One of the top reasons people start an exercise routine or begin racing is to lose weight or get in shape. But the exercise will only get you so far before you have to redirect your focus to what’s right in front of you on your plate.
Just as getting better at your sport involves practicing and perfecting the fundamentals. The same is true about nutrition. Understanding the fundamentals is critical for understanding why your nutrition strategy may or may not be working.
One of these fundamentals for nutrition and health is blood sugar management. The great news is that you have control over how well (or not so well) your blood sugar mechanisms function.
Let’s take a look at how it works and why this is so important.
Understanding the basics
What is blood sugar?
It’s the term used to describe the amount of glucose in your bloodstream.
When you consume food, the amount of glucose in your system increases, hence your blood sugar rises. How fast and how high it goes is determined by the macronutrient content of what you have consumed.
Since your body is designed to keep you in a state of balance, when your blood sugar rises your pancreas is notified to releases a hormone called insulin. Insulin allows the glucose in your blood to enter the cells of your body where it’s needed for energy or if it’s not needed it’s stored for later use as glycogen. As the glucose is taken up by your cells, your blood sugar starts to decline and come back towards your baseline.
And on the flip side, if you go too long without eating and your blood sugar starts to dip below your baseline, your pancreas will be triggered to produce the hormone glucagon to break down glycogen and convert it into glucose in order to raise your blood sugar levels.
Where things go wrong
When your daily diet doesn’t support a properly functioning blood sugar cycle, your body starts misinterpreting how much insulin is needed to control your blood sugar properly and begins overproducing it. Too much insulin in your system is the catalyst for many unwanted issues.
What this means
- Insulin stimulate your cells to store fat, which most definitely inhibits the breakdown of fat. The more insulin you have in your system the more easily this will happen.
- Insulin drives your cells to want carbohydrates — hello cravings and addiction.
- Insulin inhibits the secretion of glucagon. This means that hypoglycemia is an insulin issue. If your pancreas cannot secret glucagon, your body is not capable of raising your blood sugar on it’s own. This leads to a greater need to eat more often.
Looking at the bigger picture, high insulin levels mean higher body weight, higher fat in body composition, unstable energy balance, increased risk of disease, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, and a larger waist size.
How do you know if your blood sugar could be better managed?
Here are some of the many signs and symptoms of mis-managed blood sugar: the inability to lose fat, inability to build and keep muscle, headaches, energy crashes, food cravings, hitting the wall in training and races, stomach issues in races, and any of the health markers mentioned above.
What should you do?
This first step to getting control of your blood sugar is understanding what you are eating. Start reading labels to see how many grams you are consuming of each of the macronutrients – carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Notice what your current patterns are and then start shifting the balance of these macronutrients in your diet. The more balance you have the more you will notice significant changes in how you look and feel.
Need more help finding your appropriate balance?
Contact me for a consultation.