Want to lose weight? Than you need to stabilize your blood sugar with solid nutrition and supplements. As you will read in this post, I truly think the key to curing obesity is simply reducing people’s blood glucose levels and keeping them low throughout the day, and in cultivating lifestyle habits that support healthy blood sugar regulation.
I have found this true of myself, as I approach my fortieth year, and I have seen it in the results of countless clients.
I think most people grew up very lean but as we age we don’t move constantly like kids do, plus we constantly abuse our blood glucose regulation system by overindulging in carbs. This means our bodies are working overtime to process carbs, but our blood sugar levels are constantly being spiked year in and year out. This can cause weight gain, diabetes or even prediabetes… as you will read, I have experienced some of this myself.
Understanding how and why to measure and stabilize blood sugar levels is critical if you want to get lean, and stay that way! Here’s how it all works, and how to make it work for you.
How to age gracefully
Growing up I was so lean and had trouble keeping weight on. In retrospect, this is probably because I was young, active and ate healthfully, thanks to my Mom, who was a nutritionist. We only ate the best, most natural breads and baked goods. But what we didn’t realize back then was that even organic, sprouted grains and carbs can simply destroy one’s ability to properly regulate blood sugar, and lead to health problems and weight gain.
I was lucky then, since at that younger age I could manage carbs easily. However, as we get older, our bodies usually have a more difficult time processing carbs, sugars and grains. This makes it harder to effectively regulate blood sugar levels (more on this below). No wonder most people tend to gain weight as they get older.
The added weight gain caused by blood sugar dysregulation can also disrupt hormone regulation. This may lead to a decline in testosterone, or overly high levels of estrogen, which can again fuel weight gain and boost stress hormone levels (cortisol). This encourages a bloated, puffy midsection. Not good.
I truly believe the path to a lean physique and to reaching one’s ideal weight is by monitoring blood glucose levels upon rising and after meals. I’ll describe how to do this in this article. Once you have done this for a while and you better understand your body’s reaction to sugars and carbs, you can alter your food choices to naturally keep blood glucose levels low. The benefits of stable, healthy blood sugar levels include improved energy, fat loss, and fewer cravings for sweets.
So first, since sugar is the key to it all, let’s take a look at what it means to have healthy glucose levels in your blood.
Normal blood sugar regulation
Sugar, in the form of glucose, is necessary for life. So this is not about eradicating all sugar from your body. Rather, the glucose question is about how much, and through what sources should it get into your bloodstream.
You need glucose for your body, and especially your brain, to work properly. Glucose can be consumed as regular sugar, or as part of a more complex carbohydrate which is then broken down in your body into simple sugars.
Glucose can also, in certain circumstances, be created within your body from your fat stores. This approach is something I recommend to most people who want to lose weight, and I wrote extensively about how a ketogenic macronutrient ratio achieves these results here.
The main point is that your body needs to maintain a certain level of sugar in your blood at all times—too much or too little can lead to serious health problems. A happy medium is where you need to be.
Normal blood sugar in a healthy adult measures between 70 to 99 mg/dL when fasting,[i] and under 140 mg/dL after eating.[ii] (Note that mg/dL is simply a unit of measure that shows the concentration of a substance in a certain amount of fluid. In this case, blood sugar is measured as the number of milligrams of glucose per deciliter of fluid. Just remember, somewhere between 70 to 100 is where you want to be.) Learn how to measure your blood glucose level here.
Fortunately, your body has internal, automatic systems for keeping blood sugar in check. The problem comes when you overeat sugars and carbs, and throw your levels out of whack, on an ongoing basis.
How blood sugar is regulated: A review
If you want to get “ripped,” toned, or super-lean, you need to control your blood sugar (glucose) levels. And to do so effectively, you first need to understand how your body regulates glucose.
When you eat a carbohydrate (like bread, pasta, or a breakfast cereal), it is converted to simple sugar in the bloodstream. In this way, all ingested carbs (with certain exceptions, such as insoluble fibers) are broken down into glucose in the bloodstream (more on this here). And as blood glucose levels rise, so must your insulin response from the pancreas.
Your pancreas is a small organ tucked up behind your stomach. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that plays a major role in the way the body uses digested food for fuel (metabolism).
After you eat a meal, the pancreas releases insulin into the blood. When you eat a carbohydrate, your body breaks it down into glucose: a form of sugar that can enter the bloodstream. Insulin helps cells all over your body absorb glucose and use it for energy.
Insulin acts on the body in several ways, primarily helping to lower blood glucose levels by “mopping up” excess sugars and storing them as fat.
