The question: I have been diagnosed with low blood sugar. Is there a special diet I should follow?
The answer: There isn’t a specific diet for low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, but there are dietary modifications that can help prevent reactions altogether. I have developed meal plans for many clients with hypoglycemia who now experience no symptoms at all.
Hypoglycemia can be a concern for people with diabetes taking certain blood sugar-lowering medications, but it can also affect people who don’t have diabetes. Symptoms can include headache, shakiness, weakness, rapid heartbeat, anxiety, confusion and blurred vision.
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Diet isn’t the underlying cause of hypoglycemia, but altering what you eat – and when you eat – can prevent your blood sugar from dropping too low if you’re susceptible to the condition.
My goal with clients is to prevent hypoglycemia from happening in the first place. And to do that, it’s important to ensure glucose enters your bloodstream at a steady, even pace throughout the day.
It’s critical to eat every two to three hours to prevent your blood glucose from falling too low. Don’t skip meals and include a snack midmorning and midafternoon. Be sure to carry snacks with you to prevent a hypoglycemic episode when you are away from home.
Meals and snacks should also include carbohydrate-rich foods with a low glycemic index (GI), which means they’re digested slowly and, as a result, converted to blood glucose gradually.
Low GI foods include bran cereals, large flake and steel cut oatmeal, stone ground whole wheat, pasta, milk, yogurt, soy beverages, apples, pears, oranges, dried apricots, nuts and seeds, and legumes.
Your meals and snacks should also include a source of protein to moderate swings in blood glucose. Lean meat, poultry, fish, low fat cheese, eggs, tofu, nuts and yogurt are digested more slowly than carbohydrate and help sustain your blood glucose level longer after eating.
Adding soluble fibre to meals and snacks can also help prevent hypoglycemia by slowing the rate that food is emptied from the stomach. That means glucose will be absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream.
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Good sources of soluble fibre include oatmeal, oat bran, psyllium-enriched breakfast cereals, flaxseed, barley, legumes, sweet potatoes, citrus fruit and strawberries.
Finally, limit caffeine and alcohol, which can worsen symptoms of hypoglycemia in some people.
Send dietitian Leslie Beck your questions at [email protected] He will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail website. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.
The content provided in The Globe and Mail’s Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
- If You Don’t Have Diabetes
- Best Bites to Boost Low Blood Sugar
- Recognizing the Signs of Hypoglycemia
- Glucose Tablets: A Quick Fix
- Low Blood Sugar: Best Bites When You’re on the Go
- The Best Protein Shake for Hypoglycemia
- Protein Shake Options
- Healthy Carbohydrate Intake
- The Skinny on Shakes for People With Diabetes
- 10 Ways to Treat Low Blood Sugar with Real Food
- Hangry? This Is What You Should Eat for Hypoglycemia (aka Low Blood Sugar)
- The One Thing No One Tells You About Low Blood Sugar
- How to Lose Weight By Balancing Your Blood Sugar (5 Easy Ways)
- What is Blood Sugar, and How Does it Work?
- How Imbalanced Blood-Sugar Levels Can Make You Fat
- But What About Unrefined Carbohydrates?
- 5 Easy Ways to Balance Your Blood-Sugar Levels to Promote Weight Loss
- Reshape Your Body, Pt 1 (4:18)
- From This Episode:
- Step 1: Eat in 3s
- Step 2: Prepare a Mobile Readiness Food Kit
- Step 3: Drink 3 Liters of Cinnamon Extract Water
- Step 4: Eat 3 Ounces of Protein Before Every Cheat
- Step 5: Align Your Spine by Rolling
- Step 6: Exercise Your White and Red Muscle for 10 Minutes Daily
- Low Carb vs. High Carb – My Surprising 24-day Diabetes Diet Battle
- Lessons Learned
- Concluding Thoughts
- Appendix 1: Meal Pictures and Calorie Information
- Appendix 2: Activity
- Common Concerns about Low-Carb Dieting and Hypoglycemia
- Why am I feeling this way?
- What is hypoglycemia?
- How low is too low?
- What should I do to feel better?
- Missing out on good sleep
- Snacking and grazing
- Eating more carbs than you think
- Eating too much protein
- Fake low carb food
- Treat days
If You Don’t Have Diabetes
Your blood sugar can fall if you wait too long to eat, such as if you’re fasting. It can also happen about 4 hours after a meal. This is reactive hypoglycemia. Or you might have symptoms similar to hypoglycemia if you have postprandial syndrome. This syndrome happens if you eat a lot of simple carbs (like pasta, bread, or cereal) and your body releases too much insulin to deal with it.
Use these tips to avoid having your blood sugar drop too low from either cause:
Eat small meals and snacks spread throughout the day. Aim for every 3-4 hours.
Stick with healthy eating habits. This should include a variety of fruits, vegetables, and sources of lean protein. The fiber in plant foods, along with lean protein, will give you lasting energy and won’t crash your blood sugar. If you plan to eat or drink something sweet, do so as part of a balanced meal.
Limit caffeine. Its effects can mimic hypoglycemia symptoms.
Limit or avoid alcohol. Alcohol can cause hypoglycemia, especially if you have a drink without eating something. If you drink, keep it moderate: no more than one serving a day for women or two for men. A serving is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor. And don’t drink on an empty stomach.
Best Bites to Boost Low Blood Sugar
Picture this: You’re in the mall, shopping with friends, chatting and having a great time when suddenly you start to feel a bit strange. You might become irritated or nervous, your skin may feel clammy or sweaty — and your vision may even seem blurred. If you have diabetes, you’ll recognize these as the warning signs of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.
“Hypoglycemia occurs when blood sugar levels in the body drop too low,” says Kelly O’Connor, RD, a dietitian and certified diabetes educator at LifeBridge Health’s Northwest Hospital in Baltimore. “Glucose is your brain’s main energy or fuel source. If the level of glucose in the body is too low, it can begin to affect your brain’s functioning. The resulting symptoms are more or less your body’s warning system that you need to take quick action in order to correct the problem.”
Recognizing the Signs of Hypoglycemia
O’Connor says there are a number of warning signs that indicate you might have low blood sugar. “The symptoms can range from very mild — shakiness, clamminess, feeling irritable or jittery, and having temporarily blurred vision — to much more severe, such as seizures and loss of consciousness or passing out, although these are less common,” she says. These symptoms can occur because of many other circumstances, so if you are diabetic and are having symptoms that could be due to low blood sugar, check your sugar levels to see what’s going on, she adds.
Certain things can also put you at higher risk of hypoglycemia, especially if you skip or put off a meal or snack, take too much insulin, don’t eat enough carbohydrates, exercise more than you regularly do, or drink alcohol. In addition, people with type 1 diabetes experience hypoglycemia more often than those with type 2.
Glucose Tablets: A Quick Fix
“If your blood sugar has dropped too low, a quick-acting carbohydrate is needed to bring blood sugar levels back up,” says O’Connor. Glucose tablets are tailor-made to help. This inexpensive fix for low blood sugar is widely available at pharmacies and large chain stores like Walmart and Target.
Usually, three to four glucose tablets are needed to bring levels back up. “We recommend that patients who are prone to hypoglycemia carry glucose tablets with them and put them in several locations in their home and car,” says O’Connor. Glucose is also sold in gel form in small packets, and as a beverage.
Low Blood Sugar: Best Bites When You’re on the Go
Despite your best planning, you might find yourself experiencing low blood sugar when you’re out and about, with no glucose tablets in reach. Here are tips to keep in mind:
Best bites at work Smart foods to keep in a drawer at work are 4-ounce cans or cartons of any type of 100 percent juice; hard candy like peppermints or Life Savers (you’ll need to munch on four to seven pieces, depending on their size); and small boxes of raisins — the ones that contain about 2 tablespoons, says Hope Warshaw, RD, a certified diabetes educator and author of Diabetes Meal Planning Made Easy.
If you don’t have these items on hand, head to the nearest vending machine for any snack containing carbohydrates or sugary candy — but skip the chocolate. “We do not recommend using chocolate as a treatment for hypoglycemia, despite what you might have read,” says O’Connor. She explains that the fat in chocolate slows down how fast the sugar and carbohydrates in the candy can get into the bloodstream.
If you’re choosing foods to help treat hypoglycemia, you should also pay attention to where they fall on the glycemic index, or GI. The higher a food ranks on the GI, the more quickly your body breaks it down into sugar. Life Savers have a GI of 70, while raisins have a GI around 60.
Best bites at the mall If you’re going to be on a prolonged excursion at the mall, plan a stop at the food court for a meal to thwart low blood sugar, but be sensible in the decisions you make, says Cecilia R. Chapman, RD, a nutritionist and diabetes educator in Chandler, Arizona. “Sometimes hours can be spent walking from store to store, and losing track of time is common,” she says. Know where the food court is, because it’s your best bet to find a sugary soda or hard candy if you feel low blood sugar symptoms starting.
Best bites in the air When it comes to traveling, especially in the air, it’s essential to be prepared for the possibility of a blood sugar drop. Not having what you need can become a matter of life or death. “Never place your snacks or fast-acting glucose tablets in your suitcase — always carry diabetes supplies on board,” says Chapman. Find out if a meal will be provided or if food will be available for sale. If not, make sure to bring your own meal, or at least a snack, in case you’re stuck on the tarmac for longer than expected. If you start to feel the effects of low blood sugar, in addition to soda, orange juice is a good option; it’s usually available on board even when the barest beverage service is offered.
The Best Protein Shake for Hypoglycemia
If you suffer from hypoglycemia, you may need to add more sugar or carbohydrates to your diet 1. Some protein shakes can offer you added nutritional content that may help you overcome hypoglycemia 1. According to MayoClinic.com, hypoglycemia is often associated with diabetes 1. Always be sure to consult your physician to ensure that your low-blood sugar is not being caused by a more serious underlying health condition.
Hypoglycemia occurs when the level of sugar — glucose — in your blood gets too low 1. One of the most common reasons for hypoglycemia is a side-effect of drugs used for treating diabetes 1. A low-carb diet can cause frequent bouts of hypoglycemia due to the restriction and limitation of carbohydrates, sugars and other starches 1. Drinking too much alcohol without eating can slow down your liver from releasing stored glucose into your bloodstream, which causes hypoglycemia 1.
