What’s the difference between your body storing fat and burning it?
This isn’t a lame dad joke; it’s science.
And the answer is blood sugar.
Blood sugar is the missing link that connects all the dots, answering that big question of why just restricting calories isn’t helping you lose weight.
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It also answers other questions too. Why do you feel hungry? Why are you tired by noon? Why is your body gaining weight no matter what you do?
Believe it or not, blood sugar is a major player when it comes to shedding pounds. In this guide, we will discuss what blood sugar is, how it affects your weight and how you can regulate it using a low-carb diet. So read on to learn everything you need to know about blood sugar and weight loss!
What is Blood Sugar?
Blood sugar, more properly known as blood glucose, is a type of sugar that circulates in your bloodstream. When you consume foods and drinks with carbohydrates (starches and sugars), they are broken down into different types of simple sugars like glucose, fructose and galactose. These simple sugars then enter the bloodstream, raising your blood glucose levels.
Is Blood Sugar The Same As Insulin?
Before we go any further, let’s clear something up. Blood sugar and insulin are related, but they are not the same thing. Some people accidentally use the two words interchangeably, but they are different.
Blood sugar refers to the sugars that circulate in your bloodstream.
Insulin is a hormone that regulates how your body responds to blood sugar. Insulin is secreted by the pancreas after you eat. As you eat more sugar, your body releases more insulin. The insulin signals the cells to burn that glucose for energy. The sugar your cells don’t use for energy then gets stored as glycogen.
Insulin is also responsible for storing fat. When your insulin levels are high, your body is in fat-storing mode. (Weight gain, anyone?)
So, when we talk about how blood sugar affects weight loss, we are looking at how blood sugar affects insulin levels in your body. Because that hormone is what signals to your body how to respond to fat (burning or storing it).
How Blood Sugar Affects Weight Loss
Remember, when your insulin levels are high, your body becomes a fat-storing machine. It holds onto sugar, turning and storing it as fat.
So, the opposite is true too! When your insulin levels are low, it tells your body to burn the fat as energy, not store it.
How do you keep insulin levels low? You do this by regulating your blood sugar. When glucose comes into your body (from eating carbs and sugar), it tells your pancreas, “Oh! Glucose is here! Time to make more insulin so we can burn that glucose for energy!” It does this over and over again. The more sugar and carbs you eat, the more insulin your body will produce.
So to keep that insulin level low and stop storing fat, you have to eat fewer carbs and less sugar. When you do that, your body will actually start burning fat for energy (hello, weight loss!).
A Quick Note About Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance is a dangerous thing that happens when someone’s body doesn’t react to insulin properly because the insulin receptors are so desensitized from its overproduction.
Insulin resistance is always accompanied by hyperinsulinemia—a state of there being more insulin in the body than is considered normal or healthy.
It can lead to obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and various other diseases. It’s so important to understand insulin resistance that we wrote an entire guide about it. Read more about how insulin resistance makes you sick. It’s shocking!
Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
One of the best things you can do for your health and weight loss efforts is to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. The definition of healthy blood sugar levels isn’t cut and dried. It depends on your age and how you tested it. It also depends on whether you already have diabetes or pre-diabetes. Discuss your safe blood sugar levels with your doctor.
To start, here’s how the American Diabetes Association (ADA) classifies diabetes risk for “fasting blood glucose (FBG) and HbA1c”:
- Normal: FBG under 100 mg/dl (5.6 mmol/L), HbA1c under 5.7%
- Prediabetes: FBG from 100 to 125 mg/dl (5.6 to 6.9 mmol/L), HbA1c from 5.7%-6.5 %
- Diabetes: FBG over 125 mg/dl (6.9 mmol/L), HbA1c 6.5 % or above
Symptoms of High and Low Blood Sugar
When you flood your body with glucose from eating a bunch of carbs or sugar at once, you could experience both a blood sugar spike and crash, and both have very different physical symptoms.
Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) mainly affects people with diabetes (Types 1 and 2). When someone with diabetes has high blood sugar, they will often feel thirsty with a dry mouth, tiredness, blurred vision and need to urinate frequently.
It usually happens when someone with diabetes eats too much sugar, doesn’t exercise enough, becomes dehydrated or misses an insulin dose.
Hypoglycemia is the opposite. It happens when your body’s blood sugar levels are too low. This can happen from fasting or if someone with diabetes takes too much insulin. Symptoms of low blood sugar include:
In really extreme cases, hypoglycemia can lead to seizures.
These are both medical things that you should discuss with your physician.
How Eating Low-Carb Affects Blood Sugar
High blood sugar levels mean higher insulin levels, which turns your body into a fat-storing machine. So, it also means that if you want to do the opposite and burn fat, you need to eat less sugar and fewer carbs.
What you eat creates a chain reaction that tells your body whether to burn or store fat. If you want to keep your blood sugar levels regulated, you need to follow a low-carb eating plan.
This means eating fewer grains (even whole grains), less sugar and more protein, fat and fiber. These are called macronutrients, and we have an entire guide that explains what macronutrients are and how much you should eat if you want to lose weight. Read the macronutrients guide to learn more.
Eat Better and Lose Weight
It all comes back to what you eat.
So if you’re looking to lose weight, then understanding how your blood sugar works is key. By regulating your blood sugar levels with a low-carb diet, you can reduce your risk of storing fat and achieve long-term weight loss success.
The best way to do that is to start with our 28 Day Metabolism Reset.
It’s a four-week plan designed to introduce you to this new way of eating and help you change how your body burns fuel forever. In just four short weeks, you’ll be shocked at how radically different you feel – try it today!
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