The Carb Challenge Part 4.5: Sprouted Grain English Muffin (and Quinoa)

I have some sad news: 1. I did the challenge with quinoa and forgot my glucose monitor at home, so I will not repeat it.  However, based on it’s performance during a meal, my guess is that it reached the same ballpark as banana. 2. I decided to test out a sprouted grain product that most people (including myself) would consider to be fairly healthy for most individuals….and it was almost as bad as the oats!  I scarfed those slices of Ezekiel cinnamon raisin English muffin down without any issues and 2 hours later, I forgot to test my sugars.  So, I did it 2 hours and 20 minutes later, which should mean I had 20 extra minutes to bring my blood sugar down and it was still 104.  I was secretly hoping that it would be a good reading so I could justify to myself why I could eat these delicious bread products without issue.  The reason I would never really eat them before all this carb talk was because they have wheat in them, and I try fairly hard to stay gluten-free.  So, there are 2 strikes against them now in my book.

Now that we have some sad news behind us, you want to know something funny?  I ate 2 paleo donuts the morning before to do a blood sugar test for my friend, Kristen, and THEY WERE BETTER FOR MY BLOOD SUGAR THAN EZEKIEL SPROUTED ENGLISH MUFFINS.  Now that I have done this carb challenge with a variety of foods, I want to point out something very interesting: My worst blood sugar responses were to oats and sprouted grain English muffins.  My blood sugar did fine with white rice, banana, and quinoa.  I tested meals with sweet potatoes and paleo donuts and those were fine, too.  How interesting that if I gave you that list of foods and asked which you thought would give the worst blood sugar response, you would likely say white rice because there’s no fiber, donuts for sure, and fruit because we all know fruit has sugar.  The last things to come to mind would be your heart healthy oats (which were soaked), and sprouted whole grains!  But the reality is, I should not eat these foods if I can avoid them.  For me personally, they just don’t do me any favors.  So, it’s a good thing I have plenty of other carb sources to choose from.

But Dr. A, we all know fat slows down metabolism of carbs, so you should have added fat.

I did.  I had butter with both the oats and the sprouted grain English muffin.  I did not add any fat sources to the banana, rice, or sweet potato.

Why do you think this is?

We are all individuals and we all respond differently to different food sources.  This is why individualized nutrition and medicine is important.  Often times, your body gives you signals that support this.  You may feel really hungry shortly after, or get a sugar crash, maybe brain fog, perhaps excessive weight gain or digestive issues.  Listen to your body.  If you don’t respond well to something, choose a different source of nutrients.  If you are a hardcore science person then get a meter and test!  I have a cheap one in my store tab that will give you 50 opportunities to see you sugar results.

Who should pay attention?

On some level, everyone should pay attention but those that suffer from diabetes, hormone issues, stress, digestive disorders, or sleep issues should all consider taking a closer look. Blood sugar regulation is a huge part of those issues and ignoring it is an opportunity to unlock some of the underlying causes.  Another population that should take a closer look is those with abnormal cholesterol levels.  Triglyceride levels often follow inflammation levels due to glucose metabolism.  These people are told to eat whole grains to improve their risk of heart disease; however, it may be contributing to the source of cholesterol abnormalities!

Summarize your numbers, would ya?

Oats:       pre# 74- post# 122
banana: pre#69- post# 84
Rice:       pre# 90- post# 99

Paleo donuts: pre #82-post#92
Ezekiel Cinnamon Raisin Sprouted English Muffin: pre#82-post#104

Now that I am done with the carb challenge, I can go back eating my normal meals.  However, it has changed what I may choose as my carb sources for workout refueling.  The results also give me a good example to share with patients about why certain foods may never be a good idea to reintroduce.  It all depends on your body!


Carb Challenge Part 3: White Rice

Catch up with what this is all about. How may your body respond differently to the same amount of net carbs, but from different sources? Would it effect your blood sugar the same? The answer is “probably not.” I set out to experiment on myself, so you guys can see a personal experience of the differences! Having said that, unless you test yourself, you won’t know if you fit the same profile as myself.

First test: 50g net carbs from Oats
Second test: 50g net carbs from banana

Third test: 50g net carbs from white rice

Why white rice?
Rice is a gluten free grain that I consume on occasion, especially with sushi. Consuming white rice vs. brown rice means there is no bran present, which means it’s not high in nutrients or fiber, but it also doesn’t need to be soaked for safe consumption. That makes it a quick, easy, and safe starch for those that handle it well. Since it wasn’t a high fiber carb source, I only had to consume 1.14cups to get 50g net carbs. This made me happy because if you read my experience with oats, eating over 2 cups was hard and unpleasant. I did prepare the rice with bone broth as opposed to water because I would normally prepare it as such.

