How is it that people who are doing what they are “supposed” to be doing –- eating healthy, exercising, maintaining a normal body composition -– still have blood sugar issues? The second source of fuel for the mitochondria -– glucose –- has an equally important role in the function of cells. With the epidemic of diabetes and metabolic syndrome plaguing the industrial world in recent years, blood sugar and insulin have gotten their fair share of media attention. In fact, blood sugar balance is a major tenet of virtually every diet book from The Zone to The Atkins Diet. These are health-conscious, educated individuals who do not spend their time eating Twinkies, bingeing at McDonalds and competing in the World’s Laziest Couch Potato competition.
Rather, we see people who eat well, exercise regularly, have normal body composition and take supplements, but still don’t feel well.
Insulin resistance, which is characterized by two things: chronically elevated blood sugar levels, and subsequent elevated insulin levels to help deal with the blood sugar. And while each of these have their separate issues metabolically, both will cause issues with the function of mitochondria because there is not a steady stream of blood sugar available for ATP (energy) production. When someone is insulin resistant, glucose cannot effectively enter into the cell –- chronically elevated insulin levels create dysfunctional insulin receptor sites on the cell.
Because blood sugar is not adequately entering the cells, it stays in general circulation rather than being stored. Characteristic symptoms of insulin resistance include: fatigue after meals, craving for sweets that doesn’t go away when sweets are eaten, increased thirst, and frequent urination. Individuals with this pattern and periods of low blood sugar will have surges of insulin, rather than chronically elevated levels. Normally, the body should respond to low blood sugar by producing cortisol to increase blood sugar levels.
Symptoms are usually relieved after eating because meals provide a source of glucose that their body could not create itself.
Because their bodies rely on adrenaline to elevate blood sugar, people with some degree of hypoglycemia can have insulin surges between meals, rather than following meals, or chronically, as in insulin resistance.
But here is one of the biggest points: looking healthy, having a muscular body, and exercising regularly does not mean that you have normal blood sugar management. Though there are a number of mechanisms involved in this cycle, here is a basic explanation. In other words, you could have a perfect diet and exercise program, but if you have elevated cortisol levels, you may also be increasing your blood sugar from the inside. Two hours after a meal, it will ideally be between 85 and 100 depending on the size and quality of the meal. You could eat a meal, and then track your blood sugar at 30 minute intervals for 2 hours following a meal. A good protein-based meal with adequate levels of healthy fat and fibre should not raise your blood sugar levels too high. For most of you, the first step toward eating properly for blood sugar management is starting with the Precision Nutrition System.   Indeed, over 85% of our clients see the types of results they’re looking for by following this program. However, for the other 15% that use the program and still need to go a bit deeper, working with a coach through Precision Nutrition Coaching is the next step. Blood sugar dysregulation and elevated insulin levels have negative impacts on numerous physiological systems in the body. But on a fundamental level if adequate glucose cannot enter a cell, the mitochondria will not be able to produce optimal amounts of ATP to run the cells, organs and systems of the body, and we will not be optimally healthy, much less have the body we desire. The mitochondria use two primary sources of fuel to produce the energy required to run your body effectively: oxygen and glucose. These are basic fundamentals to health and fitness that must be addressed before deciding which supplement works better or whose workout program is the best for fat loss.
In it you’ll learn the best eating, exercise, and lifestyle strategies — unique and personal — for you. In order to have optimal health you will want to eat foods that maintain a stable blood sugar.
When you reduce your carbohydrate intake enough you will inevitably have to increase your fat consumption. Not only is Fat consumption and ketosis good for fat loss, it is also excellent for mental performance. For many athletes they have been told that carbohydrates are absolutely necessary for athletic performance. There is an emerging field of research that shows the potential for ketosis preventing and possibly curing cancer (1). There is no doubt that there are many benefits to living in a state of ketosis and I have personally enjoyed them with my own experience. The field of research on ketosis will continue to develop over the years and I think it has excellent health benefits and possibilities. Your body’s preferred source of energy is carbs (sugar is the simplest form of carbs) so when carbs are available the body uses those first for energy, and the extra are stored as fat.
Now that I have given a short rundown on blood glucose, I want to mention that having consistently high blood sugar (usually as a result of eating too much sugar or simple carbs like white flour) can lead to type 2 diabetes. Believe me, I am one of the biggest sugar lovers, and I know it can sound daunting to even think about reducing or eliminating sugar from your life.


