Rebuild Your Carb-uretor: Build Food Habits that Fight Fatigue — Part 2 — Use Spacing and Timing to Balance Blood Sugar

Do you slump in the midafternoon without your coffee or pass out on your couch in the evening after eating a handful of starchy comfort food?  

Chances are, you ARE listening to your body, and your body is telling you that you need caffeine or sugar to fight fatigue.

You may find this post helpful in getting started using your snacks to help balance your energy levels and achieving a more graceful state of energetic being throughout your day.

I’ve been there, maybe you’ve been there, lots of us have been there:  Wake up — dragging. Coffee. Skip Breakfast. Maybe eat lunch, maybe just coffee– but is rushed. Maybe gassy because under stress and not digesting. Mid-afternoon. Tired and nauseously hungry. Grab more coffee, sugar, starch, or all three. Get irritable right about the time getting out of work. Get home. Need to make dinner. Eat more carbs while making dinner. Finally eat dinner. Feel full, but still craving carbs a few hours later. Eat snack. Sleep– well or unwell — and wake up at 4 am having to pee, thirsty. Go back to sleep. Wake up — dragging.

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Sound familiar?  

As many people know, unstable blood sugar can be both an inconvenience — and, if it persists long enough, may lead to chronic disease.  Today we will discuss how to schedule your eating throughout a day to improve your blood sugar and energy control.

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1. As with all things — Begin with the End in Mind.

If you start your day spiking your blood sugar, it will crash low, increasing your desire for sugar (and maybe caffeine), and you are far more likely to end your day in a bag of starchy snacks. Choose a breakfast low in caffeine and high in protein and vegetables to reduce the sugar you eat in the first half of your day. Ensure you have protein to provide energy steadily even if you cannot find the time to prepare a meal high in fiber — a handful of nuts or a plain yogurt is a great starter breakfast if you are not a regular breakfast eater. If you aren’t very hungry, don’t push it — you’ll just create indigestion. Over time, and with less carb-eating at night and coffee intake in the morning, your morning hunger should improve.

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2. If you are often nauseous and it resolves with eating, always have a snack with you.

Remember last week when we focused on the value of eating protein at every meal or snack? The best defense against eating sugar is a good offense of eating protein regularly. A snack bag of raw nuts and seeds, seaweed snacks and a piece of fruit, grass-fed meat or poultry jerky, or even canned seafood can travel with you at all times, just in case.  Be mindful, though, if you have allergies, that the older the protein, the higher the histamine level, leading to stuffiness and itchy redness.

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3. Eat 5-6 small meals throughout the day that can fit in two cupped hands or smaller.

Stay ahead of your hunger with plenty of protein and fiber. A simple way to always be prepared is to have some fresh fruit and nuts on hand in your car or office desk, if those are snacks that you enjoy. I’ve had patients that keep organic sugar-free peanut butter at work as crave-support. Used to drinking coffee all day and barely eating until evening? Recognize you’ll need to train your digestion and start sipping — bring 32 oz of protein/veggie/fruit smoothie and drink 8 oz servings every 2 hours. Store-bought smoothies can be helpful, but are often much higher in sugar than is necessary to make a delicious meal-in-a-cup. Make your own so you can guarantee freshness and adequate protein. If you wait too long until your blood sugar crashes, you will be more tempted to make less healthful choices.

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So if eating constantly can help, why do you hear all this talk about the benefits of fasting?  Consider that your body was built to fast, *but* it has to be retrained to do so with ease.  There are many benefits to fasting– including helping the gut repair if it has been gassy and overwhelmed–  but jumping into fasting without first finding balance in your daily energy levels is neither wise nor safe. Instead of fasting during the day, when energy is needed and it is harder to make good choices, fast overnight, as the body evolved to do. Avoid eating right before bed to improve your morning appetite for breakfast, and if you decide to experiment with fasting, start by fasting when the sun is down — you will have access to food if you require it, and can adequately hydrate, and will be sleeping for most of the time you are fasting — so this is the time you will have the greatest immediate benefit and the greatest ease.  If you would like to learn more about how meal timing and spacing can re-train our hunger, this article discusses these topics with greater scientific detail. In short, if you don’t feed the body what it wants when it asks you to, it will start asking for different foods at different times in its best effort to accommodate your choices. Better than nothing — but you may not feel too great and you may find yourself attracted to less-than-healthful choices that will, over time, run you down.

So, in these two posts, we have started to consider simple solutions for eating your way to more stable energy. Though these recommendations are a great start, they are not complete with regard to food and they do not address exercise, sleep, and stress management, though they may help you have the stamina to tackle those areas of your life as well!

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So enjoy your delicious healthy snacks with protein and fiber and leave comments below — What tips have you used that work well?  What tips have you used that were a challenge?  How can you use this info in your daily life?

 

Rebuild Your Carb-uretor : Build Food Habits that Fight Fatigue — Part 1 – Soften the Blow with Substitutions

Do you slump in the midafternoon without your coffee or pass out in the evening shortly after eating sweet or starchy comfort food?

Chances are, you ARE listening to your body, and your body is telling you that you need caffeine or sugar to fight fatigue.

You may find this post helpful in getting started using your snacks to help balance your energy levels and achieving a more graceful flow to your day.

