'Healthy' breakfast may not be so healthy

Oh, wow! What a week, huh?

Another Christmas in the books of time and a new year is right around the corner. Bring on 2010, I say!

Just on a side note before I start this week's column. You have roughly one more week to submit your essays for consideration to be selected to participate in my case study. As you know from last week's column, I will be giving away a training membership to a deserving male and female who are serious about changing their lives. I have really enjoyed reading the submissions so far and look forward to reading more this week!

So, I was having a conversation with a client the other day about someone very close to her who was having an issue with low energy levels in the morning after breakfast. When the question arose of what types of food was being eaten, the problem quickly showed its evil head.

The truth is, this particular individual was eating what appeared to be a better breakfast than most; however, he was setting himself up for an all day battle with fatigue. The day in, day out meal of choice was oatmeal with some sort of protein bar and juice or soy milk. Now, I know what you're thinking, "That's not that bad." Right?

Well, look at it like this -- carbohydrate/sugar (aatmeal), a little protein combined with more sugar (protein bar) and more sugar (juice) ... get the picture?

Carbohydrates that derive from oats, breads and grains are much harder for your body to digest than those that come from fruits and vegetables. Although the oats do have fiber enzymes that promote digestion, depending on what kind of oats you get, there may be little to no nutritional value. The most horrific part about all of this is that if we are not careful, meals and diets like this can lead to even more serious issues.

Let's break it down ... carbohydrates turn into sugar for your body to digest. In fact, 5 grams of carbohydrates are equal to one teaspoon of sugar, according to the latest Carbohydrate to Sugar Conversion Chart.

Excessive carbohydrates increase blood levels of insulin. Insulin is the "master" hormone that is responsible for putting nutrients into cells.

Why does this matter? Well, if insulin levels are too high, then our bodies will not be able to get the nutrients back out, thus converting those carbohydrates into stored body fat. The only way to control insulin is through controlling your carbohydrate intake.

Many people produce so much insulin that their bodies are unable to absorb it all. As a result they wind up with an excess of insulin in their bloodstream, which will lead to all sorts of problems.

For a healthy body, we want low insulin levels to get the most of what we can from insulin. This is defined as "insulin sensitivity." This imbalance leads to a cycle in which they experience overpowering cravings for a carbohydrate diet, such as breads, pastas, snack foods and cakes. When they eat carbohydrates, the body releases even more insulin. The result is constant hunger pangs, intense and recurrent cravings for excess carbohydrates, easy weight gain, difficulty losing weight and lack of energy.

Pop quiz -- this was not in your notes, by the way -- What happens when the body does not produce enough insulin or we have taken in so much that our bodies are no longer sensitive to it?

Can you say diabetes?

Contrary to popular belief, diabetes is an environmental insult, therefore we are not genetically predisposed to have it. We may always have Mom's nose or Dad's eyes, but chances are if we develop their diabetes, then it's because we ate their food growing up and continue to eat it today.

I am sure that you all remember the famous actor Wilford Brimley and his longtime promotion for a certain oatmeal company, right? What other commercial is he now famous for? Interesting...

Thank you for reading this week's column and I hope they continue to be beneficial! Feel free to e-mail me with any fitness related questions and I will get them answered in a timely manner. On behalf of my family, happy holidays and, as always, thanks for reading The Herald!

E-mail fitness columnist Kris Morrill, certified personal trainer and owner of World Camp Fitness in Albany, at kris@worldcampfitnesstraining.com.