There are a lot of other significant effects sugar has on your body and it’s functions beyond blood sugar. Protein gets all the “airtime” (because there’s more money in it!), and although it is important to an extent, sorting out your carbohydrate consumption will dramatic improve your performance and body composition. Carbohydrate is the body’s primary energy source, but any surplus calories will be stored as fat. Also, when insulin is dumped into your bloodstream, it causes a rapid fall in blood-sugar, down past your resting level – this energy crash causes cravings for more high GI foods (to rapidly bring blood-sugar back up again). The timing of your meals will also drastically effect your blood-sugar and energy levels throughout the day.
You should familiarise yourself with the GI values of different foods (subscribe to my free email list and download this article complete with GI value tables) and understand that consuming some protein with every meal or snack will help slow the absorption of even high GI foods. It’s especially important to consider the carbs in pre-fight meals, to avoid an energy crash in the ring. In my next post I explain how to fuel for long training sessions, optimise refuelling for multiple training sessions in one day, and then follow up with a look at the role of carbohydrates when cutting weight for a fight.
Don Heatrick, owner of Heatrick Strength & Conditioning, is a strength and conditioning coach, Muay Thai coach and former pro Thai boxer from the UK.
With over 25-years experience in combat sports and athletic conditioning, he’s passionate about all things leading to improved Muay Thai performance.
Don Heatrick is owner of Heatrick Strength & Conditioning, is a strength and conditioning coach, Muay Thai coach and former pro Thai boxer from the UK. Are anemia and low oxygen delivery to blame?) I focused on oxygen, one of the two fuel sources for what is arguably one of the most important components of your cell, the mitochondria.
And with good reason: imbalanced blood sugar levels are at the crux of many health issues, including being overweight. As a result, the body must produce higher levels of insulin to remove glucose from the blood stream, which causes even greater metabolic dysfunction. People with hypoglycemia can experience symptoms such as lightheadedness, irritability, shakiness and fatigue between meals, which is often relieved after eating. However, in this case, periodically hypoglycemic people usually have low adrenal function and rely on adrenaline to elevate blood sugar between meals, which causes the shakiness and and lightheadedness between meals. In fact, researchers have started using new terms like “non-obese insulin resistance” and “atypical metabolic syndrome” because normal-looking people are having blood sugar management issues. A good blood chemistry screen will contain enough markers to adequately identify patterns of blood sugar mismanagement. They usually cost around $50 and give you the ability to look at your blood sugar throughout the day. If it does, either the macronutrient ratio was off, the meal was too large, or in some cases, you might have a sensitivity to the food that causes a stress response and elevates blood sugar. Clinically, these are “high priority” situations because if either one of these processes are not working correctly, nothing will. Simple carbohydrates are the worst and generate massive spikes in blood sugar and subsequent insulin. When blood sugar is stable your body is getting all it needs for various functions and fueling the brain.
Despite popular media and conventional wisdom, in almost every study low carbohydrate diets dominate. Your body will switch from using sugar as a primary fuel source to using fat as a primary fuel source. The theory is that cancer relies on glucose as its energy source; remove the energy source and the cancer dies. If you are considering trying a ketogenic diet you should figure out what your objectives are and what you want to achieve. In order to post comments, please make sure JavaScript and Cookies are enabled, and reload the page.
Eating anything, actually, raises your blood sugar, but as sugar is much easier for your body to convert into glucose (the form that is used as fuel for all of your cells), it has a much more immediate and spiking effect. Again, because sugar is a “simple carb” it can be easily broken down to glucose therefore causing a quicker spike in your blood sugar after consumption, meaning the insulin is working hard to get rid of it (usually storing it as fat). Type 2 diabetes seems so common these days that I think people don’t take it seriously enough. And I am not necessarily suggesting you do that right this second, but I think being aware of how foods like sugar can effect not only your weight but also your overall well-being is really important.