A protein shake that contains no sugar or carbohydrates will not do much to help with symptoms of hypoglycemia 1. Since your brain relies on glucose to function normally, hypoglycemia can cause you to become confused, lose consciousness or become irritable 1. Other symptoms of hypoglycemia can include headaches, blurred vision, sweating, anxiety, and tremors 1.cause:
- Other symptoms of hypoglycemia can include headaches
- blurred vision
- tremors 1
Measuring your blood sugar during symptoms such as these is the only way to be sure they are being caused by hypoglycemia 1. This can be done with a blood glucose monitor.
Protein Shake Options
Protein shakes can help with hypoglycemia if they include added carbohydrates and sugar 1. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, a protein shake that includes between 10 to 20 g of carbohydrates per scoop can help with low-blood sugar caused by low-carb dieting or irregular eating patterns 2. Meal replacements work like protein shakes in that they include high amounts of protein as well as carbohydrates and sugar helping to keep your blood sugar from getting too low.
Healthy Carbohydrate Intake
Since carbohydrates are your body’s preferred source of energy, getting the proper amount can help you avoid symptoms and frequent bouts of hypoglycemia 1. Aim for 45 to 65 of your daily total calories to come from carbohydrates, advised the American College of Sports Medicine 2. Eating lower than this range can increase your risk for hypoglycemia 1. The best protein shake will have enough carbohydrates to help you reach this daily recommended requirement.
The Skinny on Shakes for People With Diabetes
Diabetes is an increasingly common condition that causes blood sugar levels to rise higher than normal. There are several types of diabetes, but type 2 diabetes is the most common form. Type 2 diabetes is often linked to being overweight or obese and must be medically managed to prevent serious diabetes complications.
Along with making lifestyle changes and taking medication, people with diabetes must keep a watchful eye on their blood glucose levels and the foods they eat throughout each day. Whether you’re watching your weight or looking for a quick diabetes-friendly meal on the go, a meal replacement shake may be a good — or not so good — option for those with diabetes. Of course, a healthy diet of whole foods is always best, but shakes can provide a nice “safety net” for when a healthy meal is not an option.
While meal replacement shakes may fill you up, even the best weight loss shakes don’t provide complete dietary nutrition. If you rely on weight loss or meal replacement shakes regularly, you will still need a healthy balance of real food each day, including:
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy
- Fresh fruits and vegetables, especially nonstarchy vegetables
- Lean protein
- Legumes, like beans and peas
- Whole grains
Also, not all meal replacement shakes are created equal; even the best weight loss shakes designed for people with diabetes may fall short when it comes to complete nutrition. For example, the Glucerna Rich Chocolate Shake is gluten-free and great for people who are lactose intolerant. But the Glucerna Shake is only enough to replace a moderate snack or part of a meal — not an entire meal. You will need to read the label and find out what’s missing when it comes to fat, protein, carbohydrates, and calories — and then fill in with added whole foods as needed.
Some of the best weight loss shakes are high in calories — even if they are low in carbs and high in protein — and calories do count. While these meal replacements can help maintain your blood sugar level, they may cause weight gain, especially if you don’t track the number of calories you ingest each day, and higher weight almost always translates to less blood sugar control. In addition, the average adult only needs 46 to 56 grams of protein a day, according to the Mayo Clinic, depending on weight and health. If you are already eating a varied, healthy diet, adding more protein with a meal replacement shake may not be necessary.
Anita N. Ramsetty, MD, an endocrinologist at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, says it’s important to review the ingredients list as well as the nutrition label of shakes before buying and trying. Skip shakes with sugar or high fructose corn syrup listed as one of the first three ingredients, and look out for too much protein. If your kidneys are not functioning properly, you should be careful not to eat too much protein, as it can cause health complications. Always check with your doctor before adding anything new to your diabetes diet.
10 Ways to Treat Low Blood Sugar with Real Food
Health and wellness touch each of us differently. This is one person’s story.
Shaky. Fuzzy. Sleepy. Tired. Low. Crashing.
These are all words I used growing up as a type 1 diabetic, to describe how I was feeling when my blood sugar was low.
I was diagnosed when I was 5. So I came up with some interesting ways to describe how I was feeling to my parents and other adults in my life. I remember one time when I was in kindergarten, I was describing how I felt to a PE teacher, and she thought I was just trying to get out of having to do the activity. I nearly had a hypoglycemic seizure because I didn’t have access to proper attention or treatment. (In her defense, she was a substitute and hadn’t been told I had diabetes.)
So, what is the proper treatment for low blood sugar? To answer that question, we first need to know what’s considered low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) defines hypoglycemia as anytime your blood sugar is lower than normal. This can be different for each person with diabetes, but it usually means blood sugar less than 70 mg/dL. Symptoms to look out for include:
- increased appetite
- cloudy thinking
- blurry vision
- an inability to concentrate
- pale facial complexion
I’ve sometimes described it to my nondiabetic friends as an almost “out of body” experience.
Once you start to feel these symptoms, it’s important to immediately test your blood sugar to confirm if you are, in fact, experiencing hypoglycemia.
Some of these symptoms are also characteristic of high blood sugar levels, or hyperglycemia. You may also feel these symptoms anytime you experience a rapid drop in your blood sugar. For example: If your blood sugar is high, and you take insulin to bring it down, you may feel the symptoms commonly associated with hypoglycemia as your blood sugar dips, even if it isn’t actually low by definition.
Once you’ve confirmed your blood sugar is low — or lower than normal — how should you treat it? Essentially, you want fast-acting carbohydrates: simple sugars with little to no fiber. You also want to avoid high-fat foods. The fat that will often stabilize blood sugars after meals can actually delay how quickly your body absorbs those needed simple carbohydrates. In the case of low blood sugar, that’s the opposite of what you want.
The most commonly recommended treatment for low blood sugar is glucose tablets or glucose gel. And let me tell you, those glucose tablets aren’t the tastiest things in the world. Think chalky, super sweet, and fake fruit flavor all rolled into one… sounds appetizing, I know.
So, while these treatments are highly effective, they’re not exactly what this dietitian would call “nutritious.” Don’t get me wrong, nutrition isn’t our main goal when treating low blood sugar — raising your blood sugar quickly is the main goal. But what if you could properly treat low blood sugar and not have to resort to chalky tablets filled with processed sugar, food coloring, and artificial flavors?
Speaking from both professional and personal experience, here are 10 ways to treat low blood sugar with real food:
If your blood sugar is greater than 80 mg/dL, but you’re feeling symptoms of hypoglycemia:
1. all-natural peanut butter with no added sugar (I prefer this one)
If your blood sugar is greater than 80 mg/dL, it’s likely you’re experiencing these symptoms due to rapidly changing blood sugar levels, and aren’t in need of quick-acting carbohydrates. Peanut butter (or any nut butter) without added sugar is filled with protein and fat and can help alleviate these symptoms without raising your blood sugar more.
If your blood sugar is 70-80 mg/dL:
2. peanut butter and crackers
At this point, your blood sugar is still not technically low, by definition. However, this may be lower than you’re comfortable with. Any form of starch — in this case crackers — will help gradually raise your blood sugar just slightly, and the fat and protein in the peanut butter will sustain those levels.
If your blood sugar is 55-70 mg/dL:
4. medjool dates
All the foods listed above are fresh or dried fruit that have higher amounts of naturally occurring sugars than other fruits. While there’s some fiber present in these, the amount is minimal and will raise blood sugar quickly and effectively.
If your blood sugar is less than 55 mg/dL:
9. 100% grape juice
10. honey or maple syrup
If your blood sugar has dropped below 55 mg/dL, you need quick, rapid-acting liquid carbohydrates. There should be no fiber, fat, or protein present. Grape juice is one of the highest carbohydrate-filled juices and is my choice for myself and clients experiencing this severity of hypoglycemia.
Some people have trouble chewing and swallowing when blood sugar reaches this level, so we want to focus on concentrated sources of carbohydrates, like higher-carbohydrate juices, or sweeteners like maple syrup and honey.
Before implementing any of these suggestions into your hypoglycemia plan, make sure to check with your doctor or healthcare provider first.
Mary Ellen Phipps is the registered dietitian nutritionist behindMilk & Honey Nutrition. She’s also a wife, mom, type 1 diabetic, and recipe developer. Browse her website for yummy diabetes-friendly recipes and helpful nutrition tips. She strives to make healthy eating easy, realistic, and most importantly… fun! She has expertise in family meal planning, corporate wellness, adult weight management, adult diabetes management, and metabolic syndrome. Reach out to her onInstagram.
Hangry? This Is What You Should Eat for Hypoglycemia (aka Low Blood Sugar)
hypoglycemia is defined as blood sugar below 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or 3.9 millimoles per liter (mmol/L).
While those with diabetes are more likely to experience hypoglycemia, there are two types of non-diabetes hypoglycemia — reactive and non-reactive.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia
Symptoms can range from minor to severe.
Some minor symptoms include:
More serious symptoms (unlikely unless you take diabetes medication that lowers blood sugar) include:
- muscle weakness
- slurred speech
- blurry vision
- consistent drowsiness
- unconsciousness, fainting
Hypoglycemia with diabetes
For those with diabetes, hypoglycemia happens when there’s too much insulin and not enough glucose in the blood.
- not eating or skipping meals
- drinking alcohol without food
- taking too much insulin
- increasing physical activity
Hypoglycemia without diabetes
There are a variety of issues that can cause hypoglycemia in people without diabetes. Causes include:
- binge drinking
- liver disease
- eating disorders
- excessive exercise
- nausea or hunger
- changes in vision
- pounding heart
Reactive hypoglycemia (aka postprandial hypoglycemia)
Reactive hypoglycemia occurs within 4 hours following a meal. The exact cause is unknown, but it often relates to variations in your diet, such as the time of day food passes through the digestive system.
Signs of reactive hypoglycemia may include:
- pale skin
Non-reactive hypoglycemia (aka fasting hypoglycemia)
Non-reactive hypoglycemia isn’t necessarily related to food. It may be the result of an underlying condition.
