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  • Margaret Kavanagh Nutrition

Why does blood sugar balance matter when trying to lose weight?

Blood sugar imbalances, with the associated spikes and crashes, can cause you to feel tired, wired, and may have a host of long-term implications you may not be aware of.


To find out whether your blood sugar levels are balanced (or not), keep reading!


Do you find yourself craving sugary or starchy foods? Are you feeling lethargic or experiencing brain fog, headaches, dizziness or hunger more often than you’d like? Are you finding it hard to lose weight despite your best efforts? Do you find your energy is on the floor? And your sleep is affected?


These symptoms may be the result of imbalanced blood sugar levels.


In this article, I will tell you all about why blood sugar balance matters and give some advice on how you can stabilize your levels to sustain your energy throughout the day and help with your weight loss efforts.


What is Blood Sugar and how does it work?


Know Your Carbohydrates


All carbohydrates — whether from fruits and vegetables or from sweets and crisps — breakdown into sugar in the body (glucose) and introduces sugar to the bloodstream.


But as we know all carbs are not created equal.


Starchy carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, biscuits, pastries, processed foods) contributes to blood sugar in the body at a fast rate, causing spikes and crashes.


Complex carbohydrates (whole grains, beans, legumes) will introduce sugar to the blood stream at a slower rate.


There are a few factors that impact how much sugar is introduced to the bloodstream such as the type (simple/complex), timing (late at night) and quantity consumed.


Another factor is whether the carbohydrates were consumed on their own or paired with something else. When consumed alone, the rate of absorption is a bit quicker. Yet when you eat your fruit or pasta with protein, healthy fat or fibre, this helps to slow things down a bit (one of my favourite balanced snacks is banana and peanut butter, or apple with almond butter).


Blood Sugar Spikes and Crashes


After we eat carbohydrates, the pancreas produces a hormone called insulin whose job is to clear sugar from the blood stream. Insulin also determines whether we’re going to use the sugar from the consumed carbohydrates as energy now, or if we’re going to store it for later use.


The goal with insulin is to get a good balance.


When your blood sugar is low, you can experience cravings for sugary foods such as chocolate and cake which after eating just shoots our blood sugar levels right back up.


When it spikes, you can feel shaky, confused, dizzy, irritable, chilly, increased heart rate to name but a few symptoms.


Over time, these endless fluctuations up and down can really play havoc with how you feel and could cause stubborn weight gain.


How to prevent blood sugar spikes


Now that you know why blood sugar is important, here are a few simple tips to use to stabilise blood sugar.


1. Focus on Healthy Fats

Healthy fats take longer to digest than carbohydrates and don’t directly impact our insulin or blood sugar levels.


Also, by consuming a healthy fat alongside carbohydrates, the rate of absorption is slowed resulting in fewer spikes.


Include healthy fats like nuts, seeds, avocados or coconut oil when consuming carbohydrates.


2. Eat lots of Fibre

Fibre, just like healthy fats, slows down the rate of starchy carbohydrate absorption.


Eat a diet high in whole foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and legumes to get your daily fibre requirements.


3. Add Protein

Just like fibre and healthy fat, protein slows down the rate of carbohydrate absorption.


Protein can also help you to feel fuller for longer, helping with weight loss efforts. Focus on high quality protein sources from both animal and plant sources (beans, legumes, nuts, chicken, turkey, tempeh, tofu and edamame).


4. Manage Your Stress

Stress can trigger a hormonal response and increase levels of cortisol in the body. Cortisol can pull stored glucose (sugar) from the liver to increase blood sugar levels in order to give the body enough energy for flight or flight mode.


The issue is that over time, chronic stress can cause glucose to be constantly released from the liver resulting in long term blood sugar imbalances.


That’s why when you’re feeling stressed you want to eat sugar!


Find some strategies that work for you to combat your stress. Your body will thank you (and your waistline!).


5. Get a Good Nights Sleep

When you don’t sleep well, your hunger and satiety hormones are impacted, which means you can crave sugary and starchy foods – further exacerbating the problem.


If you’ve experienced some of these symptoms, get in touch for a personalised nutrition and lifestyle plan to bring your body back into balance in a way that isn’t restrictive or punishing.


Margaret works with clients one-to-one, creating personalised plans designed for their unique body and busy schedule while supporting them every step along the way to weight loss and renewed energy and vitality.


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