Blood glucose, or blood sugar, is the primary source of energy for your body. When we consume food, it’s eventually broken down into glucose, which enters the bloodstream. Your blood glucose levels start to rise!
The body then releases insulin, which brings blood glucose back down as the insulin shuttles the blood glucose into cells.
Maintaining healthy blood glucose levels is important for several health benefits, and time spend above the healthy range has been directly linked with all-cause mortality. When blood glucose levels remain within a healthy range, it supports stable energy throughout the day, enhances cognitive function, and promotes overall well-being.
However, if you spike too much, the body often overcompensates with insulin, and you end up dropped down below baseline. This causes the ‘crash’ in energy, and is sometimes paired with dizziness and confusion. AKA the food coma!
Carbohydrates, especially simple carbohydrates like refined sugars, have the most significant and rapid impact on blood glucose levels. They are quickly broken down into glucose, causing a sharp rise in blood glucose shortly after consumption. This spike is followed by a relatively fast decline, potentially leading to a crash in energy levels.
Proteins have a milder impact on blood glucose levels compared to carbohydrates. They have a slower and more sustained effect on blood glucose, as they are broken down into amino acids that are gradually released into the bloodstream. This slow and steady release helps maintain more stable blood glucose levels and can contribute to prolonged energy availability.
Fats have minimal direct impact on blood glucose levels. Unlike carbohydrates and proteins, fats are not converted into glucose and do not cause immediate spikes. However, the presence of fats in a meal can affect the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, slowing down the release of glucose into the bloodstream and reducing the sharpness of the spike.
1. Meal Composition
When it comes to maintaining balanced blood glucose and sustaining energy levels, understanding the composition of your meals is crucial. While carbohydrates provide a quick source of energy, relying solely on them (in a meal in their own) can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels, followed by crashes that leave you feeling tired and mentally foggy. To prevent this, incorporate fiber-rich foods and healthy fats or proteins into your meals. Fiber slows down the absorption of carbohydrates, promoting a more gradual release of glucose into the bloodstream. Healthy fats and proteins provide satiety and help stabilize blood sugar levels, extending the duration of energy release and keeping you feeling satisfied for longer.
Essentially: try to avoid simple/complex carbs on their own- try to always combine them with fibrous carbs, proteins or fats.
Source: Glucose Goddess
2. Macro Order
The order in which you consume different nutrients also has a surprising effect on the impact the meal has on your blood sugar levels and energy duration.
Consider starting your meal with foods rich in healthy fats, salads, or high-fiber vegetables. This initial consumption of fats and fiber slows down the digestion process, resulting in a gradual release of glucose into the bloodstream. Once you've enjoyed your fat and fiber sources, move on to carbohydrates and proteins. This sequence helps regulate blood sugar levels, preventing sharp spikes and crashes, and provides a sustained release of energy throughout the day.
Source: Glucose Goddess
3. Walking After Meals
One simple yet effective strategy for optimizing blood glucose and extending the duration of energy release is to go for a 10-15 minute walk after meals. This post-meal stroll helps improve insulin sensitivity, facilitating the uptake of glucose by cells and promoting balanced blood sugar levels. The gentle exercise also aids digestion and can prevent the feeling of heaviness or sluggishness often experienced after a meal. Additionally, the combination of walking and fresh air provides a refreshing break, clears the mind, and boosts overall energy levels.