Blood Sugar Regulation
All aspects of human physiology are affected by blood sugar regulation. Mic drop, see you guys next week! Just kidding, but in all honesty blood sugar is probably my favorite subject to talk about for that very reason. We can improve our energy production and balance, hormonal balance, mood, cognitive function and memory simply by optimizing this system. Of course nothing worthwhile is ever all that “simple”. However, if we ignore imbalances in our blood sugar we will fail to achieve optimal health and instead be faced with erratic energy output, glycation and oxidative stress.
As human beings, we need to be able to think, move, digest, stay warm, rebuild, detoxify and rest, all requiring energy to do so. This energy comes from converting the macronutrients we eat into ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate). All three macronutrients are important to creating cellular structures, which is why a balance of nutrient-dense foods is so important. When it comes to fueling your metabolism, carbohydrates are like “kindling” on the fire. We burn through them fast and need to replenish them often. Fats are like “logs” that burn slow and sustain us throughout the day. Fats also have a much more vast storage system for energy than carbohydrates, the trick is being able to effectively tap into this system, which requires low levels of circulating insulin.
These days, with the accessibility of processed foods we can easily raise our blood sugar to levels that lead to metabolic issues without even realizing it. While some processed foods may be labeled as “fortified” and “enriched” with nutrients, they are also likely laced with high amounts of added sugars. One cup of Raisin Bran, for example, has 19 grams of sugar, which is shocking only until you also realize that most protein bars have between 11-18 grams of sugar as well (which is more than 3 Oreos!). This high dose of sugar shocks the bloodstream and causes an insulin spike, as a cascade of hormones quickly start transporting glucose (sugar) to where it can be used or stored. Once we’ve burned through this quick fuel, we are left feeling ravenous and starving again, in need of another quick sugar (or caffeine) fix to get our blood sugar back up. This constant rollercoaster eventually leads to insulin resistance, as the sugar storage units become full, and insulin loses effectiveness.
If we can hop off of this rollercoaster and find a nice lazy river to rebalance and re-energize, our bodies will regain metabolic flexibility, which means they will be able to convert back to burning both fats and carbohydrates for fuel. We can do this in a number of ways but the easiest way to begin is by cutting out processed foods and added sugars. Even fake sugars elicit a blood sugar response in the brain! Secondly, adding in healthy fats like fish oil, coconut oil, cold-pressed olive oil and pastured animal fats like butter and ghee will provide our bodies with the kinds of fats that are easily converted into energy. Lastly lowering the amount of simple carbohydrates we consume for a period of time will keep the body in a more optimal blood sugar range throughout the day, leaving the afternoon energy crashes in the past.
This metabolic flexibility provides efficient metabolism of all three macronutrients, consistent energy levels and reduced cravings throughout the day, and the ability to tap into stored energy in glycogen and adipose(fat) tissue to fuel function of the body. Maintaining this system not only allows us to put in more work in the gym, but also will support our daily workload, relationships and sleep quality, so think twice before you grab that box of cereal!