You see more and more professional cyclists, triathletes and runners with a black or gray circle on their upper arm. The little device is a CGS – one continuous glucose sensor. In other words, a sensor that measures your glucose at any time. By gaining more insight into your blood sugar level, you could ensure that your diet perfectly matches your performance goals. But what exactly does that blood sugar say? And how can you, even without such a sensor, provide some positive influence on this important physical process.
What does your blood sugar say?
Blood sugar, or glucose, is the main form of sugar in our blood. Our body gets sugar from the food we eat. We need these sugars because they are an important source of energy for our organs, muscles and nervous system. To ensure that all these processes receive sufficient fuel, the body has a whole system to control the absorption, storage and production of glucose.
A short lesson in biology
When you eat carbohydrates, glucose enters the bloodstream. Our pancreas ensures the right amount of glucose in our blood. If there is a lot of glucose in the blood, the pancreas produces the hormone insulin. Insulin transports the excess glucose to the liver where it is stored as glycogen. If there is too little glucose, the pancreas produces glucagon. This hormone ensures that glycogen is released and more glucose enters the blood. Before you eat, your blood sugar should be roughly around 80-99 mg/dl. It may rise after a meal. Ideally, this should rise to a maximum of 140 mg/dl. In people with (pre)diabetes, things go wrong with the regulation. In that case, cells can become (more) insensitive to insulin, so that more insulin has to be produced.
How do you keep your blood sugar stable?
For almost everyone, a (more) stable blood sugar level can contribute to better health and a reduced risk of conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.
Most things you can do yourself contribute to your overall health and also have a (much) effect on your blood sugar level. This involves maintaining a healthy weight, getting enough exercise and – very importantly – opting for a healthy diet.
Don’t eat differently, but in a different order
Products that contain a lot of simple sugars (such as sugar, sports drinks, sweets, honey) have a great effect on our blood sugar level. If you also eat a lot of such a product, your blood sugar will rise very quickly. This is not a problem during exercise, then you want the energy to be available quickly and immediately. That is why it is fine to opt for simple sugars during (intensive) exercise. But when you are less active, you prefer to eat something with more protein, fat or fiber. All three slow down the absorption because your body has to make more effort to break down and / or process these substances.
For example, if you only drink a glass of apple juice, the (fruit) sugars cause a rapid and high peak in your blood sugar level. If you would first eat some nuts or cottage cheese for that, that peak would be less large and delayed. The order is still important here: if you first eat fiber (vegetables, raw vegetables, nuts or seeds), then your protein (fish, meat, dairy products, meat substitutes) and then your carbohydrates (pasta, bread, rice, potatoes), this ensures also for a smaller peak. So first those nuts and then the glass of apple juice. Or first a salad and then a plate of pasta.
Other smart tips
Eat your pasta, potatoes and rice cooled in a salad. By cooling, sugars are converted into starch: this also slows down the absorption of energy. The same applies to toast: by toasting your bread you reduce the blood sugar peak. Especially if your bread also contains plenty of seeds and seeds. And do you eat something sweet? Do this especially after a meal instead of as a separate snack. After a meal with fiber, protein and fat, that sweetness ensures a smaller peak.
Have you eaten a too large, sugary meal or snack? Then make sure you get moving shortly. A few minutes (brisk) walk, a few times the stairs or just doing something in the household. By moving after your meal you can reduce the peak after the meal.
The after dinner dip (blood sugar dip)
You have eaten and soon after that you feel like you have no energy left. Difficult if you just want to go for a run. At that point, the solution is to eat something made of simple sugars. But that’s just the quick fix and does not solve the problem. You would rather make sure that your meal contains more fiber, protein and/or fat so that you prevent the peak (and the dip). What can you also do if you have an intensive training on the program and you don’t want to eat fiber or fat? Eat your last large meal 2 hours before your workout and opt for a small sugary snack in the last 5-10 minutes.
Need some inspiration? Here you will find three recipes full of fiber, protein and healthy fats for every moment of the day.
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