Don’t despair; I will be addressing the sugar issue again next week and certainly much more in the future. All carbohydrate foods have a glycemic index (or GI value) which indicates how fast the sugars enter your bloodstream. If you give in to the high GI cravings, this blood-sugar “see-sawing” continues, not only topping up fat reserves but also peaking and crashing your energy levels. Eat every 3-4 hours to keep things stable — going too long between meals causes blood-sugar to drop, only to spike when you eventually eat. High GI foods do have a place in an athletes diet, but ideally only after a good training session, to re-stock your glycogen (muscle carbohydrate) stores. Despite what you may have heard, necking a RedBull before a fight really isn’t the best strategy.


Name Email WebsiteSubmit Comment Recent Posts One Size May Not Fit All on GI Foods Low GI Foods May Help You Sleep What Exactly Is the Glycemic Index Diet? Without oxygen, it is impossible for your cells to work at their full capacity or for you to be healthy. Excess sugar or carbohydrates, excessively large meals or glycemically imbalanced meals can excessively elevate blood sugar levels, causing this cycle to begin.
For example, if you eat celery and almond butter, or a salad with grilled chicken, your blood sugar should not go above 120 at any point after the meal. A raised level of blood sugar is actually quite damaging and generates systemic inflammation. Ketosis is actually preferable for endurance athletes as it prolongs energy by utilizing both glycogen and body fat stores. Many people will find it very easy to adhere to the ketogenic diet and achieve very good results. When your blood sugar is raised, your pancreas excretes insulin (which is a hormone in case you were wondering). The backup fuel in the body is fat so when you do not consume an excess of carbohydrates, your body uses stored fat or the fat you consume for fuel. High GI foods cause you blood-sugar levels to sky-rocket, forcing the release of insulin to bring it back down again. Eating low and medium GI food stabilises your blood sugar and energy levels, and your body will freely burn body-fat in the absence of extreme insulin release. So eat three main meals – breakfast, lunch and tea – and have a small snack between them too. The majority of the time, carbohydrates should be low to medium GI and account for about 55% of you daily calories. Your body converts dietary and body fat into ketone bodies, which are actually the preferred fuel source for many organs and muscles in your body (1) including the brain. A wide variety of evidence suggests that the ketogenic diet could have beneficial disease-modifying effects in epilepsy and also in a broad range of neurological disorders characterized by death of neurons. Cancer is now being considered to be a disease of metabolic dysfunction rather than previously viewed as a genetic abnormality.
In short, eating a lot of sugar can lead your body to store more fat and hinder it from burning fat. If your body isn’t able to regulate it anymore (which is what happens with type 2 diabetes) it can lead to some really serious health problems, so your best option is eating healthy to avoid the whole mess altogether. Insulin also causes surplus calories you’ve eaten to be stored as fat, or at least hold onto your stored body fat reserves rather than burning them for fuel. Just distribute your daily calories evenly though out the day rather than starving all day and then pigging out in the evening. The meal should also be a tried and tested one that doesn’t upset your stomach – fight day is no time to experiment (try meals out before training and monitor how you feel). Fat theoretically has a glycemic index of zero and will have almost no effect on blood sugar.
If you have restricted your carbohydrate intake or have exercised rigorously these storages sites will have capacity.
In the state of ketosis many people find their energy levels will remain stable and that fat very easily melts off your body. Blood flow to the brain also increases during ketosis and has been shown to increase by 39%.
Weight lifters and sprinters will still require carbohydrates to replace glycogen stores after intense workouts. The insulin acts as sort of a housekeeper by taking the glucose and delivering it to the cells that need it to function and storing the rest as fat. Eating a diet of predominantly protein and fat, with some complex carbohydrates (like vegetables) will help maintain a stable blood sugar. However, if they are full your body has no choice but to convert the excess blood sugar into body fat.
But will still have comparable performance simply using the glycogen stores within the body.
You may do just as well by having a low-moderate carbohydrate intake in the form of complex carbohydrates which have a low glycemic index. Sugar can be viewed as rocket fuel for quick spontaneous power and fat as a wood burning stove for long consistent energy. It is something you can experiment with to see how you feel and perform and get a better sense of what it is like. My personal favourite pre-fight meal is whole-wheat pasta with tuna, sweetcorn an a little salad cream. Imagine the storage sites are your gas tank in your car, you can only fill it up so much and if you keep pumping when the tank’s full, gasoline will overflow and spill everywhere.
It fuels you up nicely, is easily stored in a plastic container, and above all is within my limited cooking capability.



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