Maintaining normal blood sugar levels is a significant biomarker to helping to prevent long-term chronic health issues, manage your weight, and feel good. Unfortunately, health problems related to blood sugar imbalances, including prediabetes and insulin resistance, are reaching epidemic proportions. Diabetics (and biohackers) may already be using glucose monitors and GCMs (continual glucose monitors) to track their blood sugar, but you can also have your fasting glucose and usually your A1c levels taken at your checkups.
Diet, exercise, and lifestyle all influence blood sugar. Here are tips on the biggest glucose influencers and how to help mitigate spikes:
Prioritize protein: Incorporating protein (in combination with your carbs) can be very effective in controlling your glucose responses, as it helps to blunt a glucose spike. When consuming a meal higher in carbohydrates, try eating the protein first and then eating the carb. Letting the protein digest a bit (5-10 min) is especially helpful!
Controlling carb quality/quantity: Everyone's carb threshold and needs are different. Prioritize whole food sources of carbohydrates with fiber (fruit, veggies, legumes, etc.). Some people may still have difficulty with naturally occurring carbs spiking their blood sugar. It can be helpful to start with 15-30 grams of carbohydrates per meal and then experiment and build up from there, depending on tolerance and needs.
Meal timing: Chrononutrition is the intersection of circadian biology and nutrition. It's common to be more reactive to carbs when it's dark out due to a decrease in insulin sensitivity. "Early time-restricted eating/feeding" or TRE is an aspect of Intermittent Fasting which encourages food intake during daytime hours, which can sync with your body's natural circadian rhythms. For many, this means consuming your last bite of food before 6 pm or at least 3 hours before bed.
Fasting: Giving your body a 14-hour fast is generally safe for everyone. That might look like having dinner at 6 pm and your first meal of the day at 8 am or later. This means you are asleep for most of the time! Avoiding constant grazing and late-night meals can help prevent glucose values from getting too high.
Exercise: Exercise of all types helps to lower average glucose levels and make us more insulin sensitive. We tolerate meals (especially carbs) far more effectively in the post-workout phase; if you want to incorporate more carbs, doing so after a workout is a great place to start!
Walking after a meal: After eating a higher-carb meal, walking is beneficial to help dispose of any excess glucose and allow levels to return to pre-meal values more promptly. Even a brisk 15-minute walk around the neighborhood can help!
Apple cider vinegar: ACV has been shown to decrease the glycemic response when taken before a meal. The acetic acid in ACV is responsible for its ability to blunt the glycemic response. I like Bragg's brand ACV because it contains the "mother," which is the live bacteria (also helpful for gut health!). Meta-analyses suggest that ingesting vinegar at the start of a meal (or up to 15-20 minutes before)—1 to 2 tablespoons in a glass of water—can diminish the post-meal (or "post-prandial") surge in blood glucose.
Managing Stress: Mental and physical stress can significantly impact glucose. Find ways to chill out and your blood sugar will too.
Quality Sleep - Poor sleep quality or quantity can lead to elevated glucose levels the next day, disrupt hormones that maintain appetite, and cause higher spikes from foods that are usually well tolerated.
To be sustainable, and not overwhelmed, implement a few of the tips at a time. For example, be mindful of how your plate looks. Do you have protein, veggies, and maybe some high-quality starch? Do you usually sit at your desk or watch TV after a meal? Try taking a short walk first. Can you change your schedule to enjoy your last meal a bit earlier? Your sleep might improve with an earlier dinner hour, which maximizes your efforts. Start where you can. Steady blood sugar and optimized levels can help improve your physical health, energy levels, and moods and control cravings.
*As always, there is no-one-size-fits-all, and everyone's biochemistry and needs differ so be sure to check with your health care provider before making any major changes.