How to use Science to Lose Weight #2 – carbohydrates

So your body runs on glucose. Glucose belongs to a class of chemicals called carbohydrates. And before we go any further we must look at what carbohydrates are and how they work.

Carbohydrates are very sensibly named – as their most basic structure is carbon + water. That is, their basic formula is CH2O, and every carbohydrate has this basic formula, but only in multiples of 6. So glucose is C6H12O6.

Image result for glucose

This 6 – carbon unit is the most basic structure possible, so it is referred to as a monosaccharide.

Table sugar (sucrose) is C12H24O12 and looks like this:

Image result for sucrose

So sucrose is a disaccharide, and is composed of two monosaccharides.

And the sky’s the limit – saccharide units can be added together to infinity, like chemical lego blocks. An example of a polysaccharide is starch:

Image result for starch

So a complex carbohydrate like starch is made up of many glucose units. Before your body gets fuel, therefore, it must break these complex molecules into its component glucose molecules.

But the real question is – how quickly does this happen? If the breakdown happens quickly, then your blood is flooded with glucose.  This can cause a serious medical condition called hyperglycemia, so your body removes the excess glucose by releasing insulin into your blood from your pancreas.

This has two long-term effects – firstly it causes you to put on weight, as the excess sugar is converted to fat. But it can also cause you to become a diabetic, as your pancreas eventually gets overloaded and just gives up – this is why fat people are often also diabetic.

The rate at which a food releases glucose is referred to as its glycemic index (GI), and is the single most important factor in determining whether the food is fattening or not.

Now, this results in some weird outcomes. For example, look on the label for Nutella and you’ll see it’s loaded with sugar and fat – but it’s low in GI. And the reason is simply that the fat slows down the rate at which the sugar breaks down.

And this is a pattern – often the fibre in something slows down the sugar absorption rate, so you are far better, for example, eating whole fruits rather than fruit juices.

For further reading, have a look at Eat Yourself Slim, which explains all this in fine detail

How to use Science to Lose Weight #1

The human body is the most complex chemical reactor in existence. Ultimately, the amount of fat on your body is the result of multiple factors, many of which are poorly understood in the marketplace.

The purpose of this series of posts is to explain what those factors are, so you can make informed lifestyle decisions decisions when choosing how and when you exercise, and what type of food you eat

This has been a particular issue for me for many years now, as I am one of the small number of men to have suffered from an eating disorder. Eating disorders are almost exclusively the domain of women (97%). I am one of the 3%.

If you are reading this article to quickly get to the bottom line (as I often do) I will very quickly summarise the conclusions I have come to, and the rest of this article and the ones that follow it will explain the logic behind those conclusions

In summary:

1. The concept of calories in, calories out is wrong. The number of calories a food contains doesn’t mean much,

2. The glycaemic index of a food is everything.

3. When looking at a food label the amount of sugar a food contains is far more important than the amount of fat it contains.

4. When selecting foods based upon the type of fat they contain, where possible consume monounsaturated fats.

The first issue to is how the body gets its energy to operate. In other words, where does the body get its fuel? Your car gets its energy from either petrol or diesel – what is the fuel that your body runs on?

The answer is that it is mostly glycogen (a form of glucose). I say “mostly” because under some circumstances the body has the ability to switch to different fuels, but for the purpose of this discussion we can stick with glucose as the main source of fuel.

In simple terms there are two main of glucose – carbohydrates and fat in extreme circumstances muscle tissue can be broken down to provide glucose, but this is not the normal mechanism of operation.
In my next post we’ll consider this fuel system in more detail, and start to understand how we can manage it to control our waistlines.

The Chemistry of Weight Loss #2: Our body’s fuel system

Yesterday we looked at the chemistry of fat. Elsewhere, we have looked at the chemistry of carbohydrates

So which one does our body use?

Our body is a complex reactor which is capable of converting  fuel into energy. rather like our car. If we want our car to run, we have to put the right fuel in.  If we have apetrol car  and we put diesel in, for example,  it won’t run.

In just the  same way,  how body has a fuel system . Now it’s not quiet  as simple as that ,as our body  actually has several fuel  systems ,but there is one major  system that  dominates all others  that will look  at  today.  Essentially, our  body runs on  glycogen .

