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How to Control the Blood Sugar Roller Coaster - Part 1

Updated: Apr 17, 2023

Getting a handle on how we consume our glucose is an excellent way to control the spikes in blood sugar that leave us feeling sluggish, contribute to weight gain, poor focus and in some instances can lead to disease and long-term illness.


We need glucose, or sugar, in our bodies for our muscles, tissues and organs to function. It’s also critical for brain function.


"Research shows that people who focus on flattening their glucose curve rather than focusing on caloric intake lose weight more efficiently."

From: The Glucose Revolution by Jessie Inchauspe


You’ve probably heard or used the phrase, “my blood sugar must be low” when describing a change in mood, or a sudden feeling of irritability. What we’re really talking about here is the amount of glucose that’s circulating in our body.

When we consume carbohydrates, we are increasing the amount of glucose in our system. Glucose provides the fuel for bodily function, and then as it runs out we experience a “crash” which is sometimes described, as mentioned, as “low blood sugar”

We might get hungry quickly, or feel lightheaded, or moody... ("hangry!"). The more glucose we consume, in the form of carbohydrates, the more of a crash we experience. Think of it as a roller coaster. The higher the hill, the bigger the drop.

So how do we know how much is enough, and how much is too much? More importantly, what happens when we have too much, or at the wrong times? Is there a way to control the ebbs and flows of our blood sugar? Is there a way to make the roller coaster more of a train ride through the flatlands?



What can we do?


In order to flatten the curve, avoid the crash, and reduce food-related fatigue, there are a handful of small manageable changes we can make to our eating habits. Jessie Inchauspe, in the book “The Glucose Revolution” provides a number of suggestions. Here are some that I really like and that can be easily incorporated into your diet:


  • Change the order of eating. Take a look at your plate and eat the vegetable first, which creates a primer in your stomach for the food to follow. Then, move to fibre, fats and proteins, carbohydrates last, and then sweets. We talk more about the various macros in subsequent post here in 'Macros 101: Carbs'


  • Move your body after eating. Take a short walk or move about in a low-to moderately intense way. This will lessen the glucose spiking and will also reduce the sluggish feeling we sometimes get after eating.


  • Pair your sweets with protein. For example, if you’re having chocolate, also have some Greek yogurt. And, never eat sweets on their own, but always in combination with a meal.


  • Flatten your breakfast curve. That sugary cereal is not the right way to start your day. Yes, it will give you a boost, but not for very long. Instead try a savory breakfast with protein, fat and fibre. This will not only leave you feeling fuller but will also prevent you from feeling hungry mid-morning.


  • Snack smart. Reach for a hard-boiled egg with salt and pepper, or slice of ham or carrots and hummus. If you need sweet, opt for the darkest chocolate you can find (90% cocoa). If you want a sweet snack, see if you can hold off for 20 minutes before reaching for it. Maybe the craving will pass.



Remember....


A key thing to remember is that everybody responds to foods differently. So although these principles can be extremely helpful, how my body responds to eating a bowl of sugary cereal in the morning compared to you may be very different. I personally swear by a savoury breakfast with protein for improved energy and cognitive function and my current goto for a weekend breakfast is shakshuka: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/shakshuka


For more on 'How to Control the Blood Sugar Rollercoaster' click here to head to part 2


References

Inchauspé, Jessie. Glucose Revolution: The life-changing power of balancing your blood sugar. Simon and Schuster, 2022.

Watson, Stephanie, WebMD: What Is Glucose? https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/glucose-diabetes


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