Possible causes include:
Heavy drinking: Drinking prevents your liver from doing its normal job of releasing glucose (sugar) into your bloodstream because it’s too busy focusing on processing alcohol. (Sounds a bit like trying to study during college amiright?)
Chronic illness: Liver, heart, and kidney disorders can lead to hypoglycemia.
Eating disorders: Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa can severely damage your body’s ability to process sugars. Your body is depleted of the fuel it needs to generate glucose, resulting in hypoglycemia.
Medications: Certain medications, such as quinine (Qualaquin), which is used to treat malaria, are known to cause hypoglycemia.
Hormone deficiencies: Children may be affected by hypoglycemia if they have a growth hormone deficiency. Adults and adolescents with pituitary gland or adrenal gland disorders may also be affected.
Tumors: Although rare, certain tumors may cause excessive production of insulin in the pancreas, causing hypoglycemia.
Here are some meal plans to help keep your blood sugar levels in check.
Sleeping is the best. But your blood sugar levels drop during the night while you sleep. So you should eat something right when you wake up.
Some stable breakfast choices include:
- oatmeal with fresh berries and milk
- nuts and sunflower seeds over Greek yogurt
- hard-boiled eggs
- whole-grain toast with nut butter
- unsweetened yogurt with fruit
- oatmeal with cinnamon and unsweetened applesauce
Studies indicate cinnamon may help lower blood sugar for those with diabetes. That’s because cinnamon, which comes from the bark of the cinnamomum tree, is a rich source of antioxidants like polyphenols and flavonoids.
Sprinkle it on top of steel-cut oatmeal, the most unprocessed form of the food. It contains lots of soluble fiber to slow down carb absorption, helping to keep blood sugar stable. Stay away from instant oatmeal versions, as they contain added sugars.
What about coffee?
Everyone’s body processes caffeine differently. For some, it may have no effect on blood sugar. For others, it may.
Studies suggest that consuming coffee (even decaf) may reduce your risk of diabetes. But, if you already have diabetes, 200 milligrams of caffeine (about two 8-ounce cups of joe) could cause blood sugar levels to rise or fall.
If you don’t have diabetes, consuming 200–400 milligrams of caffeine is unlikely to noticeably affect your blood sugar levels.
It’s best to limit the OJ and other juices to 6-ounces, since they’re high in sugar content and some brands contain added sugars.
You could also try diluting 100 percent orange juice with water to reduce the calorie and sugar intake while still satisfying a sweet tooth. Check out lower-sugar, lower-calorie versions of your favorite Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice blends and V-8 Splash.
The One Thing No One Tells You About Low Blood Sugar
Photo: Dimitri Otis/Getty Images
“That must suck!” one of my college classmates exclaimed when I explained to her why I had to bring my dinner to the gym and eat it right afterward on the subway. The hour-long subway ride would mean my blood sugar would crash. And by then, I’d learned the hard way that low blood sugar was to be avoided at all costs. Otherwise, I’d be stuck with a shattering migraine and intense nausea that would put me out of commission for the rest of the night.
It did suck. And it still does. Back then, my classmate also caught on to one thing no one ever tells you about having low blood sugar. “It must be impossible to lose weight,” she said sympathetically. Not that I needed to at the time, but I couldn’t help but agree.
Every time I try to tone up or lose a couple of post-holiday pounds, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) makes it even more difficult. Whether I make an effort to eat a little less or exercise more, I end up getting shaky, clammy, and cold, with an intense fogginess that makes my head feel like it’s going to explode. The remedy is to eat something that will bring my blood sugar back up, even if I’m not hungry.
If you want to lose weight or be healthier, but have experienced the low-blood-sugar roadblocks, here are some tips on how I’ve made it work. (It’s important to note that if you have diabetes, or haven’t consulted with your doctor about these kinds of symptoms, do that first and foremost, as suggestions for dietary changes will be different for everyone.)
Eat every three to four hours.
Having something to eat every three to four hours keeps your blood sugar level on an even keel. Just make sure you keep those meals well balanced. If you just have carbohydrates, like a bowl of cereal or pasta with tomato sauce, your blood sugar will go up and trigger a release of more insulin. While insulin is responsible for helping to break down glucose (blood sugar) to be used or stored as energy, too much can trigger a steep drop post-spike. Avoid this by balancing whole-grain carbs with protein and fat, which are digested and absorbed by the body more slowly.
And surprisingly enough, eating frequently can also be helpful for weight loss. Knowing that you’re never too far away from your next meal or snack prevents you from getting to that hangry place where you’ll eat the first thing you see.
Include protein, fat, and fiber every time.
Whether it’s a meal or a snack, the components matter. Protein, fat, and fiber all slow down the rise in your blood sugar after you eat. This is important because while having hypoglycemia can mean you are at dangerously low blood sugar levels between meals, reactive hypoglycemia (that spike and dip) is what happens directly after you eat something. Including foods that have protein, fat, and fiber (what I call the “magic 3”) can prevent this from happening.
Not only do “the magic 3” stabilize blood sugar levels, these nutrients keep you feeling full longer than if you were to just load up on carbs. Protein-rich foods take more energy to burn than other foods, and fat and fiber slow down the rate that food empties out of your stomach. The result? You burn more calories and feel satisfied with less, both of which are important if weight loss is your goal.
For protein, you could have foods such as chicken, fish, meat, eggs, tofu, beans, lentils, cheese, Greek yogurt, or cottage cheese. Fiber-rich foods include whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, and nuts and seeds. For your fat, choose a healthy fat such as olive oil, avocado, or nuts and seeds. (Notice a reoccurrence? Yep, nuts and seeds have all three-protein, fat, and fiber-so they make the perfect snack.)
Choose slow-digesting carbs.
Keeping some carbohydrates in your diet is important for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, but choosing the right carbs is crucial. Not all carbs are created equal. Those carbs with a high glycemic index (a measurement of how quickly and how high a food raises your blood sugar) will digest much faster than slow carbs, or those with lower GI level. In this case, slow and low are best. Eating foods low on the glycemic index has been shown to help control blood sugar levels, while foods on the higher end of the GI spectrum will cause that spike and drop immediately after eating. Avoiding blood sugar crashes will also help you manage your weight because you’ll be less hungry and will, therefore, be able to deal with cravings more effectively. Bonus: Many lower-GI foods also tend to be high in fiber.
If you’re thinking about following a low-carb diet to avoid a blood sugar roller coaster, keep in mind that this hasn’t been proven as an effective treatment for reactive hypoglycemia. A certain percentage of fat and protein can be turned into glucose (sugar), but that process isn’t very efficient. So if you experience a hypoglycemic episode, carbohydrates are what’s going to make you feel better.
Limit carbs to ~30 grams per meal.
While following a low-carb diet isn’t recommended for people with hypoglycemia, keeping carbs consistent and moderate may be beneficial. One study found that eating six small meals per day, each with about 30 grams of carbohydrates, was effective for reducing hypoglycemic symptoms. Eating a consistent amount of carbohydrates every few hours keeps your blood sugar steady, especially when you focus on foods rich in fiber and low on the glycemic index.
When you cut back slightly on carbohydrates to stay at about 30 grams per meal, replacing those calories with sources of protein can help maintain the calories you need to fuel your body and recover from workouts. Protein and fat have much less of an effect on blood sugar and insulin levels than carbohydrates, so remembering that balanced plate of macros will keep blood sugar levels normal and help you lose weight. (However, you don’t need to count calories to see success.)
This moderate-carb approach can help with portion control, which can get out of hand when grains are involved. Getting fewer calories from carbs and more from filling protein and heart-healthy fats can help you drop some extra weight and maintain that weight loss without ever feeling deprived. (This way of eating is the foundation of diets such as Whole30 and Paleo.)
Never leave home without a snack.
I always have a bag of raw almonds in every purse, my glove compartment, and gym bag so I’m never stuck being starving with low blood sugar if say, restaurant reservations get pushed back or I have to run some errands after the gym. Carrying snacks is not just a great way to prevent low blood sugar when your day doesn’t go as planned or you need a boost before a fitness class, but it’s also key to helping you lose weight. Hunger is your enemy when it comes to weight loss, so having healthy snack options on hand can help you avoid having to grab something less than ideal when you’re starving. Experiment with having a snack with slow carbs, protein, fat, and fiber two hours or so before your workout. (Related: The Best Pre- and Post-Workout Snacks for Every Workout)
Eat as soon as possible after a workout.
As I learned in college, you need to eat pretty much right after you exercise to avoid blood sugar drops. This is the time it’s okay-even beneficial-to have fast-burning carbs like white rice or potatoes. These faster-burning carbs will bring your blood sugar back up quickly, but they should always be paired with some protein to help rebuild your muscles. Liquids are absorbed faster than solids, so having a protein shake with a banana is a great choice. You can follow up with a proper meal in an hour or two.
Many of my clients who are trying to lose weight think they can avoid eating back the calories they burned after exercise by skipping a meal post-workout. But ultimately, they end up eating more later on because they let themselves get too hungry (not to mention the trouble they cause by not refueling their muscles for recovery). That’s why having a healthy high-protein snack post-workout is a good idea-it can help keep your eating on track so you don’t end up overdoing it at the next meal.
- By Christy Brissette, RD @80twentyrule
Want to lose weight? Than you need to stabilize your blood sugar with solid nutrition and supplements. As you will read in this post, I truly think the key to curing obesity is simply reducing people’s blood glucose levels and keeping them low throughout the day, and in cultivating lifestyle habits that support healthy blood sugar regulation.
Check out our Online Gluten Free, Low Carb, Organic Paleo & Vegan Online Store
I have found this true of myself, as I approach my fortieth year, and I have seen it in the results of countless clients.
I think most people grew up very lean but as we age we don’t move constantly like kids do, plus we constantly abuse our blood glucose regulation system by overindulging in carbs. This means our bodies are working overtime to process carbs, but our blood sugar levels are constantly being spiked year in and year out. This can cause weight gain, diabetes or even prediabetes… as you will read, I have experienced some of this myself.
