Maximize Your Energy: Part 3

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In Part 3 of the Maximize Your Energy Series, we will discuss the importance of good blood sugar regulation to maintain constant and steady energy levels.

In part 1, we discussed how the cells of the body use glucose (sugar) to make the cellular form of energy called ATP.

The body tries very hard to keep the blood glucose levels at a constant level. It has various control mechanisms that prevent blood sugar going too high or too low. This is because even slight fluctuations can negatively impact our health. When blood sugar is too high, it can damage tissues such as the eyes and blood vessels. When blood sugar is too low, we feel tired, lethargic, irritable and may develop headaches.

Primarily two hormones, insulin and glucagon control blood sugar levels. Both of these are released from the pancreas. When blood sugar rises, insulin is released; it takes sugar out of the blood for use as energy in the cells of the body. For example, insulin may take sugar out of the blood for muscle cells to use immediately for energy, for liver cells to make a short-term storage form of glucose called glycogen or for the manufacture of fat tissue, which provides a more long-term depot of energy.

If blood sugar drops, glucagon is released and enables a rise in blood glucose to normal levels by breaking down glycogen in the  liver. When glucagon is released, so too is another hormone called adrenaline. Adrenaline also helps to break down glycogen to increase blood sugar but, in addition, increases heart rate and blood pressure and causes sweating, alertness and anxiety.  This is what is what happens when people feel “jittery” after not having eaten for a few hours.

If we eat a meal high in refined carbohydrates (e.g. cakes, biscuits, sweets, breakfast cereals etc), the blood glucose levels soars almost instantly. This causes the body to panic. It responds by pumping out lots and lots of insulin to take the sugar out of the blood. Very often, too much insulin is released and the ensuing sharp DROP in blood sugar levels leaves us with the following symptoms:

  • Brain fog
  • Headaches
  • Low mood
  • Anxiety
  • Inability to focus
  • Cravings for more sugar

If too many refined carbohydrates are consumed frequently during the day, insulin is constantly being pumped out to help normalize blood sugar levels. Over time, the cells become insensitive to the actions of insulin, a phenomenon termed insulin resistance. In this scenario, the cells can’t understand the message insulin is trying to send (i.e. to take sugar out of the blood) and so blood glucose levels continue to rise. This means insulin levels also continue to rise to compensate and so a vicious cycle ensues.  When blood glucose and insulin are extremely high, the result is type 2 diabetes.

When glucose cannot be taken out of the blood because the cells can’t understand the message, the body cannot use the glucose for energy (i.e. to make ATP). This is why fatigue or extreme tiredness is a prominent feature of insulin resistance.  Similarly, insulin resistant individuals are generally very resistant to traditional fat-loss approaches.

Other symptoms include:

  • Brain fog
  • Difficulty focusing on minor tasks
  • Low mood

When blood sugar levels start to roller-coaster, the adrenal glands (which secrete the stress hormone cortisol) become over stimulated and eventually burn out. They are then unable to match cortisol needs to the demand and this further compounds existing fatigue.

Thus, if your goal is to maximize your energy levels, it is imperative that you really focus on balancing blood sugars.  Eliminating severe drops in blood sugar can help to alleviate energy slumps throughout the day but also to minimize the burden on the adrenal gland.

If you think, you or someone you know might be insulin resistant, contact Invigorate Clinic for a comprehensive insulin resistance work-up which includes HbA1c, NMR Lipid Profile as well as salivary cortisol and DHEA.

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Here are my basic tips for ensuring good blood sugar regulation:

 

  • Avoid carbohydrates in the morning time. Sure, there are some genetic freaks out there who can maintain a body fat < 8% while eating cornflakes, milk and table sugar for breakfast but, for the majority of the population, a breakfast composed of protein and fats is your best option. Examples include: venison and macadamia nuts, omelette with mushroom and tomatos, mackerel/salmon and asparagus, chicken and guacamole
  • Become familiar with the Glycemic Index/Glycemic Load of different carbohydrate sources
  • Try to consume small, frequent meals, which helps to keep blood sugar constant throughout the day
  • Include protein with every meal
  • Do not eat carbohydrates without some form of protein/fat
  • Avoid alcohol which tends to promote strong swings in blood sugar.
  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine in coffee, soft drinks and cigarettes
  • Include high fiber foods every day such as fresh vegetables, flax seeds etc
  • Remember that fruit especially fruit juices are very high in fast releasing sugars and should be consumed in moderation
  •  Try to stay calm! Stress stimulated the release of cortisol from the adrenal gland in the same way as stimulants like caffeine, which results in potent blood sugar swings.
  •  And last but not least, lift weights…heavy weights!

 

Useful Supplements:

  •  B-Vitamin Complex
  • Magnesium
  • Fenugreek Seed
  • Cinnamon Bark
  • Fish Oils
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid
  • Manganese
  • Vitamin C
  • Zinc
  • Chromium
  • Glutamine

All of the above supplements and dietary strategies are general recommendations. As with any natural or nutritional intervention, an individualized approach based on diagnostic testing is most appropriate and proves most successful.

For more information on testing or to book a consultation, click here.