Speaking more technically, when blood borne glucose levels rise, insulin helps muscle, fat and liver cells absorb glucose from the bloodstream. In the muscles and liver glucose is stored as a molecule called glycogen. Fat cells help store excess glucose. Insulin also helps reduce glucose production in the liver.
Conversely, if your blood glucose levels are too low, another pancreatic hormone, glucagon, is released to stimulate the liver to release stored glucose into the blood.[iii]
In these ways, insulin and glucagon essentially work in harmony to regulate blood sugar levels and maintain balance (homeostasis) in the body.
Ideally, your body should be insulin sensitive, rather than insulin resistant. Insulin sensitivity refers to how sensitive the body is to the effects of insulin. If you have low insulin sensitivity your body will need to secrete more insulin to manage the increased blood sugar.
Symptoms of insulin resistance include feeling sleepy after meals, craving sweet foods (even after sweets are eaten), thirst, and frequent urination. A blood test from your doctor is the definitive way to confirm whether or not you have insulin resistance.
Note that stress (increased cortisol levels) and/or hypoglycemia can also lead to unhealthy insulin fluctuations and must be addressed in order to achieve optimal body weight.[iv]
Let me repeat that, as it’s a critical point: if you are chronically stressed, you are flirting with blood sugar dysregulation which will make it harder to lose weight. Remember, lower stress means better blood sugar regulation, which means easier weight loss.[v]
A high level of circulating insulin (known as hyperinsulinemia) is associated with blood vessel damage, high blood pressure, heart disease and failure, obesity, osteoporosis (porous bones) and cancer.[vi] Beyond getting a better beach body, these dire potential consequences underscore the importance of maintaining stable blood sugar.
Type 2 diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels rise to higher than normal, and in which the body does not use insulin properly. Diabetics have essentially lost the ability to automatically regulate blood sugar levels, and they typically need medication to help the process along.
Twenty-seven million Americans have type 2 diabetes, and another 86 million have prediabetes.[vii] Insulin resistance (that is, decreased insulin sensitivity) increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.[viii]
having prediabetes (or “borderline” diabetes) means that you have measurable physiological markers that indicate you are on the path to full-blown type 2 diabetes (and possibly cardiovascular disease[ix]).
If you have prediabetes, your blood glucose is higher than is healthy, although less than the diabetic range. Remember, “normal” means under 100 mg/dL of fasting blood glucose (i.e. after not having had food for eight hours). People with prediabetes typically have a fasting blood glucose between 100 to 125 mg/dL.[x]
If you are concerned that you may be diabetic or have prediabetes, check with your doctor. Your health provider will be able to run more complex tests to determine if you indeed have prediabetes. Proper nutrition helps keep diabetes in check, and can help reverse prediabetes make your body more insulin sensitive again.
My brush with insulin resistance
I am passionate about creating public awareness on this topic because I have been impacted by insulin issues myself. Growing up, I was always stick thin. However, once I got into my twenties I began overusing carbs and sugar by eating too many breads, pastries, and so on.
Like many people eating “healthy” grains, these habits spiked my blood sugar, and my ability to be able to produce enough insulin naturally began to decline around age 30.
I ended up putting myself in a pre-diabetic state, which I later turned around by improving my diet.
While good Paleo nutrition vastly improved my health and allowed me to lose weight, I still had some additional challenges. I am extremely carb-sensitive (this description can be used if you feel tired after eating carbs, you crave carbs, gain weight quickly, and more.)
I had always had lean, hard, defined muscles underneath a layer of what I called puffiness. I previously struggled to get a “ripped,” cut look to my midsection. Now I realized this was because my body was not able to produce enough insulin to handle any sort of carbs.
Not until I combined a low-carb, moderate-fat diet with the right supplements, did I truly see incredible results.
I’m going to talk about supplements in detail in a minute. But for now I’ll say that finding a product like Now Foods Metabolic Glucose Support–a natural blood sugar regulator—has helped me naturally balance all carbs and sugar in so that I could finally see results from the gym time I was putting in.
I also eat a low-carb diet and monitor my fasting blood glucose levels each morning to make sure it’s around 80 to 90 (mg/dL) upon waking. This is a normal level for a non-diabetic and a sign my metabolism is performing optimally.
How a Paleo diet helps
A healthy lifestyle consisting of sufficient sleep, regular movement and exercise, and a healthy diet (such as a Paleo diet!) are essential to avoid life-long health problems such as insulin resistance.
Note that the glycemic response of any food can be influenced by what you eat with it. So if you are going to “cheat” and have a glass of wine or piece of cake, eat it alongside some high-fiber foods[xi] (most vegetables). Healthy fats and proteins may have the same mitigating effect.[xii]
Low-GI, Paleo-friendly foods include non-starchy vegetables, meats, poultry, eggs, nuts, and low-sugar fruits such as berries. Basically, just eat Paleo… science has proven it increases the body’s capacity to handle sugars and carbohydrates. Or, (to borrow the brilliant words of personal trainer John Turk) just try to eat like a diabetic.
