
Yes and no.
Here’s the bad news.
This first wave of insulin secretion has also been described as increasing the “metabolic background of hunger.” As the insulin grabs hold of the blood-sugar and stores it away for later use, it also shuts down the release of body-fat as fuel.
Temporarily, this leaves your body starved for nutrients. You can’t use the energy from the meal or the fat from your love handles. Ooops.
As a result of this, you get hungry!
As a result of this, that meal starts to look better and taste better. And that’s why you keep making trips to the buffet. Your body is searching for energy. More importantly, it’s fuel of choice is sugar…fast absorbing sugar.
After some time, your metabolic system does balance out, and nutrients are released to be used as fuel and your hunger decreases.
So What Does This Have To Do With My Carb Addiction?
- Our diet is based on carbs – wheat, corn, rice, sugar
- When we eat meals based on carbs, our insulin spikes
- When we eat meals based on carbs, our appetite increases
- When we eat meals based on carbs, food (carbs in particular) tastes better
- When we eat meals based on carbs, we overeat trying to fuels our cells
- As a result, when we eat meals based on carbs, we force our bodies to crave carbs
And this is a best case scenario.
I am not even going to discuss how this pattern of overeating carbs can and does lead to Type 2 Diabetes.
I will save that discussion for antoher day.