What to Know About Blood Sugar Spikes
Blood sugar spikes — or postprandial hyperglycemia — occur when your blood sugar levels (glucose) rapidly increase after meals. You might feel foggy, jittery, thirsty, hungry, or sluggish when your glucose levels rapidly spike, or you could experience some other common blood sugar spike symptoms such as headaches, anxiety, sleep troubles, and cravings for sweets. Or, you may feel nothing at all.
Chronic stress can raise blood sugar levels — and contribute to other concerns like weight loss resistance and reduced insulin sensitivity, which we’ll touch on below — but consuming high-glycemic index (GI) carbs (like sugary beverages, pasta, rice and refined grains) is a much more common cause for many of us.
But don’t worry, this doesn’t mean all carbs are off the table! With a few mealtime hacks you can minimize the damage and decrease your risk for metabolic dysfunction.
Let me explain…
Why is it important to prevent blood sugar spikes?
If you’re in seemingly good metabolic health, a sudden spike in blood sugar may seem harmless enough. However, regular (and prolonged) blood sugar spikes and crashes can lead to insulin and weight loss resistance, premature aging, cognitive decline, hormonal imbalances, cardiovascular disease, increased oxidative stress and inflammation, and even metabolic syndrome.
And here’s why I say seemingly good metabolic health: a study conducted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill suggests only about 12 percent of adults (including those with normal weights) are truly metabolically healthy!
Factors associated with metabolic health include:
- Blood glucose
- Waist circumference
- Blood pressure
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol”)
Another study found that even healthy, non-diabetic people experience diabetic-level spikes in blood sugar. And as I mentioned above, regular and prolonged glucose spikes put you at risk of becoming weight loss resistant, insulin resistant, and metabolically unhealthy. This is why blood sugar control is so important! Many people are on path toward metabolic syndrome without even realizing it.
Where Insulin Sensitivity & Weight Loss Resistance Come In
Let’s look at insulin resistance (also known as impaired insulin sensitivity) and its connection to blood sugar spikes and weight loss.
Insulin — a hormone produced by the pancreas — is responsible for regulating the body’s blood sugar levels. The pancreas releases insulin when glucose from the food you eat enters the bloodstream. But when a lot of glucose enters the bloodstream at once, the pancreas releases more insulin than it should.
When this happens over and over again your body stops responding to insulin — and the pancreas produces more insulin to try to keep up. Your body becomes less sensitive to insulin (known as insulin resistance), a risk factor for metabolic syndrome, obesity, cardiovascular disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Insulin resistance can also make it much more difficult to lose weight. Elevated insulin and blood sugar levels cause the body to store more fat, making it nearly impossible to shed pounds — even when you’re eating well, exercising, and seem to be doing all the “right” things. This is what we refer to as weight loss resistance.
Add ongoing exposure to obesogens into the mix — the environmental chemicals that disrupt the endocrine system, harm metabolic health, and contribute to weight gain and obesity — and losing weight may seem downright impossible! Examples of obesogens include bisphenol-A (BPA), phthalates, atrazine, organotins, and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).
A few common sources of obesogens include the following:
- Plastic food containers and disposable water bottles
- Certain pharmaceuticals
- Cosmetics and other personal care products
- Agricultural pesticides
- Household dust
- Nonstick cookware
Chronic stress and poor quality sleep also come into play here, which is why the road to good metabolic health includes getting to the root of the problem: controlling blood sugar levels, improving insulin sensitivity, reducing stress, sleeping well, exercising daily, eliminating exposure to obesogens and other toxic substances, and learning how your unique body responds to the food you eat (including WHAT, WHEN, and HOW you eat).
How to Prevent Major Blood Sugar Spikes & Crashes After Eating
Now that you know about the dangers of blood sugar spikes and the symptoms that accompany them (e.g. blurred vision, jitters, and increased hunger), let’s talk about prevention. It’s totally normal for your blood sugar levels to fluctuate throughout the day, but avoiding major glucose spikes is one of the best things you can do for your metabolic health!
You don’t have to eliminate carbs entirely to prevent the unpleasant (and potentially harmful) spike symptoms (like mental fogginess, shakiness, sluggishness, and headaches). To reduce your risk of developing insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome over time, it’s more effective to control your insulin response and improve your metabolic flexibility.
By tapping into your body’s unique response to carbs, you can still enjoy white rice, bread, pasta, and sugar; potatoes and fries; pizza and pretzels; cookies and brownies; sweetened beverages; and other simple carbohydrates — all without spiking your blood sugar or harming your metabolic health.
Here are a few of my favorite hacks for controlling blood sugar levels and preventing major blood sugar spikes and crashes after eating:
Drink Apple Cider Vinegar in Water Before Eating Carbs
About 20 minutes before eating carb-heavy foods (such as pizza or cake), drink one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (with mother), white wine vinegar, or any other vinegar without added sugars or carbs. Just be sure to dilute the vinegar in water and drink from a straw to protect your teeth!
If you forget to drink apple cider vinegar (or any other suitable vinegar) before eating simple carbs, you’ll still prevent huge blood sugar spikes and crashes if you drink apple cider vinegar within 20 minutes of finishing your meal. But please keep in mind that apple cider vinegar gummies do not have the same effect as liquid apple cider vinegar!
Pair Carbs with Fats & Proteins
To avoid major blood glucose spikes after eating carbohydrates, try pairing carbs with fats and proteins such as nuts, seeds, nut butters, avocados, and hard-boiled eggs. Bonus points if you pair fats and proteins with high-fiber whole grains like oats, Kamut, spelt, sorghum, farro, quinoa, barley, buckwheat, brown rice, and amaranth!
Tip: Poke bowls can be a fabulous way to create balanced meals that won’t spike your blood sugar!
Become a Master of Your Metabolism
To learn more about metabolic health and blood sugar control, be sure to join my free Food Confidence Community on Facebook. I hosted four Friday Live events this month, where I talked about some SUPER important metabolic health topics like energy expenditure, digestive rest for metabolism, blood sugar spikes and glucose control, and cellular health.
You can catch the replays here, or better yet, sign up for my eight-week Metabolic Mastery program to learn everything you’ll need to know to become a master of your metabolism!
Are you ready to increase your metabolic flexibility so you can age with confidence, energy, health, and happiness? My upcoming Metabolic Mastery program is perfect for you!
Enroll today and get one step closer to metabolic flexibility and body harmony.