I’ve been there, maybe you’ve been there, lots of us have been there:  Wake up — dragging. Coffee. Skip Breakfast. Maybe lunch. It is rushed. Maybe gassy, maybe under stress with poor digestion. Mid-afternoon. Suddenly tired and nauseously hungry. Grab more coffee, sugar, starch, or all three. Get irritable right about the time getting out of work. Get home. Need to make dinner. Eat more carbs while making dinner. Finally eat dinner. Feel full, but still craving carbs a few hours later. Eat snack. Sleep– well or unwell — and maybe wake up at 4 am having to pee, thirsty. Go back to sleep. Wake up — dragging.

Sound familiar?  

As many people know, unstable blood sugar can be both an inconvenience — and, if it persists long enough, may lead to chronic disease.  Today we will deal with replacing the sweet foods you eat with alternatives less likely to make matters worse. Next week — stay tuned! — we will talk about how to schedule your eating throughout a day to improve your blood sugar and energy control.

The closer to straight sugar a food is, the higher it spikes our blood sugar when we eat or drink that food. The first step to balancing your blood sugar, and subsequently, reducing the peaks and valleys of energy throughout the day, is not to spike your blood sugar very high to begin with. The strategies for doing this are the same as a person with diabetes or pre-diabetes would use.

Here are the first food steps to taking control of your blood sugar:

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1. Avoid sugar in liquid.  Liquid speeds the absorption of sugar.  Stay hydrated.

Sugar in liquid raises your blood sugar higher and faster than any other food.  Soda pop, fruit juice, sports drinks, sweet tea, sorbet, sweetened coffee drinks, and blended fruit powder drinks are in this category.  Replace these with kombucha, kvass, or other lower-sugar fermented beverages, water or soda water infused with a few berries or citrus, floral and herbal teas that lend a hint of sweetness (such as hibiscus, chamomile, or mint), or good ‘ol filtered water.  Caffeine is tricky because it raises your cortisol, a stress hormone that raises blood sugar, so having a lot of caffeine will cause spikes in blood sugar. This not only drives some weight gain around your midsection, but it also creates cravings for sugar, starch, and more coffee. For some, though, the dopamine-boosting effect helps reduce consumption of higher-sugar liquids and foods, so reduce caffeine after reducing sugar. (For instance, don’t use sugar in your coffee, and avoid the macchiato.)

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2. Consume sugar with Fiber. Fiber slows the absorption of sugar.

Fiber is found in plant foods — fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes (beans and peas).  Many people point to oatmeal as the perfect slow-release-starch. Think about it how sticky oatmeal is — that gooey, glue-like fiber is called soluble fiber, and it helps bind your stool together and digests slowly, so your blood sugar rises less intensely over a longer period of time, giving you more stable energy with less crash later. Other foods high in soluble fiber that release sugar slowly include brown rice, apples, bananas, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and beets. Some foods are lower in sugar and still high in soluble fiber, including brussel sprouts and avocadoes. There is also roughage fiber, or insoluble fiber. This type of fiber makes us slow down and chew more and helps eliminate stool. Like soluble fiber, it is not able to be burned for calories, so it fills up the stomach with food that we don’t gain weight from, displacing the calories from sugar and fat in our diets while making it easier to be satisfied. This article discusses both types of fiber and their roles as we understand it so far in preventing diabetes, the ultimate blood sugar challenge.

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Swap out your juice for fruit, your fruit juice for a fruit smoothie, swap out the cookies for nuts and seeds or at least add oatmeal and nuts to your cookies. Replace fruit snacks with raisins. When you do choose milled flour products, choose whole grain options. To take it to the next level, start to replace noodles, pastas, crackers, and biscuits with vegetables — cabbage, leafy greens, sliced carrots/radishes/cucumbers, and roasted root vegetables, for example. But start simple and you may very well amaze yourself

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3. Eat Protein with Every Meal or Snack.

For those who are more lower-bowel-sensitive, consume fruit alone to avoid gas and bloating.

For the rest of us, follow this rule at all times.

Protein can raise your insulin (increasing muscle building) without increasing your blood sugar (less high blood sugar spikes → less low blood sugar pits that cause fatigue and cravings) and, unlike carbohydrate, it can be used to build the muscles and maintain the body if it is not used for energy. The individual building blocks of protein, amino acids, can turn into either sugar or fat as needed to provide balanced energy to your body.  Imagine if you could break down your car door to power your car — protein is powerful stuff!

For snacks, try pairing fruits or vegetables with nuts, seeds, nut butters, yogurt, granola, cheese, canned fish and shellfish, goat cheese, or sipping a homemade smoothie blended with nuts, seeds, nut butters, dairy, or protein powders. A balanced snack MUST contain protein, ideally contains some fiber, and may contain varying amount of carbohydrate.

You also make every neurotransmitter — chemicals that communicate in your body and brain like serotonin and dopamine — from protein. High carbohydrate intake without sufficient protein makes it very difficult, after a long time, for your body to wake you up and cheer you up in response to the snacks and the coffee. You’ll therefore eat and drink more, leading to more of the same problems.  Bolster yourself against anxiety and fatigue with regular protein intake.

To summarize, swap our your processed snacks for some produce and protein and feel the difference in your daytime stability. Reduce your caffeine intake as you start to feel less like you need the boost — and see how you feel!  This is a great start — there is a lot more you can do from here — but without these fundamentals, sugar can take control of your life.

I hope you found this health update simple and useful.  Timing and spacing of what you eat is the next important consideration. Stay tuned for next week!

What changes have you made to stabilize energy and cravings?