Understanding how and why to measure and stabilize blood sugar levels is critical if you want to get lean, and stay that way! Here’s how it all works, and how to make it work for you.
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How to age gracefully
Growing up I was so lean and had trouble keeping weight on. In retrospect, this is probably because I was young, active and ate healthfully, thanks to my Mom, who was a nutritionist. We only ate the best, most natural breads and baked goods. But what we didn’t realize back then was that even organic, sprouted grains and carbs can simply destroy one’s ability to properly regulate blood sugar, and lead to health problems and weight gain.
I was lucky then, since at that younger age I could manage carbs easily. However, as we get older, our bodies usually have a more difficult time processing carbs, sugars and grains. This makes it harder to effectively regulate blood sugar levels (more on this below). No wonder most people tend to gain weight as they get older.
The added weight gain caused by blood sugar dysregulation can also disrupt hormone regulation. This may lead to a decline in testosterone, or overly high levels of estrogen, which can again fuel weight gain and boost stress hormone levels (cortisol). This encourages a bloated, puffy midsection. Not good.
I truly believe the path to a lean physique and to reaching one’s ideal weight is by monitoring blood glucose levels upon rising and after meals. I’ll describe how to do this in this article. Once you have done this for a while and you better understand your body’s reaction to sugars and carbs, you can alter your food choices to naturally keep blood glucose levels low. The benefits of stable, healthy blood sugar levels include improved energy, fat loss, and fewer cravings for sweets.
So first, since sugar is the key to it all, let’s take a look at what it means to have healthy glucose levels in your blood.
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Normal blood sugar regulation
Sugar, in the form of glucose, is necessary for life. So this is not about eradicating all sugar from your body. Rather, the glucose question is about how much, and through what sources should it get into your bloodstream.
You need glucose for your body, and especially your brain, to work properly. Glucose can be consumed as regular sugar, or as part of a more complex carbohydrate which is then broken down in your body into simple sugars.
Glucose can also, in certain circumstances, be created within your body from your fat stores. This approach is something I recommend to most people who want to lose weight, and I wrote extensively about how a ketogenic macronutrient ratio achieves these results here.
The main point is that your body needs to maintain a certain level of sugar in your blood at all times—too much or too little can lead to serious health problems. A happy medium is where you need to be.
Normal blood sugar in a healthy adult measures between 70 to 99 mg/dL when fasting, and under 140 mg/dL after eating. (Note that mg/dL is simply a unit of measure that shows the concentration of a substance in a certain amount of fluid. In this case, blood sugar is measured as the number of milligrams of glucose per deciliter of fluid. Just remember, somewhere between 70 to 100 is where you want to be.) Learn how to measure your blood glucose level here.
Fortunately, your body has internal, automatic systems for keeping blood sugar in check. The problem comes when you overeat sugars and carbs, and throw your levels out of whack, on an ongoing basis.
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How blood sugar is regulated: A review
If you want to get “ripped,” toned, or super-lean, you need to control your blood sugar (glucose) levels. And to do so effectively, you first need to understand how your body regulates glucose.
When you eat a carbohydrate (like bread, pasta, or a breakfast cereal), it is converted to simple sugar in the bloodstream. In this way, all ingested carbs (with certain exceptions, such as insoluble fibers) are broken down into glucose in the bloodstream (more on this here). And as blood glucose levels rise, so must your insulin response from the pancreas.
Your pancreas is a small organ tucked up behind your stomach. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that plays a major role in the way the body uses digested food for fuel (metabolism).
After you eat a meal, the pancreas releases insulin into the blood. When you eat a carbohydrate, your body breaks it down into glucose: a form of sugar that can enter the bloodstream. Insulin helps cells all over your body absorb glucose and use it for energy.
Insulin acts on the body in several ways, primarily helping to lower blood glucose levels by “mopping up” excess sugars and storing them as fat.
Speaking more technically, when blood borne glucose levels rise, insulin helps muscle, fat and liver cells absorb glucose from the bloodstream. In the muscles and liver glucose is stored as a molecule called glycogen. Fat cells help store excess glucose. Insulin also helps reduce glucose production in the liver.
Conversely, if your blood glucose levels are too low, another pancreatic hormone, glucagon, is released to stimulate the liver to release stored glucose into the blood.
In these ways, insulin and glucagon essentially work in harmony to regulate blood sugar levels and maintain balance (homeostasis) in the body.
Ideally, your body should be insulin sensitive, rather than insulin resistant. Insulin sensitivity refers to how sensitive the body is to the effects of insulin. If you have low insulin sensitivity your body will need to secrete more insulin to manage the increased blood sugar.
Symptoms of insulin resistance include feeling sleepy after meals, craving sweet foods (even after sweets are eaten), thirst, and frequent urination. A blood test from your doctor is the definitive way to confirm whether or not you have insulin resistance.
Note that stress (increased cortisol levels) and/or hypoglycemia can also lead to unhealthy insulin fluctuations and must be addressed in order to achieve optimal body weight.
Let me repeat that, as it’s a critical point: if you are chronically stressed, you are flirting with blood sugar dysregulation which will make it harder to lose weight. Remember, lower stress means better blood sugar regulation, which means easier weight loss.
A high level of circulating insulin (known as hyperinsulinemia) is associated with blood vessel damage, high blood pressure, heart disease and failure, obesity, osteoporosis (porous bones) and cancer. Beyond getting a better beach body, these dire potential consequences underscore the importance of maintaining stable blood sugar.
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Type 2 diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels rise to higher than normal, and in which the body does not use insulin properly. Diabetics have essentially lost the ability to automatically regulate blood sugar levels, and they typically need medication to help the process along.
Twenty-seven million Americans have type 2 diabetes, and another 86 million have prediabetes. Insulin resistance (that is, decreased insulin sensitivity) increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.
having prediabetes (or “borderline” diabetes) means that you have measurable physiological markers that indicate you are on the path to full-blown type 2 diabetes (and possibly cardiovascular disease).
If you have prediabetes, your blood glucose is higher than is healthy, although less than the diabetic range. Remember, “normal” means under 100 mg/dL of fasting blood glucose (i.e. after not having had food for eight hours). People with prediabetes typically have a fasting blood glucose between 100 to 125 mg/dL.
If you are concerned that you may be diabetic or have prediabetes, check with your doctor. Your health provider will be able to run more complex tests to determine if you indeed have prediabetes. Proper nutrition helps keep diabetes in check, and can help reverse prediabetes make your body more insulin sensitive again.
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My brush with insulin resistance
I am passionate about creating public awareness on this topic because I have been impacted by insulin issues myself. Growing up, I was always stick thin. However, once I got into my twenties I began overusing carbs and sugar by eating too many breads, pastries, and so on.
Like many people eating “healthy” grains, these habits spiked my blood sugar, and my ability to be able to produce enough insulin naturally began to decline around age 30.
I ended up putting myself in a pre-diabetic state, which I later turned around by improving my diet.
While good Paleo nutrition vastly improved my health and allowed me to lose weight, I still had some additional challenges. I am extremely carb-sensitive (this description can be used if you feel tired after eating carbs, you crave carbs, gain weight quickly, and more.)
I had always had lean, hard, defined muscles underneath a layer of what I called puffiness. I previously struggled to get a “ripped,” cut look to my midsection. Now I realized this was because my body was not able to produce enough insulin to handle any sort of carbs.
Not until I combined a low-carb, moderate-fat diet with the right supplements, did I truly see incredible results.
I’m going to talk about supplements in detail in a minute. But for now I’ll say that finding a product like Now Foods Metabolic Glucose Support–a natural blood sugar regulator—has helped me naturally balance all carbs and sugar in so that I could finally see results from the gym time I was putting in.
I also eat a low-carb diet and monitor my fasting blood glucose levels each morning to make sure it’s around 80 to 90 (mg/dL) upon waking. This is a normal level for a non-diabetic and a sign my metabolism is performing optimally.
With each meal I have begun to take bitter melon and berberine supplements in the morning and at lunch. I’ve had amazing results, but lifestyle changes are essential to.
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How a Paleo diet helps
A healthy lifestyle consisting of sufficient sleep, regular movement and exercise, and a healthy diet (such as a Paleo diet!) are essential to avoid life-long health problems such as insulin resistance.
This is achieved by eating low-sugar foods that are low on the glycemic index (read more about the glycemic index here and here).
Note that the glycemic response of any food can be influenced by what you eat with it. So if you are going to “cheat” and have a glass of wine or piece of cake, eat it alongside some high-fiber foods (most vegetables). Healthy fats and proteins may have the same mitigating effect.
Low-GI, Paleo-friendly foods include non-starchy vegetables, meats, poultry, eggs, nuts, and low-sugar fruits such as berries. Basically, just eat Paleo… science has proven it increases the body’s capacity to handle sugars and carbohydrates. Or, (to borrow the brilliant words of personal trainer John Turk) just try to eat like a diabetic.
Personally, I have started specifically paying attention to further reducing sugar and any processed carbs and focused on a Paleo, low-carb, moderate-fat food plan.
My specific goal is to try and get an eight-pack by my fortieth birthday and the only thing I am going to do differently is increase my blood ketone level with exogenous ketones and keep my blood glucose levels low by eating low carb and choosing foods extremely low on the glycemic index. I am also pretty choosy about what supplements I use.
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How supplements can help
Now Foods Metabolic Glucose Support. Here are some more details.
Berberine: This natural plant extract helps to burn fat, increases your ability to fight illness and stress, and can even delay aging. Used for hundreds of years in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, berberine can help lower blood sugar and cholesterol and make weight loss easier. Read my in-depth article on berberine here and check out our berberine supplements here.
Some people with insulin resistance may need to take the drug Metformin. Interestingly, preliminary studies have shown that berberine may be as effective as Metformin in the treatment of type 2 diabetes.
Caution: Many diabetics can safely take berberine, but we recommend you only do so under a doctor’s supervision.
Bitter melon: It looks like a strange cucumber, but it’s odd appearance belies an ancient secret: bitter melon is one of the best kept health secrets in the world of natural foods. Popular in Asian cuisine and renowned throughout the world a means to control blood sugar and support weight loss, active substances in the melon have been shown to act the same way as insulin and support healthy blood sugar regulation.