How did I feel with white rice?

It was super easy to eat this amount of rice! I may even say easier than banana. I didn’t feel full and wanted to eat more. I didn’t feel shaky or nauseous or any other reason to call it a negative reaction. I was ready to eat again fairy shortly though, and found myself staring at the clock waiting for the 2 hours until I could take my blood sugar.

What were the results?
My 2 hour post-prandial reading was 99. If you recall, oats was 122, and banana was 84. The one major difference in my opinion was I decided to do it on a Sunday as opposed to a work day. That means that I didn’t do it quite as early in the morning, and therefore my blood sugar prior to eating it was higher than the other challenges. For oats, my blood sugar prior to eating was 74. Banana fasted blood sugar was 69. This time, I started at 90. So, to have 99 means even though it wasn’t as low as the banana, it came much closer to the fasting level prior to consuming the carbs within that 2 hour window.
Oats: pre# 74- post# 122= 48
banana: pre#69- post# 84= 15
Rice: pre# 90- post# 99= 9

So, oats have still had by far the worst response in my body, but I can’t really determine which was ‘better” between rice and banana because while the blood sugar value was better with banana, the ability to come close to my fasting number was better with rice.

What does this mean for me?

I will honestly probably start incorporating more white rice in my days that I have intense workouts. I like rice. I can use it as an amazing way to get bone broth into my diet, and I know that my body responds nicely to it.

What’s next?
I will likely do a vegetable next. Maybe a potato or sweet potato. Potatoes are probably one of my go-to carb sources, so I’ll be interested to see how they stack up to rice. The one downfall to choosing sweet potato is the volume I have to consume on that one. ;( This is also a testament to which carbs are easiest to ingest in certain quantities. If you are a sedentary person that wants to feel full but not consume too many carbs, then go with those that are less refined. However, if you are trying to build mass or recover and have the need or double or triple the amount of carbs as an average person, then choosing those easy to consume without as much volume may be much better options to comfortably fit your macros.

Carb Challenge Part 2: Banana

As a part of my inspiration to show you guys the differences that food has on your body, I decided to take the carb challenge presented in Wired to Eat.  If you want to know more about the logistics and see all the details of what happened when I did Oats, click here. For the second round, I decided to do banana.  In order to hit the 50g net carbs for banana, I didn’t have to eat nearly the amount of shear volume.  For oats, I had to eat just over 2 cups due to the fiber content.  For banana, I only had to eat 1.14 cups of banana which ended up being around 2 1/2 bananas.

As I sat down to eat the banana, I took my blood sugar: 69.  I ate the banana easily, didn’t feel overly full, and really enjoyed the flavor.  This is a huge contrast from eating the oats.  With the oats, I could barely stomach the full dose and I felt terrible all morning in terms of fullness and wanting to vomit because I was so full.  Then when I finally felt hungry again it was instant and I wanted to eat a horse!  With the banana, I didn’t feel full, I enjoyed the taste, and I didn’t feel ravenous at all.

2 hours after eating the 50g net carbs of banana, I had a blood sugar reading of 84.  When I did the oats, it was 122.  When I decreased the oats to half the carbs (about the same quantity of banana ~1 heaping cup), I still had a 2-hour post sugar reading of 94!  That means that when I ate twice the amount of carbs from bananas compared to oats, I had a MUCH BETTER blood sugar response despite it being more carbs!  From a clinician perspective, that is really interesting!  How many times do we hear that people should eat oats for health due to it’s fiber content?!  All the time!  But in reality, it may be creating havoc on your blood sugar, especially if you have diabetes!  On the other hand, if you’re a person that responds differently than myself to these same foods, then maybe the oats are a better option than bananas.  We just don’t know unless you’ve directly compared your insulin response.

On a deeper level, this really stirs the pot in the conversation about macros.  Many people these days are eating according to macros (protein, fat, and carb ratios) but not worrying about the sources of those foods.  For example, HaloTop ice cream fits many people’s macros and allows them to eat ice cream while still fitting within their diet.  I think this experiment is pointing to the idea that just because they are both carb sources of the same amount, they can have very different outcomes physiologically.

