Raise your hand if any of these sound familiar:
You take the term hangry to an all new level.
If you miss a meal, you are super irritable and say things you later regret.
You feel like a brand-new person after you eat.
You find it super difficult to lose weight.
You constantly crave sugar.
You always feel thirsty and use the bathroom a lot.
You often feel anxious and sluggish.
You find it difficult to concentrate and stay focused.
You have trouble sleeping through the night.
Your cuts and bruises seem to take a long time to heal.
If you are sitting there thinking, "Yes! Yes! Yes!", the problem could be that your blood sugar is out of whack.
But don't stress. Fortunately, there are simple things you can do to better balance your blood sugar, improve your energy, enhance your mood, productivity and metabolism. But before we get to that, let's go back to the basics.
Blood Sugar 101
Blood sugar (also known as blood glucose) is the sugar that the bloodstream carries to all cells in the body to supply us with energy. The sugar comes from the food we eat. Your blood sugar levels change throughout the day and are typically at their lowest point before your first meal.
After you eat, the body responds by secreting insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas that allows your body to either use the glucose from your food, or store it for future use. Insulin regulates your blood sugar levels, and tries to prevent them from getting too high or too low. Consistently elevated blood sugar levels is what often leads to insulin resistance, which can then result in pre diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
When your blood sugar is balanced you'll likely feel energetic, happy, productive, and sleep well.
When your blood sugar is imbalanced, you are either at a brief sugar high or at the bottom of a crash.
Our brains need glucose to stay alert and when we’re running low, we have a hard time staying focused and our attention drifts. That’s why you might find it really hard to concentrate on an empty stomach.
Here is what happens when you are operating within high, stable and low levels of blood sugar. You can see how having stable blood sugar levels is optimal and will help you release fat, protect lean muscle, avoid cravings and increase energy.
If you think your blood sugar may be out of whack, there are some easy lifestyle changes you can make to get it back in balance.
Here are 12 simple things you can do to control your blood sugar:
1. Avoid foods that cause a major spike in blood sugar
Like refined white sugar, white breads and pastas, or anything high on the Glycemic Index like soda.
The Glycemic Index is a numerical scale that tells us how quickly and by how much a particular food can raise blood sugar. The lower the GI or glycemic load, the less it affects blood sugar and insulin levels.
Foods with a Low GI score, like apples, grapefruit, broccoli, lentils, nuts and seeds are great for keeping blood sugar levels stable.
Foods with a Medium GI score are good when you need quick energy, but don’t want to spike your blood sugar. Medium GI foods include brown rice, oatmeal, sweet potatoes and peas.
You can learn more about the GI Index
2. Plan your meals.
When you take the time to meal plan with fresh, good quality ingredients, it can really help control your blood sugar and ultimately improve your mood, energy and overall health!
3. Focus on eating nutrient-dense meals
Use fresh ingredients and avoid processed foods. When you fill your plate with colourful, whole foods that are minimally processed and low GI, they work to lower your blood sugar levels and avoid spikes, while foods with added sugars can heighten glucose levels.
4. Eat smaller more frequent meals throughout the day.
Think breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner and well, yes, maybe another snack!
Large, infrequent meals will cause bigger shifts in blood sugar, than smaller more frequent meals. This means smaller portions throughout the day with simple snacks will help maintain steadier blood sugar levels. Be prepared, plan your meals and bring snacks with you.
5. Ensure your main meals are well balanced.
They should include protein, healthy fats and fiber. When we consume healthy sources of carbohydrates with plenty of good fat and protein, the glucose from the meal enters our blood slowly, which is what we want.
6. Eat breakfast!
By eating breakfast that has a source of protein and complex carbohydrates within an hour of waking, you will provide your body with a source of fuel that will slow down the release of glucose in the system.
7. Choose natural sweeteners
You want to avoid the roller coaster of blood sugar spikes and crashes that come from refined white sugars and high fructose corn syrup. Choose natural sweeteners in moderation like raw honey, dates and pure maple syrup. Many natural sweeteners also have the added bonus of providing you with essential vitamins and minerals.
8. Avoid fasting most of the day and then having a giant lunch or dinner.
Fasting for an extended period of time and then indulging in a heavy meal will send your blood sugar and insulin levels on a rollercoaster of highs and lows. Not to mention, it puts additional stress on your digestive system as it has to break everything down at once.
9. Make sure you’re getting enough protein.
This will help slow the release of glucose into your bloodstream when it's included with every meal. Protein is also important for the growth and repair of muscle tissue. Check how much you need with this calculator.
10. Don’t shy away from healthy fats
Like coconut oil, avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds. Healthy fats help slow the release of glucose in the bloodstream and also provide more satiety for longer periods of time.
Exercise helps cells in your muscles take up more glucose in order to use it for energy and tissue repair and lowers blood sugar in the process. Long term exercise also makes cells more responsive to insulin and helps prevent resistance. Try to get your heart rate up and sweat at least 3 times a week.
A lack of sleep can raise stress and appetite hormones (cortisol and ghrelin) that make you hungry. This makes it harder to say no to those sugary snacks, so be sure to get your Zzz's!