OK, ok – you know how I feel about diets (gross, waste of time, soul sucking, etc). But here’s the thing – paying attention to blood sugar levels is, in this dietitian’s opinion, the #1 key to weight loss, healthy weight maintenance, soaring energy levels and a revved metabolism all day long. And you barely ever hear about it. Why? Because talking about blood sugar isn’t sexy. Most people think only diabetics need to think about blood sugar, and there’s not as much money to be made educating people how to eat and live a balanced life, which is exactly what it’s all about.
If you’ve read my blog post, Calories are Stupid and 6 Reasons Why, you know blood sugar and hormones RUN THE WORLD. You read in that post that hormones control both the burning and storage of fat. But your fat burning and fat storing hormones have to be triggered by something, and that something is the amount of sugar in your blood.
Let’s take a walk through what happens with our blood sugar when we eat a meal. For this example’s sake, and to prove a point, let’s say that this meal is a typical, high carb breakfast on the go – a banana and a bottle of fresh pressed juice.
- Bananas and juice are primarily made up of simple carbohydrates, so we’re hitting our bodies first thing in the AM with almost pure sugar. Our blood sugar rises quickly.
- When we’re riding high on sugar, we get an energy rush – duh, food gives us energy – and our friend insulin (the ‘fat-storing’ hormone) tells our body, “hey dude, we’ve got PLENTY of energy available and floating around, so go ahead and start storing all this excess sugar as fat!” (yep – even your fancy fresh juice)
- So then our insulin starts shuffling all this excess sugar into our fat cells (and liver and muscle too, but when we’ve got that much access floating around, it’s going straight to our fat cells) and then what happens? Our blood sugar drops. Crashes. Because what goes up, must come down. And it’s the crash that makes us feel tired, groggy and hungry…already.
- Often times after a blood sugar crash, we’ll reach for ANYTHING to feel normal again. And even if we think we’re being healthy by grabbing an apple or a granola bar, we’re at a point where our blood sugar is going to shoot right back up and we’re going to start the cycle all over again. Blood sugar goes up, insulin comes out to play, sugar is stored as fat, blood sugar drops, we feel shitty, we eat again. And so on.
But wait, why am I not just a blob of fat if everything I eat is turning to fat? And, I can’t eat bananas anymore?!
Relax, babe. You can have your banana. But a diet of carbs on carbs on carbs on fat free on more carbs on skipping lunch, etc. is not going to make you skinny or feel good. In order to keep blood sugar in check (and fat burning), remember PHFF – Protein, Healthy Fat and Fiber. These three meal components slow down the uptake of sugar into the blood, making for a steady rise and steady fall, which is key to weight loss and sustained energy all day.
- Let’s take 2 extra minutes to throw our banana in the blender with a little Greek yogurt, protein powder, spinach and almond butter. Skip the juice.
- The extra protein, fat and fiber slow down the absorption of carbohydrate into the blood, so blood sugar rises slowly and steadily.
- Insulin is released, but because there isn’t a big spike in blood sugar, most of the sugar will be taken to the liver and muscle cells for energy storage. Once blood sugar begins to slowly drop, glucagon – our fat burning hormone – is released and goes to work torching fat. But glucagon only does this when our blood sugar is super chill and stable.
- When our blood sugar is stable, we don’t get those hunger pangs one or two hours after eating a meal.
In summary, let’s lay down my top 3 tips to get started on the blood sugar diet – or, what I like to call living a balanced, energized life.
3 Tips to Keep Blood Sugar Steady
- Live PHFF! As I like to say and my blog post is lovingly called, PHFF! Healthy eating is stupid easy. Protein, Healthy Fat and Fiber at every meal. Include all three, and you’ll keep those blood sugar levels nice and steady, letting glucagon go to work at burning fat and keeping your metabolism lit.
- Eat when you’re hungry. You know you better than I know you, or any other ‘diet guru’. So, just eat when you’re hungry because you’re body knows when it needs fuel. Don’t skip meals – remember what happens when your blood sugar crashes? Same thing happens when you let yourself get ravenously hungry.
- Don’t eat carbs alone. Even if you can’t make your meal PHFF for whatever reason, do your best to not eat carbs alone. Always eat some peanut butter with that banana or cheese with those crackers – it’ll still slow down the absorption of carbs into your system.