A cousin to one of our favorite sweeteners, Monk Fruit, bitter melon has a flavor that is, well, very bitter. This means taking bitter melon supplements is a way to get the benefits of the fruit without the distinctive taste. Find bitter melon capsules here.
Caution: If you are diabetic, hypoglycemic, pregnant, or a chemotherapy patient, make sure to consult with your doctor before taking bitter melon extracts.
Now Foods: Glucose Metabolic Support is an all-inclusive blood glucose formula which contains Bitter Melon and other top ingredients that help control blood glucose naturally.
Remember, restoring insulin sensitivity and healthy blood sugar functions are important for establishing a healthy metabolism. As you increase insulin sensitivity, weight loss gets easier. In conjunction with a low-carb, Paleo diet, Now Foods Metabolic Glucose Support can be useful in naturally counteracting glycemic obstacles to weight loss.
Now Foods Metabolic Glucose Support supplements contain natural glycemic optimizing ingredients. They can help naturally balance blood sugar, prevent hypoglycemia, lower cravings for sweets, prevent energy crashes, and support weight loss. Find Now Foods Glucose Metabolic Support (Click Here).
Caution: If you are diabetic, hypoglycemic, pregnant, or a chemotherapy patient, make sure to consult with your doctor before taking Now Foods Metabolic Glucose Support, since it contains bitter melon extracts.
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The benefits of healthy blood sugar
As I approach 40, I am increasingly aware that the key to reaching one’s ideal weight may rest solely in blood glucose regulation. Not only is this true for reaching an ideal weight, but it’s also the case if you want to get lean or “ripped” muscle physique.
In practical terms, I believe the healthiest blood sugar levels are between 70 mg/dL, and 110 md/dL, which can be easily measured with the aforementioned inexpensive, at-home glucometer.
Stated another way, the key to burning fat in a healthy, lasting way is to keep your blood sugar below 110mg/dL as much as possible. Your blood sugar will spike after eating a large, carb-based meal or a sugary snack. Eliminate these habits and your body will thank you!
I believe strongly in using supplements to support a healthy diet with these goals in mind. I opt for bitter melon and berberine as they seem to provide the best possible combo to keep my blood glucose levels low. I am very excited we now offer Now Foods Metabolic Glucose Support as well, as I have personally used this supplement with great results; it’s amazing.
I have been low carb since 2011 and went from 220lbs to 189lbs at 6’3″ in the matter of 2 months following a low-carb, moderate-fat, Paleo Diet. However, as I have been low carb for so long I began noticing my waking (fasting) blood glucose level creep up to 101. So that’s when I began adding the bitter melon and berberine which helped to bring my fasting blood glucose back into the 80 or 90 range.
This are the key to weight loss and aging well. Following a Paleo diet and using supplements that support healthy blood sugar levels has made it possible for me to enter my fortieth year in the best health and shape of my life. I’m excited for you to try these strategies too… let me know of your results!
Besides clean, moderate fat, low carb, Paleo eating I have found no better product than Now Foods Metabolic Glucose Support to regulate my blood sugar levels and control my weight effortlessly.
Written By: Heath Squier / CEO / Julian Bakery, Inc.
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How to Lose Weight By Balancing Your Blood Sugar (5 Easy Ways)
All of these years, you’ve been told that counting calories, following point systems, and choking down fat-burning pills are the ultimate solutions for weight loss.
And as one of America’s most profitable industries, fad-diet quick-fixes make tall promises, which only yield short-term (and often disappointing) results.
The truth is, there’s an easier way to lose the weight – and it has nothing to do with miracle nutrients, detox teas, or dieting. Instead, sustainable weight loss can be achieved by learning how to balance your blood-sugar levels.
Can you spare 10 minutes a day? Then you can do this 7-Day Paleo Weight Loss Bodyweight Workout Challenge!
What is Blood Sugar, and How Does it Work?
You may want to hit the snooze button when it comes to blood sugar 101. But having imbalanced blood-sugar levels could be the exact reason why you’re not losing weight – especially if you feel like you’ve tried everything else to no avail.
Blood sugar simply refers to the amount of sugar (or glucose) in your blood, which comes from carbohydrates. Whenever you eat, your body receives an influx of nutrients, including carbohydrates.
During digestion, carbohydrates are broken down into sugar molecules and sent to your bloodstream, which naturally raises your blood-sugar levels. The hormone insulin is then released to bring the sugar out of your blood – and into your cells to be converted into energy.
That sounds simple enough, right? Just a regular biological process… No big deal.
But here’s where the connection between blood sugar and weight gain comes in.
How Imbalanced Blood-Sugar Levels Can Make You Fat
You see, your body only needs so much energy at once. So if your energy stores are already full at the time of digesting the carbohydrates, any excess sugar from your meal (that isn’t being used for energy right away) gets stored in your liver or muscle-tissue cells (1). That way, it can be converted back to energy later on. But if those stores are full, the sugar still has to go somewhere. As a last resort, your body will store the excess sugar as fat in your adipose, liver, or fat tissue (2).
The type of carbs that are most likely to get stored as fat are those that contain white sugar, such as bread, pasta, muffins, pastries, chocolate bars, sugary juice, alcohol, soda, and candy. (I’ll explain why in just a moment.) It should also be noted that while these foods aren’t typical of a Paleo diet, processed sugar can still sneak its way into Paleo-friendly treats, like store-bought coconut-milk ice cream or grain-free granola.
The reason why white sugar has such a harsh impact on your blood-sugar levels is because it doesn’t contain any fiber, which is needed to help slow the release of sugar into your bloodstream. When you eat refined sugar, the high concentration of sugar floods your bloodstream and causes your blood-sugar levels to quickly spike (3). Then you’ll feel a quick burst of energy (that infamous sugar high).
Since your body can only handle so much sugar at once, it works overtime to produce the extra insulin it needs to rapidly pull the sugar out of your bloodstream and into your cells. That’s when your blood-sugar levels will begin to crash, and you’ll be left feeling tired, hungry, and ready for another sugar fix an hour later. So the vicious cycle of blood-sugar spikes and crashes begins.
If you already have a high-sugar diet or are out-of-shape or overweight, your body works even harder to pump out enough insulin to keep up. The constant demand for insulin to be released wears your body out, and makes your natural ability to regulate blood sugar less efficient.
So insulin dysfunction can trigger fat storage and make weight loss impossible. Furthermore, a high-sugar diet can also set you up for weight gain by releasing excess leptin (the satiety hormone) (4). You see, leptin is the hormone that tells your body when you’re full, which prevents you from overeating. It gets released when sugar is being metabolized in your fat cells. And just like insulin, your body can become resistant to leptin when it’s constantly being released. Your body can become resistant to leptin, the satiety hormone, on a high-sugar diet. This makes weight loss harder!
Since leptin resistance interferes with your hunger and satiety signals, the result is an appetite that’s never satisfied, an overconsumption of calories, and impossible-to-reach weight-loss goals.
In addition, high blood-sugar levels are considered a stress to the body, which can cause the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol (5). Elevated levels of cortisol have been linked to weight gain, especially in the midsection area (6).
But What About Unrefined Carbohydrates?
If you’re wondering about the Paleo-friendly carbohydrates (such as fruit, sweet potatoes, bananas, vegetables, plantains, and coconut flour), the good news is that not all carbs are created equal. Plant foods contain fiber, so their natural sugar is released slower than processed carbohydrates. And they have less of an impact on blood sugar. In fact, the average intake of fiber on the hunter-gatherer diet is over 50g of fiber per day, compared to only 5g of fiber on the Standard American Diet (SAD). That’s why the Paleo diet is so effective for reducing high blood- sugar levels, even though it still incorporates unrefined carbohydrates. Fiber helps slow digestion, keeping your blood sugar levels stabilized.
However, unrefined carbohydrates are quicker to digest than healthy fats and proteins, which can still cause slight blood-sugar fluctuations. For this reason, it’s always best to pair carbohydrates with a healthy fat or protein, which takes much longer to digest. And as mentioned above, by preventing blood-sugar spikes, you’ll allow your body to burn fat more readily.
Let’s take a look at the other ways you can promote stable blood-sugar levels through your diet – starting today.
5 Easy Ways to Balance Your Blood-Sugar Levels to Promote Weight Loss
1. Always Eat Breakfast with a Good Source of Protein
Whether or not you’re a breakfast person, it’s always best to make sure your first meal of the day contains a good source of protein. Protein is the primary nutrient that keeps your appetite satisfied; it’s slow to digest and keeps blood-sugar levels stabilized. (7). Start your day with protein, which will keep your blood-sugar levels stable.
By having a good source of protein for breakfast, you’re also less likely to experience midday sugar cravings (or an energy crash that has you reaching for a triple-grande coconut-milk latte).
A few blood-sugar-balancing Paleo breakfast ideas include:
- 3 organic eggs with tomatoes, avocado, and turkey bacon
- A ham and spinach frittata
- A protein shake with berries, almond milk, and Paleo-friendly protein powder (e.g., beef or egg protein)
- Smoked salmon and sweet-potato hash browns
2. Stick to Low-Carb Snack Options
To prevent dramatic blood-sugar spikes, it’s best to snack on low-carb options, such as nuts and seeds. If you like to snack on fruit, low-carb fruits include berries, apples, and pears. Since fruit is still a source of natural sugar, your blood-sugar levels will benefit from pairing fruit with a protein or healthy fat to slow digestion (such as avocado or almond butter).
3. Use Natural Sweeteners in Moderation
If you follow a Paleo diet, it’s already likely that you’ve kicked white sugar out for good. But natural sweeteners, such as coconut sugar, maple syrup, coconut nectar, and raw honey are still simple carbs that digest rapidly. They should be used sparingly to promote a blood-sugar balance.
And while these sweeteners are the lesser of the evils when it comes to sugar, green-leaf stevia is a better option; it’s been shown to have little to no impact on blood sugar (8).