Personally, I have started specifically paying attention to further reducing sugar and any processed carbs and focused on a Paleo, low-carb, moderate-fat food plan.
My specific goal is to try and get an eight-pack by my fortieth birthday and the only thing I am going to do differently is increase my blood ketone level with exogenous ketones and keep my blood glucose levels low by eating low carb and choosing foods extremely low on the glycemic index. I am also pretty choosy about what supplements I use.
How supplements can help
Now Foods Metabolic Glucose Support. Here are some more details.
Berberine: This natural plant extract helps to burn fat, increases your ability to fight illness and stress, and can even delay aging.[xiii] Used for hundreds of years in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, berberine can help lower blood sugar and cholesterol[xiv] and make weight loss easier. Read my in-depth article on berberine here and check out our berberine supplements here.
Some people with insulin resistance may need to take the drug Metformin. Interestingly, preliminary studies have shown that berberine may be as effective as Metformin in the treatment of type 2 diabetes.[xv]
Caution: Many diabetics can safely take berberine, but we recommend you only do so under a doctor’s supervision.
Bitter melon: It looks like a strange cucumber, but it’s odd appearance belies an ancient secret: bitter melon is one of the best kept health secrets in the world of natural foods. Popular in Asian cuisine and renowned throughout the world a means to control blood sugar[xvi] and support weight loss, active substances in the melon have been shown to act the same way as insulin and support healthy blood sugar regulation.[xvii]
A cousin to one of our favorite sweeteners, Monk Fruit, bitter melon has a flavor that is, well, very bitter. This means taking bitter melon supplements is a way to get the benefits of the fruit without the distinctive taste. Find bitter melon capsules here.
Caution: If you are diabetic, hypoglycemic, pregnant, or a chemotherapy patient, make sure to consult with your doctor before taking bitter melon extracts.
Now Foods: Glucose Metabolic Support is an all-inclusive blood glucose formula which contains Bitter Melon and other top ingredients that help control blood glucose naturally.
Remember, restoring insulin sensitivity and healthy blood sugar functions are important for establishing a healthy metabolism. As you increase insulin sensitivity, weight loss gets easier. In conjunction with a low-carb, Paleo diet, Now Foods Metabolic Glucose Support can be useful in naturally counteracting glycemic obstacles to weight loss.
Now Foods Metabolic Glucose Support supplements contain natural glycemic optimizing ingredients. They can help naturally balance blood sugar, prevent hypoglycemia, lower cravings for sweets, prevent energy crashes, and support weight loss. Find Now Foods Glucose Metabolic Support (Click Here).
Caution: If you are diabetic, hypoglycemic, pregnant, or a chemotherapy patient, make sure to consult with your doctor before taking Now Foods Metabolic Glucose Support, since it contains bitter melon extracts.
The benefits of healthy blood sugar
As I approach 40, I am increasingly aware that the key to reaching one’s ideal weight may rest solely in blood glucose regulation. Not only is this true for reaching an ideal weight, but it’s also the case if you want to get lean or “ripped” muscle physique.
In practical terms, I believe the healthiest blood sugar levels are between 70 mg/dL, and 110 md/dL, which can be easily measured with the aforementioned inexpensive, at-home glucometer.
Stated another way, the key to burning fat in a healthy, lasting way is to keep your blood sugar below 110mg/dL as much as possible. Your blood sugar will spike after eating a large, carb-based meal or a sugary snack. Eliminate these habits and your body will thank you!
I believe strongly in using supplements to support a healthy diet with these goals in mind. I opt for bitter melon and berberine as they seem to provide the best possible combo to keep my blood glucose levels low. I am very excited we now offer Now Foods Metabolic Glucose Support as well, as I have personally used this supplement with great results; it’s amazing.
I have been low carb since 2011 and went from 220lbs to 189lbs at 6’3″ in the matter of 2 months following a low-carb, moderate-fat, Paleo Diet. However, as I have been low carb for so long I began noticing my waking (fasting) blood glucose level creep up to 101. So that’s when I began adding the bitter melon and berberine which helped to bring my fasting blood glucose back into the 80 or 90 range.
This are the key to weight loss and aging well. Following a Paleo diet and using supplements that support healthy blood sugar levels has made it possible for me to enter my fortieth year in the best health and shape of my life. I’m excited for you to try these strategies too… let me know of your results!
Written By: Heath Squier / CEO / Julian Bakery, Inc.
[xv] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2410097/ and http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211383512000871