Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Chemist Walks into a Bar...

I crack myself up!

Number of days that I've been sugar free: 50

Mini update: So far so good as far as sticking to my resolution.  I haven't had a drop of wine...not a drop.  I haven't had a single cookie, chocolate, slice of cake...nothing sweet.    I was planning on making it to the end of February but since there's this thing that we Catholics call "Lent" happening right now, maybe I'll use that as an excuse and participate for once to keep this going. (My grandmother would be proud at least).

If you're wondering if I miss any of the foods I've given up my answer is NOPE!  First of all, the great thing about going cold turkey on the sweets is the less you eat them the less you crave them.  So no, I don't miss them.  I'll designate my birthday as a day of celebration and have sweets and alcohol then.  It's a ways off though.   But more importantly, I don't have time to suffer a hang over considering I have class all day Saturday, and Sunday's are dedicated long run days (for now because guess what starts next weekend.... SOCCER!!! Oh soccer, I've missed you so much. I knew I couldn't stay away all winter.  I started going to a weekly conditioning/skills camp to get ready for the season.  Always need to work on my touch with the ball and I definitely need to improve my sprints.)

Anyway, having no time seems to be a running theme with me lately, hence the lack of updates.  But all the free time I did have between semesters I now spend studying Molecular and Cellular Biology, which is another pre-requisite for the Dietetics degree I am working towards.

I've learned some neat stuff in class so far.  For example... you know when you feel that lactic acid burn when you work out but it goes away pretty quickly.  Well that's your bodies bicarbonate buffer system restoring your blood to it's normal pH levels (7.35-7.45--slightly acidic but that's the normal range).  Pretty neat how the body works to return to it's normal functioning levels very quickly isn't it?  That is called homeostasis.  All living organisms practice homeostasis.

Also, I've learned about the molecular structure of Carbohydrates, Lipids, Proteins and Nucleic Acid.  Proteins are really complicated and there's a lot more I will learn about them in the future.  Carbohydrates, naturally I was interested in learning about since they get a lot of bad rep.  They're a good source of quick energy which we already knew, but what are they made of?  These unanswered questions I've had are why I want to be a dietitian, I really want to know how all this works, how it breaks down in the body.

So back to Carbs, essentially they're made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms (ratio 1:2:1). Carbo-Hydrate... Carbon and water, get it?  Deoxyribose a  component of DNA is actually a carbohydrate!  Who knew.  Anyway,  carbohydrates or saccharides are found as either monosaccharides, disaccharides, or polysaccharides.  A common example of a disaccharide is table sugar.  Sugar is made up of one monomer of glucose and a monomer of fructose (which is the sugar found in fruit).  Polysaccharides (ie your starches, rice wheat, root vegetables etc) are just made up of many glucose monomers so when you break them down it's simply breaking down into those smaller glucose monomers and as I stated above glucose is a sugar, which is why we need to portion our carbs (fruit and dairy included-lactose is a natural sugar found in milk) no matter how healthy we think it is!

Lipids (fats, waxes, steroids) are even better than carbohydrates for long term energy storage.  So get the idea that fat is evil out of your head.  Not all fats are created equal.  Lipids are essential to life.  They are the barriers of cells, they insulate and cushion organs, they provide energy, testosterone and estrogen are lipids!  Cholesterol is a lipid and actually occurs naturally in the body (I will learn more about the healthy levels the HDL and the bad levels the LDL at some point).  Saturated and unsaturated fat are pretty neat chains called triglycerides.  Triglycerides are made up of a glycerol group and three fatty acid tails. (again Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen are the key atoms).  What makes a fat saturated or unsaturated is the bonding between the carbon atoms.  If there is a double bond in the chain then it creates a kink in the tail.  Saturated fatty acids do not have this kink which allows for more hydrogen bonds (side note: If you've ever looked at a nutrition label and seen the term "hydrogenated oil" or "hydrogenated fat"  this literally means they are treated with hydrogen, complete hydrogenation turns an unsaturated fat into a saturated fat which can turn a vegetable oil in to a solid or semi-solid (think of margarine) but the biggest reason this is done is because it is less expensive to use a vegetable oil in commercial cooking than a animal fats. Partial Hydrogenation (trans fats) are known to cause coronary heart disease-- So the lesson here is read your food labels and avoid these types of fats!!)  Back to saturated fatty acids:  This (lack of double bond) also means they are more linear and easier to stack up.  This is why they are solid in room temperature.  The kink in unsaturated fatty acids will not allow them to settle so commonly they are found as oils.

I got to make a saturated fatty acid chain during lab... 
it's kinda like playing with legos :)

So there you have it... my basic knowledge of biology and chemistry... just remember this:  I am a former fine art photography major.  I went to art school, if you've seen art school confidential then that was my experience in college.  So slowly but surely I am grasping this subject material.  This, this is a difficult subject for me, and why I have no life right now, but it will be worth it.  If I've learned anything these past few years it's that I am certainly not a slacker and if I work hard and apply myself I will achieve success.  Last semester I tackled college algebra after 11 years away from the subject, I got an A and a perfect score on my final  (yes I'm bragging because, I really EARNED that). And I will continue to work hard to earn that next A.   Plus I'm really looking forward to sharing more of my nutritional knowledge with you in the future :)