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Fatigue and crazy energy swings are featuring far too much theses days and I too have been the victim of the 3pm sugar cravings.
Fluctuations with your blood sugar levels can contribute to fatigue, food cravings, low motivation, lack of concentration and weight gain. When you eat foods high in sugar or refined carbohydrates (the processed stuff) they cause a huge spike in the hormone called insulin. Insulin is like the key that unlocks the cells so the glucose or sugar can enter the cell. Once in the cell, glucose is used as our primary fuel to produce energy.
The issue arises when you are eating too much sugar or refined carbohydrates. What goes up must come down, so once your blood sugar levels have spiked your insulin follows suit. This is followed by a sharp decline or ‘crash’, which you guessed it, leads to the sugar cravings and fatigue.
If your blood sugar levels have been rising and crashing for a long period of time then your cells can start to become resistant to the effects of insulin and this leads to insulin resistance. If left untreated, insulin resistance is considered the precursor to type 2 diabetes.
When you have insulin resistance your cells are not receiving the glucose it needs to produce energy so this then sends a message to your brain that you need to eat something quick. And the brain knows the quickest way to get glucose into your cell is by eating sugar or refined carbohydrates, HELLO CRAVINGS and the vicious cycle of blood sugar imbalance.
How do you know if you might have insulin resistance? You might.....
- experience constant cravings for sugar and/or carbohydrates.
- be really affected when you haven’t eating for a while and feel sick or get angry (hangry anyone?).
- hold extra weight around your stomach that you can’t shift.
- feel tried after eating and lack energy to exercise.
One of the best ways that you can keep your energy levels stable and consistent through out the day is by managing your blood sugar levels with the foods you choose to eat. Sounds pretty simple right? Well is really is that simple, it might just take a little extra planning and preparation.
Key points to balance blood sugar levels.
- Make sure you include plenty of salad greens and/or vegetables along with good quality protein and good quality fat in each meal. Protein and fat will help you to feel full and satisfied for longer and will help to keep your blood sugar levels stable. You can get protein from meat, chicken, fish, eggs if you eat animal products and also from nuts, seeds, grains such as quinoa and rice and legumes such as chickpeas, lentils and beans. Good sources of fats include eggs, fish, nuts, seeds, avocado, flaxseed, coconut and olive oils.
- Avoid processed refined carbohydrate and high sugar foods. This includes processed foods such as bread, pasta, pastry, crackers, cakes, chocolate, biscuits and lollies. These foods can spike your blood glucose levels rapidly, followed by the sharp decline with will leave you feeling terrible.
- The world health organization recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day from all sources. One teaspoon = roughly 4g of sugar so you don’t want any more than 24g of sugar per day. Check out food items such as muesli, juice and yogurt, it might surprise you how much sugar you are consuming.
- Eat regularly and don’t go longer than 4-5 hours without eating. When you go for long periods of time with out eating your blood sugar levels will drop. This will activate a stress response and leave you feeling tired and craving sweets. Make sure you have some snacks on hand to get you between main meals.
- Magnesium and Chromium are key nutrients to support the correct function of insulin. Magnesium is found in leafy greens such as spinach, silverbeet and kale, almonds, cacao and wholegrains such as quinoa. Chromium is found in eggs, broccoli, nuts, seeds, asparagus, and mushrooms. Try to include these foods regularly.
Remember, it is what you do most consistently that gets results.