4. Get Your Beauty Sleep
Now for the non-food-related blood-sugar balancing tips. Research suggests that skipping sleep can promote weight gain and sabotage your blood-sugar levels. In one study, sleep restriction was shown to decrease insulin sensitivity (i.e., insulin stops responding to sugar in the bloodstream) – and impair the functioning of the appetite-control hormones, leptin and ghrelin (9). As mentioned above, without leptin, your body will have a hard time knowing when you’re truly full or hungry. That promotes constant food cravings and puts your body in a state of stress, which raises cortisol levels. This tangled web of hormone imbalances is another major cause of having difficulty losing weight.
Since sleep deprivation is also a form of stress, it can cause your body to release excess cortisol. And as you now know, the prolonged release of cortisol can promote fat storage around your midsection.
5. Stick to Low-Glycemic Foods
Lastly, referring to a list of low-glycemic foods can also help you choose the foods to eat that will keep your blood-sugar levels balanced. The glycemic load measures the impact a certain food has on your blood-sugar levels as it gets digested.
A food that ranks between 0-11 is considered low-glycemic. It will have a minimal impact on blood- sugar levels. Meanwhile, 11-19 is moderate, and 20+ is high. The glycemic load takes the serving size of a food into consideration, whereas the glycemic index only measures how quickly a food can digest into sugar. In other words, a banana could be highly glycemic, but based on serving size, it actually has a moderate glycemic load (11). Low-glycemic foods have a minimal impact on blood-sugar levels. Stick with foods that rate 0-11 on the GI scale.
For this reason, it’s more realistic to reference the glycemic load of foods – when choosing the best options to include in your diet for blood-sugar balance. The foods with the lowest glycemic load are unprocessed, whole foods – which are the only foods allowed on a Paleo diet. As you can see, it’s tough to go wrong when you follow a Paleo diet.
Balancing your blood sugar to promote fat-burning and weight loss (through your diet) isn’t another fad that will deprive and disappoint you. Instead, by sticking to Paleo foods that promote blood-sugar balance, you’ll be rewarded with more energy, a consistently satisfied appetite, and fewer cravings for the sugary foods that promote weight gain. Best of all, when you promote blood-sugar balance through your diet, the weight that you lose will stay off.
(Read This Next: 11 Best Breakfast Foods for Digestive Health)
It’s ooey gooey chocolate cake – and it’s healthy for you! Which means no blood sugar spikes… no guilt… and it’ll even help you lose weight.
Black Forest Cake with Silky Chocolate Icing… and it’s 100% Paleo Friendly!
Black Forest Cake with
Silky Chocolate Icing…
and it’s 100% Paleo
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Reshape Your Body, Pt 1 (4:18)
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Guess what percentage of dieters keeps the weight off for more than two years: 75%? 60%? 50%? The sad truth is only 15-20% of dieters keep the weight off, with 80-85% of people who lose weight regaining it (plus some!) after two years.
From This Episode:
Dr. Oz’s After-35 Survival Kit!
It’s time to shift your mindset when it comes to dieting. By focusing less on fads and more on maintaining a healthy balance of what you eat, you’ll impact your body on a level most diets don’t even consider: Stabilizing your blood sugar.
Your blood sugar level is the amount of glucose from what you eat that’s circulating in your bloodstream to provide energy to cells immediately or be stored for future use. A well-balanced blood sugar level is crucial to your overall fitness and well-being, regulating your hormones, triggering your body to burn stored fat, and increasing your metabolism to help you lose weight.
Unfortunately, most people’s blood sugar is not properly balanced. If you’re getting too much glucose, it leads to high blood-sugar levels, which your body can’t break down and stores as fat. Ironically, not getting enough sugar can also lead to putting on extra pounds! Eating too little glucose can lead to a low blood sugar level, causing your body to go into “starvation mode” where it burns your lean muscle instead of the fat – a double whammy to your system and your diet.
Fortunately, nutritionist Mark MacDonald and Dr. Oz have a 6-step plan to balance your blood sugar, allowing you to lose weight and keep it off!
Step 1: Eat in 3s
What’s the key to eating in 3s? It’s easy! Eat every 3 hours, and divide your plate into thirds: one-third protein, one-third fat, and one-third carbs. Our bodies “want” to eat every 3 hours, as it’s their natural eating schedule dating back from early mankind. Wait longer and your body goes into starvation mode, as it assumes food is scarce and packs on fat for the future instead of burning it away immediately. Be sure to eat within 1 hour of waking up, then every 3 hours thereafter.
Most people don’t get the right ratio of protein in their meals, loading up instead on carbs (around 60%) and fat (30%), spiking blood sugar. Dividing your plate into an equal ratio of protein, carbs, and fat will help keep your blood sugar at the right level. Here’s a sample menu of what that might look like over the course of the day:
- Breakfast: Egg whites, turkey bacon and oatmeal
- Lunch: Turkey burger with avocado on a whole wheat bun
- Dinner: A small portion of steak with sweet potato and butter
And it gets better: As your blood sugar stabilizes by sticking to the 3s rule, you release previously stored fat. And the leaner you get, the more you’ll be able to eat – that’s the power of having lean muscle! Just remember, you can always eat as many veggies as you’d like, as they’re packed with vitamins and nutrients your body needs and are low in calories.
Step 2: Prepare a Mobile Readiness Food Kit
That’s just a fancy way of saying always carry a snack kit. That way, you’re prepared to eat every 3 hours – no matter where you are. You’ll want a “grab and go” kit with three 250-300 calorie snack meals to eat between breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Here’s a sample kit to get you started:
- Snack 1: Turkey jerky for protein, a handful of nuts for good fat, and an apple for carbs.
- Snack 2: Greek yogurt for protein, a handful of sunflower seeds for good fat, and a handful of dried cranberries for carbs.
- Snack 3: A natural protein bar with equal parts protein, fat and carbs. Avoid protein bars that are packed with sugar, dairy and artificial ingredients, and instead seek out bars made with real fruits and grains.
Step 3: Drink 3 Liters of Cinnamon Extract Water
Adding cinnamon extract (available in health food stores) to water is a fantastic secret for balancing blood sugar and losing weight. Recent studies show consuming as little as a half teaspoon of cinnamon a day can reduce blood sugar levels by up to 29%, while also lowering triglyceride and cholesterol levels to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. When it comes to lowering blood sugar, cinnamon extract works even better than whole cinnamon. Just add 2 droppers of cinnamon extract to a liter of water, being sure to drink 3 liters a day to help with digestion and constipation.
Step 4: Eat 3 Ounces of Protein Before Every Cheat
We all “cheat” on our healthy diet now and then with carbs – but there’s a right way and a wrong way to do so. Before indulging in alcohol, fries, cake, or a chocolate bar, eat 3 ounces of protein first. You might go with 3 ounces of turkey breast, 3 ounces of cottage cheese, or 3 ounces of Greek yogurt. No matter what form you consume it in, protein is your friend when indulging in heavy carbs, as it helps slow digestion. Remember, don’t cheat more than two or three times a week, with only one cheat per day, so your blood sugar stays balanced.
Step 5: Align Your Spine by Rolling
This might come as a surprise, but keeping your spin in line impacts your weight loss. Your spinal nerves play a roll in controlling how food passes through your digestive tract. An aligned spinal column aids proper digestion, eliminating toxins and waste to help with weight loss. Rolling for 3 minutes a day on a $15 foam roller won’t only help with weight loss, it feels great too!
Step 6: Exercise Your White and Red Muscle for 10 Minutes Daily
Skeletal muscle is made up of two different types of muscle fibers: Slow twitch muscle fibers (red) and fast twitch muscle fibers (white). You activate your white muscle when you do something explosive, like running upstairs. You activate your red muscles with steady exercise like walking around the neighborhood. If you only work out one, you’re only burning fat in 50% of your body, so it’s vital to work out both. Here are two easy exercises you can do for 10 minutes at home. (Try it next time you’re watching The Dr. Oz Show!)
Mountain Climbers: Give your white muscles a burn with mountain climbers. Start in a pushup position on your hands and toes, pulling your belly in tight while keeping your back straight. Then, bring your right knee up toward your chest, supporting your body with your left foot on the floor. Next, jump your right foot back to the floor, simultaneously bringing your left knee toward your chest like you’re climbing up a mountain. Start out slow to build coordination and endurance, then speed it up to get your heart pumping and work your white muscles.
Side Shuffle: Exercise your red muscles with a side shuffle. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your arms bent at your sides. Bending slightly at the waist and keeping your belly tight, slide your left foot toward your right, then step to the right with your right foot. Repeat 2 or 3 times (depending on how much space you have – don’t crash into a wall!), then reverse direction, leading with your left foot. Continue alternating, as the steady lateral movement works your red muscles.
Combined for 10 minutes, these two movements hit all your muscles, and they make up the final and fun part of the 6-part plan to lose weight and keep it off.
Low Carb vs. High Carb – My Surprising 24-day Diabetes Diet Battle
By Adam Brown
Twitter summary: What I learned from doubling my carb intake: the same average blood sugar, but four times as much hypoglycemia, more work, stress, & danger.
As a teenager, I ate a high carb diet that included lots of Goldfish crackers, white sandwich bread, pasta, and white potatoes. It was tasty, but it put my blood sugars on a wild roller coaster every single day. Things turned around in college when I learned about nutrition, got on CGM, and spent time with health conscious friends. I soon realized that eating less than 30 grams of carbs at one time was a complete gamechanger. I’ve stuck with that approach ever since.
But is this lower carb method actually better for my blood sugars, or have I just been fooling myself? To find out, I took on a somewhat terrifying self-tracking experiment:
12 days of my usual, lower-carb diet, which averaged 146 grams of carbs per day (21% of daily calories). My carbs were primarily from nuts, seeds, vegetables, and a bit of fruit.
12 days of a higher-carb, high whole-grain diet, which averaged 313 grams of carbs per day (43% of my daily calories). My sources of carbs were NOT junk food: plain oatmeal, whole wheat bread, quinoa, wild rice, and fruit.
Neither of these was unrealistic. My lower-carb diet was nowhere near Atkins level (20 grams per day), and the higher-carb diet was consistent with the “average” 45% carb diet in people with diabetes (according to ADA).