Glycogen is the  simplest  carbohydrate , and is what any complex carbohydrate must be broken  down  into  in order to act as a fuel . As I have discussed elsewhere,  if the glycogen is coming from  complex carbohydrates, then  this is a simple  process,  as simple as breaking a Lego  structure  into individual blocks. This process  can happen quickly  and it is the fuel that  our body uses most of the time,  particularly when doing anything at  all energetic.

Under sustained periods of exercise ,if how  body runs out of  complex carbohydrate,  it runs out of glycogen ,and this process is called going  “to the wall “. This is something experienced by marathon on runners for example.  And it’s the kind of thing  you experience if you skip  breakfast and lead a  busy morning.  By the time lunch rolls round,  you are very lethargic.

So the  lesson is,  that most of the time we are running on  glycogen.

This means that if we run out  of complex carbohydrate , our body must manufacture glycogen from somewhere else , and this is where it becomes complex,  and also represents ana opportunity for  weight loss.


The Chemistry of Weight Loss #1: The chemistry of fat.

We’re a nation of fatties – well at least that’s the popular view. Weight loss programs are scattered across the internet, TV, and (women’s) magazines.

So who do you believe? Which programs and/or diets work, and why?

Well, it’s not too hard to understand, if we go back to basics and look at the chemical reactions that occur in our body, what fat is, how it is made, and how it is removed. Like most things in life, there is a chemical explanation.

The first point to understand is that your body is an incredibly sophisticated chemical reactor that is able to convert very different chemicals into each other, with an efficiency and specificity that would be impossible in any laboratory. No industrial process in even the most sophisticated pharmacalogical facility in the world would be capable of carrying out the sophisticated and complex chemical reactions that our body does every day, silent and unseen.

Lets start by looking at the chemistry of fat. Essentially any animal or vegetable fat is a triglyceride, which is basically shaped like an E:

Three fatty acid chains are connected to a glycerol backbone, hence the name. Note that the 3 fatty acid chains are all straight, with the carbon atoms linked by single bonds. We call this a saturated fat because you can’t fit any more hydrogens on it.

Contrast that structure with this:

The third fatty acid chain has a double bond (in green). This molecule is no longer saturated, as there is room for two more hydrogens. That is, two hydrogens could be added across this bond, to convert it to a single bond and make it look like the molecule in the upper image. So because it is not saturated, we say it is unsaturated. Specifically, it is monounsaturated, as there is one double bond.

If there is more than one double bond, it is said to be polyunsaturated.

Now, you will note that the carbon chain with the double bond is bent. The implications of this is that the molecules will not stack together very well on top of each other, in just the same way that regular shaped boxes will stack together easier than irregular shaped boxes.

This means that monounsaturated triglycerides are generally liquid (like olive oil) and saturated fats (like lard) are solid at room temperature.

Stay tuned

Are White Sugar and White Rice Bleached?

I was asked a very interesting question today – are white sugar and white rice white because they have been chemically bleached?

it’s a good question – if chlorine bleach had been used in anything you ate it would obviously be a cause of concern.

And there have been cases of this kind of thing in the past. It used to be the case that decaffeinated coffee was decaffeinated with dichloromethane, a carcinogenic chemical that you certainly don’t want to be ingesting. At that time there was only one brand that was doing it a different way – HAG.

HAG coffee used supercritical carbon dioxide to decaffeinated their coffee. this was a more expensive process, the much safer as the CO2 quickly evaporated. So be other brands abandoned the dichloromethane and now also use supercritical CO2.

Back to sugar and rice.

As it happens, neither of these products have been bleached. The explanation for the white colour is simply the extra processing.

For sugar, all the brown stuff in brown sugar is impurities that are removed as part of the refining process. In other words, white is the natural colour of sugar crystals (sucrose). So it hasn’t been bleached – it has just been further purified.

And with rice, a similar situation is the case. If you take brown rice and polish it further, you eventually get back to white rice. In other words, brown rice is simply white rice with extra coatings on top. Once these coatings are polished away as part of the refining process, they become white.

Eo there you go – white rice and white sugar are perfectly safe to use. even if they may not be perfectly safe for your waistline.