The BJJ Cavewife and a few of her friends are taking part in an online Superhero Unleashed challenge run by Emily Schromm whom we first encountered on one of Robb Wolf’s podcasts. Since many of the BJJ Cavewife’s friends are new to the whole paleo thing they had a lot of questions about some of the requirements in the challenge, namely the whole ‘no sugar’ and ‘no refined carbs’ thing. When the BJJ Cavewife couldn’t explain things well enough she turned to me and I wrote this post as way to help them out.
What Are Refined Carbs?
- Carbohydrates are essentially a macronutrient that can be broken down into sugar.
- This applies to all carbohydrates except for fiber.
- Unrefined carbohydrates contain additional nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
- The refining process removes all fiber, vitamins, and minerals, leaving only the carbs by themselves, and sometimes they put in additives like high fructose corn syrup and other flavor enhancers.
Why no refined carbs and no sugar?
- Because of INSULIN.
- When your body is exposed to carbohydrates, refined or unrefined, the body digests them down into their component molecules, and then absorbs them into your blood stream.
- This causes an elevation in your blood glucose.
- Your pancreas then releases insulin to deal with the spike in blood glucose.
- Insulin causes your peripheral tissues to take up the glucose, thereby bringing your blood glucose back down.
Now here is where things get interesting.
- The tissues most affected by insulin are muscle and fat. Muscle can only take up a finite amount of glucose, so once those
- levels are topped the remaining blood glucose only gets taken up into your fat cells, where it is then converted into a triglyceride molecule (aka fat).
- Fat cells have an INFINITE capacity to store fat…. That’s why you see so many morbidly obese people out there, an
dpeople getting up to 800 or 900 lbs.
- The more insulin you are exposed to, the easier it is to become fat.
This is why when she recommends “no sugar” and “no refined carbs,” what she is really getting at is, “no eating things that will spike your insulin!”
Sugar = insulin.
Refined carbs = sugar = insulin.
Unrefined carbs = sugar + fiber = slightly less insulin
This is a measure of how fast a certain food gets into the blood stream, with 100 being the highest (glucose by itself).
The higher the glycemic index = the faster the food raises your blood sugar = the more insulin you’re exposed to = more fat stored by your fat cells.
This part makes things a little confusing because whole grains are technically ‘unrefined carbs’ because they are unprocessed, and still have all the fiber and what not in them. But Emily MTV still forbids eating these because they have a few bad things going for them:
- While they don’t cause as much of a spike in blood glucose and therefore insulin as unrefined carbs do… the insulin they elicit is still significant.
- They contain things like lectins, gluten, and phytates that can damage your gut lining, prevent absorption of certain nutrients, and worsen overall inflammation.
So if you get confused about what is and isn’t a refined carb, the first thing you can ask yourself is, will this spike my blood sugar?
If yes, then it’s probably better to avoid it.
If you’re not sure, you can check the glycemic index and see, and if it’s 45 or under, it’s probably safe.
For more information on macronutrients and basic biochemistry, you can check out my biochemistry primer.