Even though this was a one-person (n=1) experiment, I wanted to be as scientific and fair as possible: eating whole, unprocessed foods in both periods; counting and tracking every single gram of carbohydrate (LoseIt! app); wearing CGM 24/7 and downloading the glucose data to document what happened (Dexcom G5 and Clarity); taking insulin before meals (5-15 minutes prior) and correcting when blood sugars went out of range; and keeping total calories and my high level of activity as consistent as possible (Fitbit).
Before starting, I assumed:
Low-carb eating = lower average blood sugar, much more hypoglycemia.
High-carb eating = higher average blood sugar, less hypoglycemia, way more fun.
How wrong I was!
To my utter surprise, both diets resulted in the same average glucose and estimated A1c. But there were major tradeoffs:
The higher-carb, whole-grain diet caused four times as much hypoglycemia, an extra 72 minutes per day spent high, and required 34% more insulin. (A less healthy high-carb diet would have been far worse.)
Doubling my daily carbs also added much more effort and produced far more feelings of exhaustion and diabetes failure. It was not fun at all, and the added roller coaster, or glycemic variation, from all the extra carbs made it more dangerous.
I would summarize it like this: high-carb eating felt like highway driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco, alternating between 120 mph and 10 mph. Low-carb eating felt more like driving between 55 and 75 mph. The final averages were the same (65 mph), but the experience was far different in terms of safety and effort.
This article details the results from this experiment, starting with the glucose and insulin data. The key part is the Lessons Learned section, where I’ve distilled my eight biggest takeaways. In the appendix are photos of the meals I ate and activity data. A follow-up article posted here answers reader questions sent via email or on Twitter. And if you find this article useful, check out my upcoming book, Bright Spots & Landmines!
This is far from a perfect experiment, and I recognize it has many limitations. The goal was to change my diet, to honestly document what happened (with real data from my devices), and to share what I learned. A lower-carb approach requires some tradeoffs (convenience, variety, time) that may not be worth it for everyone. But I hope this article sheds light on why lower carb seems to work for my diabetes, and more broadly, why we must move beyond A1c alone in describing glucose control.
The plots below show my daily glucose profiles averaged over 12 days of high-carb and 12 days of low-carb eating. The black line shows the average at that time point, while the colored bars indicate the range of values at that time (yellow=high, gray = in range, red = low).
Can you guess which is high carb and which is low carb?
Observations: Low Carb
– Very consistent average throughout the day with no major spikes (black line).
– The bars are short and almost completely gray, meaning the vast majority of glucose values fell in the tight zone of 70-150 mg/dl.
– No obvious periods of serious highs or lows, consistent with my glucose data in the months prior to this experiment.
Observations: High Carb
– The black average line is more spikey, indicating more variability
– The bars at most time points are longer (wider range of values at one time), and there are more highs (yellow bars) and a few more lows (red bars).
– Trouble in early morning (highs), after breakfast (highs), late afternoon (lows), after dinner (highs), midnight (lows), and 1 AM-5 AM (steadily rising glucose).
Average Glucose, A1c, Time-in-Range
The different profiles above resulted in a near-identical average glucose and the same estimated A1c (low carb on left):
How is this possible? Averages can be misleading! Here are the time-in-range results, where things start to get interesting (low-carb on left):
To achieve the same average blood sugar on the high-carb diet, I experienced more than four times as much hypoglycemia (less than 70 mg/dl): 97 minutes vs. 22 minutes per day. I also had 72 extra minutes per day above 160 mg/dl during the high-carb period. Those trends mostly cancelled out, resulting in a similar average but far different blood sugar profiles.
I needed 34% more insulin on the high-carb diet, as my bolus insulin doubled to cover the additional carbs. I did not change my daily basal insulin (22 units) between the periods.
Total Daily Dose
1. Average glucose and estimated A1c did not capture the vast difference in variability or hypoglycemia between the two phases. Look at the two plots below – the one on the left is from a low-carb day, while the one on the right was from a high-carb day. I chose these two days because they had near-identical average glucose levels: 123 mg/dl (low carb) vs. 121 mg/dl (high carb). But the diabetes experience of those days was FAR different.
Every day of high-carb eating also brought the dreaded double arrow trend on my CGM: glucose rising or falling at more than 3 mg/dl per minute. For example, a -100 mg/dl blood sugar change in 25 minutes. Those scary drops were like riding a roller coaster day after day. By contrast, low carb eating rarely resulted in more than a 1 mg/dl per minute change (-25 mg/dl in 25 minutes).
2. I experienced four times as much hypoglycemia on the high-carb diet. In my effort to treat highs, I had to accept more lows. This tradeoff between high and low blood sugars is what made high-carb eating a tightrope walk every day. I could have been less aggressive, but that would have caused longer and larger spikes in glucose. Low-carb eating made it easier to spend more time-in-range because there were fewer spikes and drops to deal with – instead of a tightrope, it was more of an open sidewalk.
3. Insulin is a dangerous drug, and doubling my carbs required 34% more every day. Large-carb meals also required two to five times more insulin in a single dose. My typical lower-carb meals needed one or two units at a time to cover vegetables, nuts, protein, and a bit of fruit – all raise glucose in small increments (+20 to +60 mg/dl) over a couple hours. By contrast, higher carb meals – even whole grains – often required five- and eight-unit boluses. Insulin has been called the second most dangerous drug (after the blood thinner warfarin), and insulin errors cause more than 97,000 hypoglycemia hospitalizations each year. I see value in taking smaller doses.
4. Feelings of stress and failure skyrocketed on the higher-carb diet. All the extra work and planning was exhausting! While a lower-carb diet generally lets me put diabetes in the background, a higher carb diet requires constant vigilance, measuring, worrying, reacting to CGM alarms, and pre-planning. My twelve days of large-carb meals were tiring and mentally taxing – I felt like I was getting it wrong all the time. Here are some of the differences in effort:
Low Carb Experience
High Carb Experience
Little carb counting. Flat one- or two-unit boluses for most meals and snacks
Constant carb counting, measuring and entering into bolus calculator. Highly variable amounts of insulin.
Take insulin at meal start, after, or not at all.
Critical to take insulin before meals
Easier to track boluses – one or two unit boluses stop lowering blood glucose in ~2 hours
Harder to track boluses – large doses (5+ units) can still be lowering glucose at 4+ hours
Smaller activity impact: boluses are small and not significantly accelerated from any type of exercise. Stable blood sugar makes activity easier.
Larger activity impact: big boluses are dramatically accelerated from light activities like walking. Variable blood sugar makes activity more challenging.
5. Higher-carb eating put more pressure on accurate and precise estimates (meal size, needed insulin, impact of activity), and penalized me harder for getting it wrong. As a hypothetical: if I’m about to take 10 units of insulin, but my estimate is 30% too high (the meal is actually 70 grams of carbs, not 100 grams), that’s a three-unit overdose. For me, that translates to a massive 105 mg/dl difference in blood sugar: 100 vs. 205 mg/dl, or even more dangerous, 45 vs. 150 mg/dl. Compare that to a meal with 20 g of carbs requiring two units of insulin – a 20% error = 0.4 units, or just a 14 mg/dl difference (glucose meter errors alone can be larger than that!). A lower-carb diet put much less pressure on having accurate estimates. I’m a big fan of reducing diabetes math!
6. High-carb meals were most challenging at breakfast. Look at the pictures below showing my three worst morning (7 am to noon) blood sugar curves for the 12 days of low carb (left) vs. 12 days of high carb (right). Low-carb meals were not perfect, but the post-breakfast highs were so much faster, higher, and longer after high-carb meals. As anyone with diabetes knows, breakfast makes a huge difference for getting a day of blood sugars started off right.
Low Carb vs. High Carb – Worst Mornings
7. It was a harder to remember to eat vegetables on the higher-carb diet. When meals contained 60 grams of carbs or more, it was easy to just eat a sandwich and a piece of fruit, or chicken and a side of rice – those meals felt “complete” as I was making them. On the low-carb diet, vegetables automatically filled the side-dish spot, and the meal didn’t feel “complete” unless some veggies were on the plate (a single piece of chicken is just not enough food!). My higher carb meals were less likely to include vegetables, since the reminder to include them was not as apparent.
8. Eating a higher-carb diet without checking glucose often or wearing CGM would be like driving a racecar at 150 mph blindfolded. For all the reasons listed above, checking blood glucose often (6+ times per day) or wearing CGM seems essential on a higher-carb diet – it allows for corrections after the inevitable turbulence of post-meal glucose spikes, large insulin doses, incorrect estimates, and hypoglycemia. I’m fortunate to have access to CGM, and I recognize this is not possible for everybody with diabetes. But for those who choose to eat high carb, checking glucose often is critical.
I’m leaving this experiment with an even better understanding of why lower-carb eating works for me. And as I’ve discussed in previous columns (and show below) there is still great variety and taste to be found in a lower-carb diet.
I do not believe there is a single diet for all people with diabetes – we all come from different circumstances, and what works for me may not be worth it for many others. I just know that my blood sugars were completely out of control as a teenager, and they are much more in control now. The biggest factor in that change was eating fewer carbs at each meal.
What works for you?
A follow-up piece answers the questions and comments I received following publication. You can send others along here or on Twitter.
Appendix 1: Meal Pictures and Calorie Information
Low Carb Meals
Here are some pictures of the typical low-carb meals I ate during this experiment. I’ve described my low-carb diet in depth in a previous column. It’s a lot of nuts and seeds, vegetables, chicken, fish, and eggs. I do eat some fruit (mostly berries and apples), but not every day.
High Carb Meals
My high carb meals relied on whole foods: old fashioned plain oatmeal; whole wheat bread or bagels or tortillas; fruit (apples, pears, berries); brown and wild rice; quinoa; sweet potatoes; etc. I wanted to isolate the impact of higher carb intake, so keeping the food healthy was essential – adding junk food would have confounded the experiment. The one disaster “healthy” food I tried was granola – yikes does that spike blood sugar quickly.
