Is sugar a mind altering drug that makes you crazy?
I was having a wonderful Sunday with my family. I started the day with a great morning run with the dog and enjoyed some laughs and a good breakfast with my wife and 15-year-old son. Then I needed to go run an errand with my boy. I grabbed a can of lemonade, and we left. For absolutely no reason I was enraged about 15 minutes later. Mad as hell, I sat there trying to figure out why I was being an asshole to my son and hated everyone around me. “Could it be the sugary lemonade?” I wondered.
Earlier in the week, I was reading a book written by a well-known psychologist. He claimed people have high anxiety, depression and mood swings when they don’t eat enough. He went on to say he advises most of his clients to eat a high protein, high (healthy) fat breakfast. He believes your first meal of the day should not include any sugar and very few carbs if any. Apparently, the high protein breakfast raises the levels of an amino acid called tyrosine, which prompts the brain to manufacture norepinephrine and dopamine, chemical messengers in the brain. Norepinephrine and dopamine can keep you energized because they promote alertness and activity. Including healthy fats in your breakfast provides energy to the brain as well as increases the production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in learning and memory.
So, eating a high protein, high (healthy) fat breakfast can help me have more energy, be more alert and have a better memory.
Why does sugar mess with my head though? One of the primary causes of depression is your body’s inability to produce serotonin. Guess what? Eating excess sugar has a negative effect on your serotonin production. Serotonin is believed to help regulate mood and social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire and function. We all know that sugar can wreak havoc on our blood sugar level. When your blood sugar crashes, the brain sends out a panicked adrenaline response causing anxiety levels to skyrocket.
So, eating sugar can make me depressed and anxious.
But does that mean carbohydrates are bad for the brain? NO! Your brain depends on carbs for function. Your body needs carbs for fuel and energy. Quite the dilemma - so now what?
I tested the well-known psychologist author’s theory. For the past month, I’ve had no carbs with my breakfast and absolutely no added sugar throughout my day. My wife commented the other day that I’ve been more enjoyable to be around (that’s a HUGE testimonial). How do I work 12 hour days, squeeze in swimming, biking, running, lifting, running a business and being a dad and husband all while consuming lower carbs and sugar? Simple, my sugar comes from God’s candy - fruit. I’ll eat some healthy starchy carbs mid-day, things like oatmeal, potatoes, or other natural starchy carbs. But nothing with sugar added, no soda, no white bread, and no sweets. I’d argue I’m more productive, happier, and yes (despite what my clients may say) more pleasant to be around.