Sugar is, ultimately, a part of day to day life for many people - especially when the holiday and Thanksgiving season swings around and you start to indulge left, right and center.
We've all needed a nap post-Christmas or Thanksgiving binge, right? Did you know what actually makes you sleepy after that big meal is the blood sugar crash from the sheer quantity of food and the excessive sugar and carbohydrates you just consumed?
We’ve all been there. What starts as ‘just a piece of cake’ turns into ‘just another one’ and then some more of this, and that. Before you realize it, you have sunk a *lot* of sugar and when the sugar high starts to wear off (yes, this is a real thing), you start to hit a sugar low
For some people, this high sugar lifestyle can, over time, also develop into pre-diabetes or even Type 2 diabetes
No matter which category you fit into, in today’s article, we’re going to look into the science behind the sugar high, and the resulting sugar crash - and how to not only come back from a sugar binge to balance your blood sugar - but also sustained changes you can make over time to help avoid these sugar cycles turning into something more severe.
The importance of blood sugar
What happens when you high-dose your sugar?
Let’s get into the science. Your body is made to regulate your blood sugar levels (also referred to as the glucose levels in your blood). Glucose and sugar are a major source of your body’s energy, so in an ideal and optimum state of health, balanced sugar intake suggests a balanced energy level.
When you eat a carbohydrate, your pancreas secretes insulin to break down the carbs to give your body energy. On the flip side, if your blood sugar drops too low (ie. you’ve been exercising too much or haven’t fuelled yourself properly) the liver also releases glucose that it has stored for these times of stress and crisis. The end goal is that the body is always trying to keep things balanced.
The amount of insulin released depends on how many carbohydrates you’re eating - and the type of them.
A well-balanced meal, full of complex carbs (like high fiber root vegetables rather than processed white bread) means that the body breaks it down more slowly, providing a longer and more sustained energy release over time.
If, however, your meal or snack is a super carb/sugar-heavy one, this is where you can get into the ‘sugar hangover’ territory. This is because, often after a very sugary meal, too much insulin can be released to accommodate this excess sugar. As it peaks, the blood glucose levels will start falling - and this is what most of us know as the ‘sugar crash’. The less than nice feeling you can be left with here can show up as headaches, fatigue, just feeling a bit horrible - as well as feeling shaky and/or a bit sick. .
So, the problem is the rollercoaster, not just the crash?
Absolutely - both low and high blood sugar have their own negative experiences - but it’s also the fluctuation between high and low that can equally put your body, its blood sugar, and its hormones under stress - making you feel less than fabulous.
So how should I come back from a sugar binge?
If you enter into the sugar binge territory this holiday season (or, just generally) then it’s good to know how best to manage it. Being mindful as you eat, and how you are eating, is the first step to avoiding these repeated sugar highs and lows.
For a one-off sugar binge, it’s good to just understand that these things happen and to get out into nature and take a walk to walk it off. Ideally for around 45 minutes or so. These walks lower the insulin in your body, get the blood flowing and also support the health of your pancreas.
For issues over the longer term around insulin and glucose levels, it’s important to understand that there are also a whole host of nutrients and nutraceuticals (products that also help to assist in a more medical manner) that can help you from these sustained roller coasters over time developing into something more serious, like Type 2 diabetes.
Here are some of our favorite tips, tricks, and supplements that can help with both balancing blood sugar levels post-sugar binge and also for those who are struggling with Type 2 diabetes or are pre-diabetic:
Ceylon Cinnamon extract - include this into your meals and/or smoothies - this helps to support balanced blood sugar levels, read my blog about it here
Walk 10,000 steps per day - "Three short post-meal walks proved to be as effective at reducing blood sugar during 24 hours as a 45-minute walk of the same easy-to-moderate pace, according to a study published in June 2013 in the journal Diabetes Care. Once you reach 10,000 steps a day, step it up again.
Take alpha lipoic acid or work on incorporating foods high in this (such as spinach and broccoli). Alpha Lipoic Acid is a compound that acts as an antioxidant in the body and helps to alleviate general oxidative stress within the body which can be an underlying cause of Type 2 diabetes. this helps cope with any blood sugar rushes by boosting insulin sensitivity;
Incorporate resveratrol (also used for its powerful anti-aging benefits) into your diet and/or supplement regime. Resveratrol helps to prevent high blood sugar fluctuations;
Incorporate Apple Cider Vinegar into your daily routine. Apple cider vinegar improves the way the body absorbs sugar and increases insulin sensitivity. Apple cider vinegar is rich in something called acetic acid which research shows can reduce high glucose levels in the blood. Dilute 1 tbsp of organic apple cider vinegar in a large glass of distilled water and drink it before meals.
Incorporate B1 (thiamine) into your supplement plan in the form of benfotiamine. Many people with diabetes or blood sugar issues are actually deficient in thiamine and this low level can also lead to heart disease.
Take magnesium - this helps the body improve its insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control, as well as helps to avoid the development of type 2 diabetes. At Agent, we always prefer to go for a chelated magnesium for ultimate quality and absorption;
Vitamin D - regulates inflammation and insulin sensitivity in the body. Ensuring adequate vitamin D levels reduces the development and onset of type 2 diabetes and helps reduce oxidative stress within the body;
- Drink more water - ensuring that you drink enough water (2 liters daily) will help ensure that you don’t retain excess water and do not exacerbate your blood sugar fluctuations;
It’s also important to understand the impact that sleep, stress, and your circadian rhythm can have on your blood sugar levels too.
Sleep - research is showing that lack of sleep or short sleep duration (less than 7 - 8 hours a night) is directly linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes (study linked here). A lack of sleep may interfere with the way the body processes energy and can impair important functions that stabilize blood glucose and insulin sensitivity. It also makes you more likely to crave sugar to give you energy - perpetuating the cycle further.
Circadian Rhythm - not only is the amount of sleep important but also getting your circadian rhythm aligned is crucial. This human circadian rhythm is the biochemical process that drives your wake and sleep cycles - but this can be interfered with by things like blue light exposure, eating late at night, or not getting enough natural sunlight. Normalizing your circadian rhythm is essential to also normalize the way your body manages your sugar intake. Try fixed wake and sleep times, avoid late-night eating and try to get off your phone before bed - or, get a sexy pair of blue-blocking glasses.
And finally, stress - chronic stress is everywhere but the impact of it is constantly overlooked. Chronic stress drives hormonal changes which in turn drive blood sugar imbalances and lay the foundations for the development of Type 2 blood sugar. It drives insulin resistance and challenges the body’s stress response system which is known as the HPA axis. When this is constantly dysregulated, stressed out, and working on overtime, it gets in the way of your insulin resistance and insulin production - causing all kinds of roller coasters inside the body.
Walk 10,000 steps per day - "Three short post-meal walks proved to be as effective at reducing blood sugar during 24 hours as a 45-minute walk of the same easy-to-moderate pace, according to a study published in June 2013 in the journal Diabetes Care. Once you reach 10,000 steps a day, step it up again."
Being aware of the importance of managing blood glucose levels, and the corresponding insulin levels that are created by your body, is critical.
These have short, mid, and long term impacts on your physical, and mental health, and taking control of the decisions you make with regard to eating is important not just over the holidays, but also every day thereafter.
***THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN APPROVED OR REGULATED BY THE FDA. WE ARE NOT DOCTORS, THEREFORE ALWAYS CONSULT WITH YOUR DOCTOR FIRST.