It seems these days we are all on the hunt for more energy. Our tiring lives leave us exhausted and can make it difficult to sleep. But, did you ever realize that how we feed our bodies can also affect our energy levels? And even how we sleep? The culprit might even be what many of us use as a main source of fuel for our bodies… Carbohydrates.
But are all carbs bad for our energy levels and sleep? We are going to walk you through how carbohydrates in your diet can have an impact on your energy. We will also cover some of the benefits and drawbacks to low carb diets as well. Stick around to learn more on how carbohydrates affect your sleep!
How Carbohydrates Affect Your Energy:
Before getting into how carbohydrates affect your sleep we want to discuss how they affect your overall energy. There is a pretty direct relationship with how your body reacts to carbs and the output of energy you’ll have. There are a few key ways carbs work with your body to create or deplete your energy levels.
How Carbohydrates Use Glucose For Energy:
When we eat carbohydrates, during digestion it breaks down into glucose. If you are not already familiar, glucose is sugar. Breaking down the carbs into glucose is a process that our bodies go through in order to use the glucose as fuel for energy.
When carbohydrates are complex and close to nature, like the carbs you find in vegetables and whole grains, it takes longer for our bodies to break them down into glucose. Which helps provide a longer lasting energy source. However, when you eat simple processed carbs like white bread, mashed potatoes, or pasta, our bodies can very quickly break these types of carbohydrates into glucose.
What can happen when you eat these simple carbs is a very quick burst of glucose into your system. Giving you a spike in blood sugar. When you get a spike in blood sugar you have a very brief boost in energy that is quickly followed by a steep drop in energy.
You may even find yourself feeling hungry quickly again after eating these kinds of carbs. This is because your body processed the glucose so quickly that it is now running on empty again. Even though technically your body has had more than enough calories to sustain you.
Understanding the differences between complex and simple carbs is really the start to finding carbs that sustain energy. If your diet is carb heavy but with complex carbs your energy will be more balanced. However, a diet full of simple carbs can lead to a rollercoaster of energy that is less ideal.
Complex Carbs vs Simple Carbs:
Below is a great list of typical simple carbs and complex carbs that can easily be substituted. These simple carbohydrate swaps can allow you to enjoy a diet rich in carbs that also gives you more sustained energy.
- White Potatoes < Sweet Potatoes
- White Bread < Whole Grain Bread
- Pasta < Whole Grain Pasta
- White Rice < Quinoa or Brown Rice
- Cereal < Oatmeal
- Baked Goods < Fruit
*Other great complex carbs to add to your diet: beans, vegetables, fruits, nuts and whole grains
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How Carbohydrates Affect Your Sleep
When it comes to sleep specifically carbohydrates actually play a vital role in how our body properly prepares for sleep. Why without the necessary carbs in our diet you may even experience an inability to get proper sleep. Why it goes to show, everything in moderation is usually best.
Carbohydrates Help Your Body Utilize Tryptophan:
While we tend to associate carbs with more downsides on our energy level, there is one benefit that we would like to take note of, specifically for our sleep.
As we all know, our bodies are very complex structures. With many functions that affect us in an array of ways that we may not even realize. One of those ways is how carbohydrates actually interact with tryptophan.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps our bodies create serotonin and melatonin. If you are not already familiar, melatonin is the hormone our bodies product in order to induce sleep. While we get most of our tryptophan from protein rich foods, carbohydrates help us to utilize that tryptophan in the brain.
Without being able to properly process tryptophan, we are unable to properly produce the amount of serotonin and melatonin that we need in order to get to sleep. This is typically what occurs when people are experiencing low carb diet insomnia. They are not processing their tryptophan properly. Carbohydrates can be very helpful in this process, making it easier for your body to produce it’s own melatonin.
Learn more about Tryptophan in our post: Why Does Tryptophan Make You Sleepy?
How to Use Carb Crashing For Your Benefit:
We touched on the idea of carb crashing (drop in energy after eating simple carbs) a bit earlier in this article. However, we wanted to show a different aspect of carb crashing that you could actually use to your benefit.
Carb crashing is a term for the drop in energy you feel shortly after eating a large amount of simple carbs or sugars. This is caused by the blood sugar spike and following blood sugar crash that you experience after eating simple carbs and sugars.
While this is typically a nuisance as you are trying to stay awake and alert throughout the day. This could actually help you to get some sleep in the evenings. Especially if you happen to be on a low carb diet.
If you have a certain amount of carbs you eat per day in your low carb diet, try to save those carbs up for your last meal of the day. This way, if you do experience a bit of a carb crash you are doing so right before bed. Which could actually help you get to sleep quicker. Another area that carbohydrates affect your sleep.
Want to learn more about the foods your eat and how they affect your sleep? Head over to our post: Best And Worst Foods Before Bed
Low Carb Diets & Sleep: Pros vs Cons
Low Carb Diet & Sleep Pros:
One of the most common benefits of going on a low carb diet is the overall boost in energy. Not only do low carb diets help to increase energy, you have a more consistent level of energy throughout the day. Without the spikes in blood sugar, your body has more reliable longer lasting sources of energy instead. Which allows your body to process and put out energy more consistently.
Another potential benefit that a low carbohydrate diet can have on your sleep is through weight loss. When you are carrying extra weight, this can cause many issues with sleep and your energy levels. By loosing weight you could experience a great increase in sleep quantity and quality.
Low Carb Diet & Sleep Cons:
For some people there is a point when their low carb diet can actually cause bouts of insomnia. This typically happens when your body gets to the point of being in a state of ketosis. It is believed it may be the bodies ability to get tryptophan to the brain. With so many other amino acids in the blood stream from being in a state of ketosis, the tryptophan has much more competition. This can lead to something referred to as Keto Insomnia.
When you are first getting into a low carbohydrate diet you may feel a bit more lethargic and hungry than usual. This is because your body is still used to getting it’s energy from carbs. While your body is still adjusting to using fats as a fuel source, you may even experience flu like symptoms. This is often called the Keto Flu.
While the Keto Flu is a temporary stage that some people never even experience, it can take a great toll on your sleep and energy for that time. If your goal is to lose weight, then eventually the pros will outweigh the cons when it comes to going low carb. However, these are some set backs that are good to keep in mind and be aware of before you start a low carb diet.
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Do Carbohydrates Affect Your Sleep?
Like any kind of diet, there are pros and cons to a carbohydrate based diet. This is especially true when it comes to having a healthy even level of energy throughout the day. While low carb diets also have their own pros and cons when it comes to your sleep and energy levels. We suggest working with a healthy diet and find what works best for you. Different people often experience different benefits and drawbacks to different ways of eating. Finding what works best for you and your health is what is most important.
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