What causes blood sugar spikes, and why are people so focused with preventing them? Learn how to keep your blood sugar in check without overthinking it.
How to Balance Blood Sugar without Obsessing
Blood sugar regulation appears to be a big topic right now. Previously, those with diabetes or other blood glucose abnormalities were the only ones who thought about blood sugar. I’m now seeing TikToks about blood sugar hacks all over the place.
While I admire the interest in blood sugar regulation, I see the potential for it to become far too obsessive (as with other nutrition trends). As a nutritionist, I can assure you that you can monitor your blood sugar levels (especially if you are at risk for diabetes) without developing unhealthy behaviors.
This post will provide some background information on blood sugar. Then I’ll go over practical tactics for controlling blood sugar levels without avoiding foods, restricting carbs, or becoming obsessed.
What Causes Blood Sugar Spikes?
When we eat, our digestive system converts carbohydrate into glucose, which is subsequently released into our bloodstream. Then, insulin functions as a key to unlock the door to our cells, allowing glucose to be used for energy or stored. As a result, insulin lowers blood sugar levels.
We prefer to observe even, rolling hills in blood sugar throughout the day – soft spikes after eating and gradual dips as we enter fasting mode in between meals. However, we occasionally experience high blood sugar rises and crashes, which can increase our risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. We’d typically observe this after eating a lot of carbohydrates with nothing to offset the surge, or in folks who go for long periods of time without eating.
Following that, we’ll discuss healthy blood sugar levels, as well as how to manage blood sugar through food, movement, and stress reduction.
Healthy Blood Glucose Ranges
Medical experts typically employ three distinct blood sugar measurements:
- Fasting. Because you haven’t eaten in 8-12 hours (usually done in the morning), your blood sugar should be at its lowest. Normal range is 70-99 mg/dl. A suggested level for someone with diabetes is 80-130 mg/dl.
- 2 hours after eating. Your blood sugar will be raised because you recently ate. However, if insulin isn’t acting properly, it will remain too high. A healthy level is 140 mg/dl. A suggested threshold for someone with diabetes is 180 mg/dl.
- A1C. This calculates your average blood sugar over the previous three months. A1C levels in the typical range are 5.7%. A suggested level for someone with diabetes is 7.0%.
Food and Movement Strategies
First and foremost, I’d like to discuss sleep and stress. If you were my client, I would first focus on increasing sleep and reducing stress before discussing diet and exercise. We’ll get to stress in a minute!
Here are my suggestions for balancing blood sugar with diet and movement:
- Eat regularly throughout the day. This helps us prevent blood sugar spikes and crashes, which can contribute to insulin resistance and make us feel bad. Our bodies prefer to be recharged every few hours.
- Consume carbohydrates on a regular basis throughout the day. No, you should not eliminate carbs if you wish to achieve blood sugar equilibrium. Carbohydrates are required. Consuming them on a regular basis also helps us avoid blood sugar spikes and crashes. Eating carbs on a regular basis also helps us avoid the diet-binge cycle.
- Meals should include protein, fiber, and fat. Protein, fiber, and fat make carbohydrate energy last longer and limit glucose absorption, which may help improve blood sugar levels. For instance, a quesadilla with tortillas (carb), beans (protein), avocado (fat), and sautéed vegetables (fiber).
- Snacks might be supplemented with protein, fiber, or fat. Carbohydrates in snacks provide us with energy, which is fantastic! However, for blood sugar maintenance, we should include at least one other component in our snack. For example, a banana with peanut butter vs a banana alone.
- Find a form of movement that you enjoy and want to undertake on a regular basis. The best forms of movement are those that you enjoy! Regular exercise will help lower blood sugar levels in general, so choose something you can comfortably include into your routine.
- After each meal, go for a 10-15 minute walk. Any low-intensity exercising right after meals can assist to reduce blood sugar spikes. However, you are not need to do this for every meal!
Can Stress Raise Blood Sugar?
Yes, prolonged stress can cause blood sugar levels to rise. Whatever form of stress you’re under, your body perceives it as a threat. The body then goes into “fight or flight” mode, which keeps insulin low so that glucose (energy) is available. But, as you may recall, insulin is responsible for getting glucose into cells so that 1. blood sugar levels fall and 2. our cells have energy to use. As a result, during times of stress, your body works to keep blood sugar levels high even when they should be lower.
Because of the numerous pressures we all face on a daily basis, it is not uncommon to find many people today suffering from chronic stress. I strongly advise you to seek out coping mechanisms for these pressures, especially if you are concerned about your risk of diabetes or other blood sugar issues.