Weight Loss- Blood Sugar Is Key
If there is one thing that is absolutely crucial to weight loss it would be understanding how foods affect your blood sugar levels! Control of your blood sugar levels can mean the difference between gaining body fat or losing body fat!
To your body, blood sugar (also known as blood glucose) levels means more to it than just fat loss or fat gain; it can mean the difference between life and death (literally)! Diabetics know only too well the risks of having glucose levels too high; damage to blood vessels, organ damage, sexual dysfunction, nerve damage and foot ulcers leading to amputation. Too much sugar in the blood for long periods of time can cause impaired brain function, coma and even death.
Because of the importance of keeping your blood sugar levels maintained, your body has mechanisms of taking sugar out of the blood and into your muscles, liver and fat cells. The hormone responsible for this is called INSULIN. When a rise in blood sugar levels is detected, insulin is released by the pancreas and into the blood. Receptors on the cells at any of the three sites mentioned previously (liver, muscles and fat cells) detect the insulin and open their doors allowing the glucose to enter, thus lowering the amount of blood glucose.
Protein and fats, take a while to be broken down in the stomach and small intestine. Their components (amino acids or fatty acids respectively) barely have an effect on increasing blood sugar because they do not break down into glucose so won’t stimulate the cells in the pancreas that release insulin. Carbohydrates, unlike protein and fats, are much easier for the stomach to break down and the carbohydrates get broken down into sugar, which ends up in the blood. The more starchy the carbohydrate the higher it will raise your blood glucose levels per serving of food compared with non starchy carbohydrate foods.
The composition of the meal will affect how much your blood glucose levels rise and how quickly. For example, a meal consisting of mainly bread will raise your blood sugar levels very high, very quickly; whereas a meal consisting of non starchy carbohydrates like broccoli, and protein such as steak will barely raise your blood sugar levels at all.
This brings me onto a useful systems called the Glycaemic Index and Glycaemic Load.
What is the Glycemic Index?
The glycemic index (GI) is a system of measuring how much a given carbohydrate will raise blood sugar levels by. The higher the number the higher your blood sugar levels will be raised. A low GI food will have little impact on your blood glucose levels whereas a high GI food will have a significant effect on your blood glucose levels.
For more detailed information about the Glycemic Index check out the website mendosa.com.
The problem with the glycemic index however is that it doesn’t take into account portion sizes. This brings me on to Glycemic Load.
What is Glycemic Load?
Glycemic Load (GL) takes into account the portion sizes as well as the carbohydrate effects on blood sugar.
The example Mendosa uses is Watermelon. Watermelon has a high GI, but the amount of actual carbohydrate compared to water and therefore the amount in a given portion size is relatively low which puts watermelon on a Low GL.
Take a look at the picture below (taken from Mendosa.com)
The picture will be able to help you visualise what numbers are low, medium and high for both GI and GL. To get a more in depth explanation and a massive food list of GI and GL foods, go to http://www.mendosa.com/gilists.htm.
If you can get your head around this then this will be a way better way of analysing your food rather than counting calories.
Back to Blood Sugar
So how does all this affect you?
Well the meals you eat will determine whether your body goes into a fat storing mode or a fat burning mode. If you are keeping your carbohydrate intake under control, your body will transfer the blood sugar into your liver cells or your muscle cells to replace what it is using throughout the day. However, once you go beyond what those cells can hold your body has no choice but to store the sugar in your fat cells. The only problem here is that there is NO LIMIT to the amount of sugar your fat cells can store (in the form of fat)! This means if you keep feeding on more and more carbohydrates that raise your blood sugar levels, then you will gain more and more fat!
The above image is a very over simplified diagram of two different day’s diets and how they affect blood sugar levels. The black line represents a standard diet for most people; high sugar breakfast such as cereal resulting in a rapid blood sugar rise. As this drops (due to the effects of insulin) you start to get hungry and have something quite starchy again (usually a sandwich, pasta dish or baked potato) which causes a repeat in the rise and fall of blood sugar.
Interestingly it is usually around 3pm when people start to feel the post-lunch sleepiness. This is almost always due to their blood sugar levels falling due to the surge of insulin in response to high amounts of carbohydrates.
I remember this feeling of being really sleepy after lunch as far back as when I was 10 years old! I never got it back then, but my love of dessert and all things sweet was having an effect on my ability to concentrate. It was probably why I was always quite chubby as a kid too!
What Can You Do Right Now?
By this point I hope you have a good understanding of what foods will be carbohydrates, protein and fats. If you get this then the rest will naturally fall into place. After this post I hope maybe you also have a good understanding of what raises your blood sugar levels and what makes them fall (and where that blood sugar goes).
So this is what you should do from now on;
- Start thinking of food in terms of how it affects your blood sugar levels, rather than counting calories.
- Go for foods that will have the least effects on your blood sugar as possible
- Add more protein and fats into your diet to help keep your blood sugar levels stable (and slow down the rate at which carbohydrates are digested).