I averaged very similar calorie intake during the two periods – 2,727 calories on low carb vs. 2,872 calories on high carb. It wasn’t identical – this wasn’t a lab setting! – but it was extremely close given the length of this experiment, the real-world eating I was doing (including meals out), and my level of activity. The extra hypoglycemia on the high carb diet could easily explain my very slightly higher-calorie intake during those 12 days.
A Note on Insulin Changes
For comparison, I deliberately kept my basal insulin and food bolus settings consistent between the two phases. Educator Jen Block pointed out that my insulin settings might be optimized to cover the lower-carb meals I usually eat (higher in fat and protein). Over a longer period of time, I could have changed my insulin settings to fine-tune them for the higher-carb diet. It’s hard to know how much that would have improved the glucose results.
There’s also an experience component here – the higher-carb diet added meals I have less experience taking insulin for. Even though I was counting the carbs accurately (reading the nutrition labels and using LoseIt!), there is no substitute for experience. It’s possible that if I kept at the high carb diet for long enough, I would have improved.
On half the nights during the low-carb phase, I wore overnight closed-loop from midnight to 7am (an extension of a study we previously wrote about). There are four reasons why I don’t think it had a major influence on the results: (i) the real difference between high carb and low carb appeared during the day, where the two phases were directly comparable on basal insulin; (ii) the closed-loop system used my pre-programmed basal rates as a guide, and those did not change between the two phases; (iii) my average 7am blood sugar was nearly identical between low carb and high carb phases (132 mg/dl vs. 137 mg/dl); (iv) the range of blood sugars at 7am was very similar between low carb and high carb (97-152 mg/dl vs. 108-161 mg/dl).
Appendix 2: Activity
As measured by my Fitbit, I averaged 16,653 steps per day on the low-carb diet vs. 18,505 steps on the high-carb diet. For some, that seems like a large difference in average activity, but it really isn’t – 1,852 steps per day is the equivalent of a 15-minute walk (0.8 miles), shorter than my daily commute to work. And as you can see from the chart below (showing daily distance walked for the 24-day period), the average is roughly similar with a few outlier days. I had one very active day on October 17 (long bike ride), which accounted for half of the total activity difference between the two periods. It would have been ideal to have identical steps in both 12-day stretches, but the tradeoff would have been a less real-world experiment.
Both 12-day periods were more active than my average 14,929 steps per day this year. A possible explanation is travel – I barely had any during the 24-day experiment (by intention), which allowed me to be more active than in a typical 24-day stretch with more travel.
Common Concerns about Low-Carb Dieting and Hypoglycemia
magine that you’re a few days into your low-carb diet and when you suddenly you begin to feel “off”. You’re experiencing “brain fog”, light-headedness, weakness, and mood swings. Thoughts race through your mind.
I don’t feel right…could I be hypoglycemic? Oh no, my blood sugar is low. Maybe, I should drink some fruit juice…
STOP! Hold it right there! There is a better solution, but first, let’s try and figure out what may be the cause.
Why am I feeling this way?
When I hear someone say that they are hypoglycemic, I often raise an eyebrow. It is possible for some to experience episodes of acute hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, but that term gets tossed around more than a hot potato. In fact, the medical field uses a variety of values in glycemic control as cut-off points in order to define hypo- or hyperglycemia. The cut-off values aren’t clear-cut. If you have a true underlying medical cause, such as diabetes, or some other condition, then this article isn’t intended for you. This is for the rest of the population, most of whom may not even know what a common fasting blood glucose range is.
When one begins The Carb Nite® Solution, Carb Backloading™, or any other low-carb diet, there are some foreign physiological changes that can occur, and it is normal to be concerned or aware of these shifts. The “feeling” that you’re experiencing may indeed be a drop in blood sugar. Even if it’s within the normal range, you may experience the symptoms of hypoglycemia.
However, there could be other reasons that you aren’t feeling optimal. Improving metabolic flexibility to use fats for fuel, namely the rate at which fat oxidation adjusts to high fat intake, can vary. You could also be experiencing a shift in electrolytes. That being said, for the sake of keeping this article brief, I’m going to focus on blood sugar regulation. To ease your anxiety, and before you diagnose yourself with hypoglycemia, let’s sort a few things out.
What is hypoglycemia?
There are two main types of hypoglycemia: fasting and reactive.
Fasting hypoglycemia can occur in those who normally consume a diet high in carbs and then drastically cut them for the first time. These individuals are unable to maintain normal blood glucose levels because their metabolism has yet to develop enough of the proper enzymes to break down fat for fuel, thereby demonstrating metabolic inflexibility. This can occur at the beginning of your ultra-low carb (ULC) journey when doing the 10-day reset of a Body IO protocol. If you have insulin resistance and a family history of diabetes, you are more susceptible to this response.
Reactive hypoglycemia is a response to an influx of carbohydrates, that creates a huge spike in blood sugar followed by a crash. The spike will cause more insulin to be released than needed, shuttling excess glucose into the muscle or fat cells, causing your blood sugar to drop. For example, beginning your Carb Nite (CN) with 2-3 pastries without consuming any protein may result in symptoms of reactive hypoglycemia. Sometimes, when clients have their first CN, they report shakiness, nausea, fatigue and flu-like symptoms. However, this can easily be fixed with a more structured CN.
How low is too low?
A “normal” fasting blood glucose (FBG) level is between 70 and 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Anything less than 70 mg/dL is typically considered low in the clinical arena. However, it is important to understand that normal in a clinical setting is only what’s common. Your normal target range is still very much an individual number.
For example, some people may function well at an FBG of 65 mg/dL which may be within their normal range. Due to variations in metabolism, I strongly suggest that you experiment with a blood glucose monitor to familiarize yourself with your blood sugar pattern. It’s a very inexpensive tool for you to use in your journey towards better health. You can purchase inexpensive monitors and strips over the counter at most local drug stores.
FBG should be taken first thing in the morning to determine a baseline. Blood glucose should also be measured any time you experience negative symptoms. Be aware that it’s normal to have variability after exercising and eating. If your numbers fall abnormally low or high when you go on a ULC-kick, then you will want to monitor it closely.
What should I do to feel better?
There are times when people on Carb Nite or Carb Backloading do experience hypoglycemia. However, reaching for orange juice or a Snickers bar is NOT going to help you. It will only make things worse in the long run, as it impairs your ability to use fat for fuel. The adaptation process impacts the amount of lipid accumulation in the muscle, thus impacting insulin sensitivity. You want the ability to increase fat oxidation quickly. Instead of reaching for the sweet stuff, here are some suggestions, according to Kiefer.
“If you experience low blood sugar in the morning, have 2-3 eggs with butter every morning when you wake up (amount will vary person to person). Eggs spike insulin, and the added butter keeps it from spiking too high. For those of you who train and want that insulin spike post-workout, milk may help. Milk has a low glycemic index and lowers the glycemic index of foods it’s consumed with, but also has a high insulin index.”
Waiting too long before meals may not be the best choice for those of you experiencing hypoglycemic symptoms. Until the symptoms reside, have smaller ULC meals throughout the day.
Monitoring blood glucose and trying different tricks to keep your blood sugar within normal limits will help you understand your individual metabolism and identify if there is a need for concern. This monitoring should ease your anxiety, not make it worse. If you feel that you still have blood sugar issues, you should consult with an MD who is well versed in low-carb dieting, such as Body IO coach Dr. Rocky. Hang in there, be patient, and remember that a ULC diet can be one of the best ways to manage your blood glucose. If anything…you need this.
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The principle of a low-carbohydrate diet is simple but there are some common mistakes which can happen and hold you back from enjoying the benefits of the diet.
In this article, we’ll look at the mistakes that can be made and therefore areas you can address. Make sure you also see our guide on how to follow a healthy low-carb diet
In this guide we’ll look at:
- Not getting good sleep
- Too much snacking and grazing
- Eating more carbs than you think
- Eating too much protein
- Having fake low carb foods
- Treat days
See also our guide on why a low-carb diet is not working
Missing out on good sleep
Sleep is something that can be taken for granted but a good night’s rest is necessary for the body to recharge and heal itself between each day.
Good sleep helps reduce inflammation and this has positive effects all through the body from lower stress to lower risk of heart disease.
If you’re getting too little sleep this will affect hormone levels and it can throw your metabolism out of balance.
Poor sleep can lead to lapses in healthy eating and can often increase the likelihood of snacking between meals or craving the wrong types of food.
Snacking and grazing
The problem with snacking is that it keeps levels of insulin within our body too high between meals and this is precisely what we want to avoid if looking to lose weight.
Insulin is the fat storage hormone so high insulin levels through the day will mean too much fat storage going on.
Unless you have reason to be worried about being too underweight, then you’ll want to reduce snacking as much as possible.
Eating more carbs than you think
It’s relatively easy to fall into the trap of eating too many carbs without realising it, especially if you’re underestimating the carb content of foods consistently.
It’s good to put time in to look up the carbohydrate value of different foods. To give you a head start, we’ve put together a guide on some of the foods that commonly catch people out.
Read more on the sources of carbohydrate that can catch you unaware
Eating too much protein
It’s certainly possible to overdo the protein on a low-carb diet. For most people, protein intake should be moderate on a low-carb diet.
If you are tracking your energy intake, you can regard around 50-60g of protein as moderate.
The problem with having too much protein is that it can prompt the liver to produce more glucose (process known as gluconeogenesis). More glucose production ultimately means higher sugar levels and more need for insulin (from your pancreas or injections if you take them).
The follow-on effect of this is that it can stall ketosis and prevent weight loss occurring.
Note that some sources of natural fats, such as cheese and nuts, are also fairly rich in protein.
Fake low carb food
Packaged foods branded as low-carb or keto can be deceiving and are usually something of a magic bullet. They’ll make big claims but underneath all the show it’s just sleight of hand.
We’ve seen so called ‘keto bars’ which pack more carbs in than a Coco Pops cereal bar.
The truth is that the people who achieved great results on a low-carb diet have done it by simply sticking to good sensible eating and not looking for short cuts.
Treats can be fine within certain parameters, however, they can get out of hand for some of us.
Treats are better when they’re small so dedicating a whole day to treat foods is asking for problems, particularly if you’re aiming towards weight loss.
For a more thorough info see our guide having treats and how treats can get out of hand