In the previous blog, Use Carbs, Don’t Cut Them, we discussed carbohydrates, the difference between simple and complex carbs, and their role in our diet. We found that carbs are our primary source of energy due to the minimal effort required to convert carbs to glucose. We also learned about the energy chain and the order in which calories get burned. The energy chain is important and helps us understand why we struggle to burn unwanted fat. Before we dive into fats, though, I want to share the impact our blood sugar levels have on our health goals.
Why stabilize blood sugar?
In the last blog, we mentioned that when we consume refined carbs, we get a rapid increase in blood sugar and a corresponding surge in energy. Unfortunately, energy surge comes with a crash as our body scrambles to balance our blood sugar levels. If repeated frequently throughout the day, this can lead to a host of problems ranging from irritability, tiredness, and headache in the short term to fatigue and weight gain in the long term.
According to Brian Keane, a 20-year veteran fitness model and author of The Fitness Mindset, stabilizing our blood sugar can not only improve our energy levels, increase our body’s ability to burn fat, and aid in building muscle, but it can also nearly eliminate cravings altogether. In his book, he shares various strategies for stabilizing our blood sugar levels. I have consolidated these into 5 tips, which I will share, along with some of the insights I have learned.
Here are your 5 tips…
1. Eat something small every 2-3 hours
It is important to operate off a framework of three main meals each day. However, an active body will need more than three main meals to maintain consistent blood sugar levels. Of course, consistent blood sugar levels translate to consistent energy levels.
I recommend supplementing with a healthy snack in between each meal. This snack could be 50-100g of Greek yogurt, pumpkin seeds, a handful of almonds, vegetables, or a protein shake. Stay away from any microwave-ready or dessert-like snacks as these will only defeat the purpose by spiking your blood sugar levels. Also, avoid breakfast and protein bars that are loaded with sugars. Think natural. After all, “natural” describes our body and “natural” is what it recognizes.
2. Avoid processed foods
Processed foods negatively affect the body. The “process” extracts original ingredients and their nutrients and replaces them with sugars for preservation. When consumed, these sugars cause dramatic increases in blood sugar levels. A crash follows the energy surge, which often drives us to repeat the pattern again and again, and usually with microwaveable or ready-to-eat packaged foods. The cyclical fluctuation in blood sugar leaves us fighting cravings which are generated by the very foods we eat. Who hasn’t looked for a quick fix out of a vending machine? Planning is key. If we fail to plan, we plan to fail, and eventually will find ourselves at the vending machine once again.
It is also worth noting that when blood sugars are out of balance our body struggles to efficiently convert carbs to energy. Some can get a mild to moderate insulin resistance leading to a lack of nutrient absorbsion for healthy nerve and muscle cells. This can have a detrimental affect on fat loss and/or muscle building goals.
3. Eat more vegetables
Vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, all while being low on calories. Therefore, adding vegetables to our main meals, whether in salad form or as sides, serve as nutrient-rich foods that are great replacements to processed foods. Vegetables also make great snacks between meals that help maintain consistent blood sugar levels.
4. Eat more fat!
Eating a higher level of fat, particularly healthy fat like Omega 3 from oily fish, can do tremendous work towards balancing blood sugar levels. If we only eat a diet with good hormone-boosting fats, nutrient dense vegetables, and quality protein sources, it’s unlikely we will have any blood sugar issues.
5. Eat slow releasing carbs at insulin sensitive times.
In the morning and after a workout we are particularly insulin sensitive, meaning our body is likely to digest carbs efficiently and not store them as fat. Obviously, the degree to which our bodies do this varies by metabolism.
In summary, the keys to keeping our blood sugar levels are planning and timing our meals and keeping our body fueled with quality food.
Today, we learned the value in stable blood sugar levels and the impact they have in our every day lives. I shared five tips to stabilizing our blood sugar levels along with some insights I have discovered. In the next blog, we will break down a different macro—fat. You won’t want to miss it!
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