4 Easy Steps to Healthy Blood Sugar Regulation
Your blood sugar levels makes a huge difference on your overall health. There are many different factors that regulate your blood sugar, and many things which are effected by your blood sugar levels. We are going to take a 3,000ft overview of how to get a better handle on your blood sugar and the effects it has on your body.
Insulin is one of the most powerful hormones in the body. The affect it has on blood sugar and fat storage is what we will primarily focus on in this article. What we need to know is that insulin allows sugar to enter your cells, including your muscle cells, which allows it to be burned for energy. With a high sugar diet your body begins to produce insulin at high rates and your body begins to build up a resistance to the effectiveness of insulin, this is called insulin resistance. With less effective insulin in the blood stream your body continually releases more and more to get the responses it needs. These increased insulin levels have many different damaging effects on the body and wreak havoc on the system. Some of these damaging effects include increased Triglyceride and LDL cholesterol production. To top it off insulin also promotes inflammation on a systemic level. This inflammation causes free radicals to form which then turn the LDL cholesterol into plaque. The buildup of this plaque can lead to atherosclerosis and hardening or the arteries. This will cause many heart problems including a heart attack. Increased insulin and insulin resistance causes the body to store excess fat, particularly in the belly. Insulin not only increases signals for fat storage but they also decrease signals for fat breakdown or burning. While I could go on about the negative side effects of insulin resistance, that not the point of this article. I want to show you a way to avoid these issues and, in turn, feel and look better.
First, let’s look at what happens with a typical high sugar breakfast. Right away your blood sugar spikes and begins to approach what I call the blood sugar ceiling. This is the highest level of blood sugar your body can tolerate. Once you hit this ceiling your body becomes stressed and needs to change. It wants to bring the blood sugar levels down, so it releases insulin. The insulin does a great job of bring the blood sugar down. In fact, it does almost too good of a job. Blood sugars begin to decline rapidly and approaches what I call the blood sugar basement.
Once your blood sugar drops below the tolerable level its releases another hormone called Cortisol which is the stress hormone. This is another very powerful hormone we will talk about in detail at another time. Cortisol causes your body to release more sugar so it can continue burning it. Similarly, to insulin it causes an increase in belly fat and increases your bodies resistance to insulin. Just like insulin, cortisol does a great job and blood sugars begin to rise to high. And we start the up and down roller coaster of blood sugars. The diagram below shows these peaks and valleys and what happens to the body during this roller coaster.
You can see this in your day to day life. Let’s look at a typical day with a standard American diet. Start off the day with a high carb breakfast and sugary coffee. With no fats or proteins to blunt the blood sugar response they begin to rise. You get to work and are already feeling sluggish and brain fog after only reading a few emails. You begin to crash and it’s not even lunch time yet. You’re so fatigued and can’t even think straight so you head to get some lunch a little early. Cortisol is running wild in your body and you are desperately craving something sweet. So, you stop in for a sweet coffee drink on your way back to the office after you fatty fast food meal. Blood sugar goes through the ceiling yet again and insulin is released and that temporary high you got from the sugary coffee disappears. Now, you are in the dreaded early afternoon slump. Again, your cortisol is released and you feel foggy and unproductive the rest of the day. This is a small sample of what goes on day in and day out. As you can see your breakfast makes a big difference in that way the rest of your day ends up.
Follow these 4 steps to help maintain healthy blood sugars
One of the best steps you can take in controlling your blood sugar levels and, therefore, your insulin levels is by starting the day off with a good healthy breakfast. This will help you keep your blood sugars more even and level throughout the day. More healthy fat and protein will blunt the insulin/blood sugar response. The beauty of having a healthy breakfast is that it keeps your blood sugar within the normal ranges. Your body doesn’t get stressed out and have huge insulin and cortisol releases. You can maintain a steady state all day long and keep your energy and mental levels consistent.
Snacking throughout the day can help avoid the huge peaks and valleys you get when you starve yourself and then binge eat. As I mentioned earlier, it is critical to keep a consistent blood sugar level without breaching the ceiling or basement I described earlier. Some good snaking ideas are nuts, vegetables, or a protein shake. It’s a good idea to have these per packaged and measured out. This helps keep serving sizes consistent.
Simple sugars breakdown into the blood quickly and cause large spikes in your blood sugars and, therefore, your insulin levels. Complex carbs with low glycemic index (click here for info on glycemic index) break down into the system slowly and don’t cause large spikes in blood sugar. Some good examples of complex carbs are sweet potato, Oatmeal and whole grains, and hummus with veggies.
Exercise allows your body to absorb blood sugars without the use of insulin. This helps prevent insulin resistance and the effectiveness of the insulin your body does release. This is great because you can decrease the amount of collateral damage caused by in the insulin. Don’t think this needs to be a formal workout in a gym. Just get active and start moving around. Something as simple as taking a walk while you have your lunch on the go. Go on a quick hike or do some easy body weight exercises when you get a break.