Science: Round 1 Part 1, Calories or Carbs
What causes my blood sugar to rise out of a healthy zone? Meals with too many calories (exceeding 500 calories in a sitting)? Meals with too many refined carbohydrates (total carbohydrates minus fiber, where this number exceeds 40% of the total grams of the meal)? Or a combination of both?
Also, does someone who trains and exercises on a regular basis have a better ability to keep their blood sugars in the zone?
I am going to combine 2 experiments into this one, maybe more… who knows, but last week my trainer and friend Dan came into the office (my gym is right across the street). He had just bought breakfast, 2 7-11 breakfast egg sandwiches, one bacon, one sausage. I suggested that those were horrible for him: too many carbs and way too many calories. He disagreed and then downed them like a pro. His fasting blood sugar was 5.1. He peaked at 8.4 one hour later and then dropped to 4.2 by 2 hours. I am not saying that 8.4 is particularly good, but 4.2 at 2 hours!!! We agreed to try this head to head.
My hypothesis is that the carb load of a meal will be the main determinant of my blood sugar reading after eating.
I know this sounds simple, but I will be using the outcome of this research to determine just how much of a carb load I can handle and stay in my healthy blood zone, so this is a first step and a necessary one. It doesn’t help to take assumptions forward in science.
The more fun hypothesis is that I believe Dan, a trainer who works in the gym and trains every day will have a better blood sugar reaction to all of these meals than I will. I only work out 2-3 times a week and have always struggled with weight gain. To be clear though, Dan eats a lot and can easily gain weight despite his workouts, so he may not be the perfect trainer example, but he is in on the experiment.
This experiment is in 2 parts.
Part 1: We will eat a meal with a relatively balanced carbohydrate, protein and fat ratio. Using the Zone diet as the guide, an ideal meal would be 30% fat, 30%protein and 40% fat. We will test our blood sugar at 1 hour intervals, starting at fasting right before the meal.
Part 2: We will eat a meal with as poorly a balanced a carb to protein and fat ratio as we can come up with without it just being cake or a cookie. We will again test our blood sugar at 1 hour intervals, starting at fasting right before the meal.
The calories of both meals will be identical or nearly identical.
The equipment for Part 1:
The head to head breakfast sandwich combo seemed like a good starting off point, but as I pointed out to Dan, I would never eat the breakfast sandwiches from 7-11… Never, not even drunk. So, we agreed upon 2 Sausage and Egg McMuffin’s each. Those I will eat… mmmmmm…. (By the way, many people have noted that I must be loving these experiments as they are giving me a reason to eat obscene amounts of food. I have never eaten 2 of these McMuffin’s at one time before).
This morning I purchased the McMuffins and we went head to head.
2 Sausage and Egg McMuffins Each.
Above is the nutritional information for our meal. You will note the breakdown of macro-ingredients is 26% protein, 32% fat and 42% carbohydrate. Shockingly, the Sausage and Egg McMuffin is not far off of the ideal Zone meal! The calories for 2 of these things is way too much for a meal. As you know I recommend that all meals are under 500 calories and that you eat 4 meals a day. 1 is fine, but I can’t imagine being full after eating one of these calorie bombs. So small, but so full of salty, delicious flavour.
Stuff your face, wash it down with coffee (yes, I know we didn’t mention coffee in the equipment because we are bad scientists and because COFFEE!! – for the sake of science, 2 large coffees, Dan’s was black, mine had milk).
1 McMuffin was amazing… just amazing… the first part of 2 was almost as amazing… the second part was a little much. There was definitely a diminishing marginal return on the end of the second McMuffin. Still we powered through (I don’t think Dan felt that diminishing marginal return).
Fasting blood sugar: You would think this was important, but I forgot the blood meter at home so we went without our fasting numbers. I did go get it before the first hour test though. Yes, I know I am a terrible scientist… I am going with 5.0’s for both of us.
1 hour: (9:05 on December 1, 2015)
Mark’s blood sugar was 7.0 mmol/l Dan’s blood sugar was 7.3 mmol/l
So far so good. Looks like I have a better pancreas than Dan!! Sure he can deadlift about 500 more pounds than I can, but my pancreas is in the lead!!
2 hours: (10:08 on December 1, 2015)
Mark’s blood sugar was 6.5 mmol/l Dan’s blood sugar was 5.0 mmol/l
What?!?! Didn’t someone tell Dan’s pancreas that this was a marathon, not a sprint!?!? My pancreas is totally dogging this race. Within 2 hours Dan has totally removed the evidence of this massive meal from his blood.
3 hours: (11:00 on December 1, 2015)
Mark’s blood sugar was 6.0 mmol/l
I had to go to a job site, so I left Dan out of this reading, but who needs him, his blood is already back to normal. Still not good at 3 hours.
4 hours: (12:00 noon on December 1, 2015)
Mark’s blood sugar was 5.8 mmol/l
So, nothing particularly illuminating in the results so far. First, 64 grams of refined carbohydrates are probably too much to be eating in one meal and the blood sugars definitely spiked as a result. Still, nothing too bad. The meal was very filling.
I have noticed this pattern of it taking a long time for the sugar to get out of my system. This has me a little concerned. I will have to look into that. Still, so far, the second part of the experiment has definitely been informative. Clearly Dan is much more able to get his blood sugar under control faster, as measured by time to get back to under 5.9 mmol/l. I wonder if any of that has to do with the fact that he was in the gym for the 2 hours, walking around, grabbing equipment, etc (but not working out). That is a future experiment. I will eat this meal again and walk for the whole time in between testing… Maybe to close the loop we can get Dan to sit for 4 hours.
For part 2 the foods have been decided. I suggested that we eat 870 calories of hashbrowns because they are much higher in carbs/starches and because there is a poetry to having the other half of the experiment as the other half of a breakfast combo. Also, wouldn’t mind ordering 11 hashbrowns. Dan said something about donuts. We discussed the options but Dan couldn’t say anything but donut. He wants 7-11 glazed donuts. They are 250 calories each. He will have to eat exactly 3 and 1/2 donuts to get the same calories as the meal above. It will have 38.5 grams of fat, 119 grams of carbohydrates, and 10 grams of protein. 22% fat, 71% carb and 7% protein. Seems to fit the bill.
I am going to go a different way. I am going to get McDonalds french fries. I am going McDonalds again because I think it is important to eat in the same restaurant if I can. I also dropped the hashbrowns as they aren’t as high in carbs as fat! They are insanely high in fat. (only 77 grams of carbs in meal with 55 grams of fat). Also I suspect the french fries in the crazy McDonalds high blood reading I had last week so I would like to follow up.
I will eat 1 large fries, 1 medium fries and 6 packets of ketchup (which I don’t think will be enough ketchup sadly). This will be 860 cals, 39 grams of fat, 111 grams of carbohydrates (121 – 10 grams of fiber) and 10 grams of protein. 25% fat, 69 % carb and 6% protein. Almost identical to Dan’s meal.
A couple of things to note here. First, a large french fry is the macro-ingredient equivalent to 2 glazed donuts. I find that bizarre. The other thing that is important and worth a future experiment is that they differ almost exclusively in the sugar content. The donuts have 40g of sugar. The fries none. Is sugar better for your blood sugar than potato starch? I wonder. I bet it is though. We might live blog our results… who said science was boring… oh ya, that was me.
I will add a link to Part 2 here.