Stay tuned for the next adventure!  I will likely do rice next.  I am choosing foods that are gluten free and may be things I would consider eating in the right context.  White rice fits that category for me and can be a great quick carb source for someone doing high intensity training.  It’s nice to know if that’s the best quick carb source to turn to!

First Attempt at the Carb Challenge: Oats

If you have been noticing all my social media tidbits about a book called “Wired to Eat” and all the blood sugar readings I’ve been posting, you may be ready for this post. The author of this book, Robb Wolf, is really interested in how food affects people differently.  We all tend to agree that there are foundational principles in nutrition that make up the bulk of what most people should be eating.  However, there are always going to be caveats and exceptions to every rule.  In the functional medicine community, the health industry, and the Ancestral physicians, we have some different opinions on carbs:

How many carbs should someone eat?

What kinds of carbs?

What ratios of carbs to other macronutrients?

The answer to all these questions tends to be simple: “It depends.”  And really, more specifically, it depends on YOU.  Everyone’s body needs adequate nutrition for survival and thriving, but how we get those nutrients can look very different.  (If you are a healthcare practitioner who is familiar with Weston A. Price’s work, you know all about how different diets can be!)

I took a couple weeks to read the book, get a glucose monitor and test random times throughout the day to get a good idea of what my blood sugar is on a regular basis.

Fasting am: 73-83

Fasted am or pm after high intensity workout: 110 or 104 respectively

Fasting pm (lunch at 12, test at 5:30pm): 73

AM after a 50% carb breakfast and workout: 63

2 hour after normal meal: 83

I figured that was enough data for me to know that I am not diabetic, I run in the 70s and 80s on a normal day, and I would expect my sugars 2 hours after a meal to be close to that.  At minimum, I would expect them to read under 100 2 hours post eating.

For the carb challenge, Robb suggests eating 50g of net carbs by ingesting ONE kind.  This way, you can see what that ONE food is doing vs combinations.  The truth is, this is highly unlikely in a real scenario, but it will give more detailed and specific information.  The average non-diabetic, non-insulin resistant person should have fairly normal blood glucose levels 2 hours after eating those 50g of net carbs.  If not, then it may be worth evaluating the amount someone eats in one sitting or which types of carbs your body responds more efficiently to.

Test #1:

What? Oats with a Tbsp of grassfed butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon.  I think it’s wise to have some fat for mineral absorption and I wanted it to be fairly close to what I would normally eat it with without sacrificing macronutrient profiles.  I also needed A LITTLE flavor or I would not have been able to do it.

Why?  Oats are gluten free, and on occasion, I would eat oats.  I do prefer they are prepared correctly, and made that part of the plan.  I only want to test foods that I would actually eat. I soaked steel-cut oats overnight in water and apple cider vinegar and cooked them in the morning.

How much? It takes about 2 cups of cooked oats to give you 50g net carbs.

How was it? Terrible. It took me 25 minutes to get those 2 cups down the hatch and I was sure the last bite was going to push me over the edge.  Due to the sheer volume, I felt overly full and uncomfortable until around 10:30am (2 1/2 hours after eating them).  By 11am, I was so hungry I could’ve eaten a cow.

Blood sugar before eating it? 73

Blood sugar 2 hours after eating it? 122

Take away for me? Since it was so hard to consume that amount, my guess is that oats are a food that would be difficult for me to overeat in the carb department.  Since the fiber content is so high, you have to eat a lot more volume to reach those 50g.  Also, I would never eat 2 cups again (not just because it was too much) because I wouldn’t be happy with that blood sugar response to a meal. I also just didn’t enjoy how I felt.  I went from overly full to overly ravenous way too quickly once the switch began.

Things I will consider:  This was my first test, so I plan to do more and have data to compare.  Will my readings be similar to 50g net carbs regardless of the source? If I find that my readings on 50g are similar regardless of fruit, veggie, or grain, I will not likely vilify oats; I would be more apt to vilify the quantity of carbs in one sitting for me.  Will they be better than oats?  If I find that a fruit gives me better 2 hour readings despite being the same 50g of carbs, then I will likely make the decision that my body doesn’t handle oats as nicely as other things.  If I want to be really anal, I will go back and halve the carb load to 25g (1 cup) and see what my reading is to verify if it was in fact the oats or just the dose.

Follow along as I test more sources of carbs and I encourage you to play with your own results to find what works for YOU!