With today’s growing diabetes rates becoming epidemic blood sugar management has become a major topic of interest. Imbalanced blood sugar levels are at the heart of many health issues from diabetes and obesity to heart disease. In this article, we are going to have a closer look at blood sugar management and how it affects your health.
To function optimally we need to keep our blood sugars well balanced. For most this relates to a measurement between 4.0-5.9 mmol/L with only small fluctuations throughout the day and a rapid return to base line soon after eating. We also sleep far better when our blood sugar is stable.
The most common issue we see with blood sugar management is chronic hyperglycemia which relates to chronically high blood sugar due mainly to:
Hyperglcemia ( high blood sugar )
- Poor diet
- High body fat
- High insulin resistance
When someone is insulin resistant, glucose cannot effectively enter into the cell. Because blood sugar is not adequately entering the cells, it stays in general circulation rather than being stored. As a result, the body must produce higher levels of insulin to remove glucose from the blood stream, which causes even greater metabolic dysfunction.
If left un checked this leads to diabetes. For more information, please read our article on Controlling Insulin & blood sugar.
The majority of advice is geared towards keeping blood sugars down as many people now suffer with high blood sugar. What is often missed is that having regular dips in blood sugar known as hypoglycaemia, this refers to low blood sugar.
Hypoglecemia ( low blood sugar )
- Eating schedule
- Too much stress
- Unbalanced diet
Fluctuations in blood sugar are often caused by excessive stress. Symptoms include lightheadedness, irritability, shakiness and sugar cravings.
The bodies normal response to low blood sugar is to release cortisol which drives the release of glucose from the liver via gluconeogenesis. However chronic stress can lead to the body relying on adrenalin to elevate blood sugar, this has the negative effect of causing big fluctuations.
Matt and Roan recently ran a mini experiment using the ‘Freestyle Libre’ blood glucose monitor. This is a fantastic innovation where by you can measure blood glucose instantaneously without the need to draw blood with a lancet. The device measures interstitial fluid which is a thin layer of fluid surrounding cells of tissue. There is a 5-10 minute delay to changes in blood glucose.
The big advantage with continuous monitoring is not only the convenience of testing but also the fact you get an overview of the whole day including when you are sleeping and training.
It has only been the last few weeks that we have been using the glucose monitor both on ourselves and with some of our clients, therefore we can’t draw any definitive conclusions however it has certainly raised some interesting findings which we feel worth mentioning:
As mentioned previously there is no one diet to suit all, this point was really emphasised when we compared how different individuals responded to different types of carbohydrate:
- White rice: Roan – no response even with big quantities / Matt – big spike in blood sugar.
- Sweet potatoes: Roan bigger response compared to white potatoes / Matt less of a response compared to white potatoes.
- Quinoa: Roan big response / Matt – no response.
Like we have always suspected stress has a powerful effect on blood sugar.
A great example is that a client had a simple breakfast of salmon and avocado on the weekend which had a minimal effect on blood sugar. The same client then repeated the breakfast the next day but after a hectic journey into work, the resulting blood sugars showed a marked spike despite being the same meal.
Another interesting side note on stress is what happened to blood sugar whilst training.
Roan – Minimal elevation in blood sugar doing strength training, however when Roan played rugby the blood sugars shot up to his highest readings, this is likely due to the extra adrenalin produced in live matches.
Matt – had big spikes in blood sugar when training, although the type of training was more hypertrophy based which meant going to failure and having incomplete recoveries.
Dips in blood sugar correlate to poor sleep and foggy headiness in the morning. When first monitoring blood glucose Roan noticed that he experienced several big drops in blood sugar during the night. Although Roan did not wake it still suggests that sleep would not have been as deep and restorative as it could be. Subsequently Roan has added a small dose of slow release carbohydrate pre bed and has noticed a much steadier blood sugar level throughout the night and thus more restful sleep.
Similar patterns have been observed with some clients, who have since improved their sleep with some additional carbohydrate at night.
By gathering some objective data on how our bodies responded to different foods further highlighted just how individual we all are in relation to diet. With this in mind it is important to get as ’in tune’ as possible with how you feel and function after different meals. For example if eating sweet potatoes make you feel very sluggish and foggy headed then it’s probably a good idea to find an alternative carbohydrate source say butternut squash.
The above experiment also highlighted just how powerful stress is when it comes to blood sugar. This further highlighted the need to eat in as stress free environment as possible and to make the time to eat properly. A good start it to follow the 5 10 15 rule when eating:
Before eating a meal:
- 5 – take 5 deep belly breaths (helps switch on your parasympathetic nervous system).
- 10 – for every mouthful put down your knife and fork for 10 secs (helps prevent bloating).
- 15 – take a minimum of 15 minutes to eat your meal (give your body a chance to digest).
Finally keeping your blood sugars stable at night is really important if you want to optimise sleep. If you have been on a low carbohydrate diet try experimenting with a small portion of slow release carbohydrate such as oats pre bed. See if you notice feeling any different the following morning.
Finally, utilising tools such as the ‘freestyle libre’ blood glucose monitor helps us develop a greater understanding of how our bodies respond to our lifestyle. This information can only help us become more in tune with our bodies and subsequently better manage our diet and lifestyle.
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