By Stephenie Karony

Wednesday, September 22, 1999

Balance carbos, proteins

Question: Can eating carbohydrates affect my behavior?

Answer: Carbohydrates can influence how you feel, but generally the effects are more subtle than significant. The exception is if you're suffering from a carbohydrate deficiency. It has long been known that being undernourished in any nutrient can reduce mental and physical performance.

Most theories associated with how food affects behavior revolve around neurotransmitters. These are brain chemicals that exert control over many of your body's functions, including mood, temperature, and appetite. Out of the many neurotransmitters that exist, only a few are sensitive to food. The foods that affect neurotransmitters are carbohydrates, such as grains, bread and pasta, and proteins, such as meats, fish and dairy foods.

Here's how it works:

Studies suggest eating a meal high in carbohydrates will make you calm and sleepy. Let's say you just ate a big bowl of pasta. In response to the meal, your blood level of amino acids (the building blocks of protein) falls. However, the level of one amino acid, tryptophan, rises.

With the other amino acid levels lower, tryptophan has a competitive advantage for entry (via the blood stream) into the brain. Once there, it stimulates the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Increased serotonin production in your brain leads to feelings of calm and even drowsiness.

To avoid this drowsy calming effect, add a protein to the meal.

Added protein (made up of amino acids) prevents blood levels of amino acids from dropping, thus eliminating tryptophan's competitive advantage.

Protein added to a meal reduces serotonin production so you feel more alert, awake and "with it."

Be sure you add a protein, not eliminate the carbohydrate food.

Why? Because carbohydrates are our main source of fuel (energy). If you live an active lifestyle you'll need more carbs than protein on a daily basis. About 55 percent of your total daily calories should come from grains, starches, fruits and vegetables, about 15 percent to 20 percent from fat, mostly unsaturated fat, and about 25 to 30 percent from protein foods - preferably vegetable proteins such as beans and legumes, low fat dairy products, some fish and poultry, and very little beef and pork.

Q: What is the difference between a sprain and a strain? Are both injuries treated in the same way?

A: A sprain is an injury to a ligament, the tissue that connects one bone to another at the joints.

A strain, commonly called a pulled muscle, is an injury to the muscle and tendon unit. Tendons connect muscle to bone.

A strain is easily treated by applying RICE: rest, ice, compression and elevation. With proper treatment, a pulled muscle usually heals quickly.

A sprain also responds to the RICE treatment, but sprains are more serious than strains and often require medical treatment.

Sprains take more time to heal and sometimes require that one wear a cast or use crutches.

Stephenie Karony is a certified health
and fitness instructor, a personal trainer and the author of
"Body Shaping with Free Weights." Send questions to her at
P.O. Box 262, Wailuku Hi. Her column appears on Wednesdays.

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