What is blood sugar?
When we talk about blood sugar, we’re talking about the levels of glucose in your blood at a certain point. Whether the levels are in check and balanced is important, otherwise we go into what we call hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). Both are bad news.
All food raises blood sugar on some level. Of course some foods lead to a more aggressive increase than others, and these are the ones that tend to cause problems. These are the ones we need to avoid. Our main offenders are sugary drinks, sweets, refined grains, desserts etc.
Why does it matter?
When blood sugar increases, our pancreas needs to produce a hormone called ‘insulin’ in order to transport the sugar to the cells around our body into our cells, subsequently bringing blood sugar down.
Insulin serves a purpose … storage!
From that last word, perhaps you see a problem.
Too much of the wrong types of food leads to high blood sugar. This leads to high insulin levels. This leads to health problems and increases in body fat.
As well as adding to your waist-line, chronically elevated blood sugar can also contribute to a whole myriad of other health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and brain degeneration.
You may have heard of the phrase ‘insulin resistance’ – which is essentially the diabetic continuum. If your body is chronically exposed to insulin (as it is with the sugar-monsters of the world), your body can begin to become less responsive to the presence of insulin over time. Now if this is happening in your body and insulin can no longer do its job efficiently, it means blood sugar remains consistently high… Diabetes! Body fat! Poor health!
Indications you may be managing your blood sugar badly:
- You are overweight.
- You aren’t necessarily overweight, but you store fat around your middle – especially the ‘love handles’
- You crave stimulants e.g. coffee
- You feel lethargic upon waking, and don’t tend to perk up until a few hours into the day.
- You struggle with concentrating for more than a few minutes.
- You get tired easily.
- You lose your patience easily / susceptible to mood swings.
- You crave unhealthy foods e.g. pasta, bread, anything sweet.
One way to check whether or not you have a problem with sugar management is by running a fasted blood glucose test. I believe you can get this test through the NHS in the UK.
Alternatively, you can buy an iBG Star blood glucose monitor online or from Boots, to check your own blood sugar first thing in the morning before breakfast. This device is pretty cool – easy to use and compatible with your iphone.
Strategies to control blood sugar
1. NUTRITION: Change your macronutrients
- Eat less carbohydrates.
- Eat more protein.
- Eat more healthy fats.
If there is one thing you should take away from this blog, this is it!
Fats slow digestion, and therefore slow any increase in blood sugar. Protein also mitigates the response whilst carbohydrate-based meals are the ones that tend to lead to the sugar spikes we want to avoid.
This doesn’t mean carbohydrates are evil. But what it does mean is that a diet of 30% carbs, 35% protein, 35% fat may be a better idea than the conventional 55:15:30.
2. NUTRITION: Add more fibrous veggies to your diet.
3. NUTRITION: Make sure you’re getting enough omega-3 fats in your diet
Oily fish or a fish oil supplement should do the trick.
4. NUTRITION: Spice your food / shakes with cinnamon.
Taken alongside your meals which contain carbohydrates, cinnamon is very useful in managing blood sugar.
5. NUTRITION: Take fenugreek alongside meals, or use it in your recipes
6. SUPPLEMENTATION: Take the supplement R-ALA (R-alpha lipoic acid)
Yang R-ALA is a popular Poliquin R-ALA supplement that contains acetyl l-carnitine. I’m a big fan, personally.
7. SUPPLEMENTATION: Take a chromium supplement.
8. LIFESTYLE: Reduce stress levels.
Inevitably, stress raises the stress hormone – cortisol. Once this has happened, soon enough your blood sugar will drop – signalling to your body that it needs to bring your blood sugar up again. And remember that your body is a very clever and efficient machine … It manages to do this by breaking down proteins (gluconeogenesis) to bring blood sugar up again.
We want to avoid this situation of sharp dips and peaks.
9. TRAINING: Ditch most long-duration aerobic work, instead for anaerobic resistance training and sprint sessions, to improve insulin sensitivity.
As you can see, most of the above strategies are things that will help you control body-fat levels in any case. The fact is that body composition and blood sugar are inherently tied together.
The correlation between type 2 diabetes / heart disease and being overweight isn’t an accident. Nor is the fact that when you start to make nutritional and lifestyle changes to manage your blood sugar more efficiently, you get visibly leaner and drop body fat even after a few short days.
This is typically the first thing that should be addressed in a fat loss programme. An element of time devoted toward improving blood sugar management, controlling insulin and resetting leptin sensitivity leads to fast, but safe, weight loss.
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