Ever wonder how the breakfast you just ate is transformed into energy that the body uses to do things like think, talk, and walk? Or maybe why you’re getting an energy slump around 2PM? Or why certain foods light you up while others make you want to nap? Your metabolism is the likely driver and connection behind all of these cause-and-effect scenarios. The most accessible way to uncover your metabolic life is through your glucose. We’ll help you connect the dots to understand how glucose, insulin, and weight management are linked and within your control.
When you eat carbohydrates, the body breaks them down into glucose, the main type of sugar in the blood and primary source of energy. Glucose is then absorbed into the bloodstream, sending a signal to the pancreas to release a hormone called insulin. Insulin, sometimes referred to as the “storage” hormone, is responsible for pulling glucose into cells to use as energy or stored in the muscles and liver for later use. As these glycogen stores fill up, excess glucose gets stored in adipose (fat) cells.
Our bodies use up glycogen stores to fuel physical and mental activities pretty easily, but as you may have experienced, it’s a lot harder to burn fat. This is partly because even a small rise in insulin from your baseline shuts down the fat-burning process.
The amount of glucose and how fast it enters the bloodstream, affect the speed and quantity of insulin released. More insulin released leads to the conversion of higher quantities of glucose to glycogen and fat.
A slow release of insulin in response to stable glucose levels means that you can replenish your glycogen stores with some or minimal conversion to fat.
A faster release of insulin means your body doesn’t have enough time to use glycogen, and most or all of the excess glucose gets stored as fat. This usually happens because of high glucose spikes (too many carbs, too fast).
How the food you eat affects your glucose levels
Balanced meals (think complex carbs, proteins, and fats) tend to release a slow, steady stream of insulin, keeping blood sugars balanced. But, meals high in refined carbs or added sugars cause a spike in blood sugars and signal a surge of insulin to be released (remember, a spike in glucose usually means a spike in insulin).
Refined carbohydrates (think bread, pasta, and pastries) or foods high in added sugars break down very quickly in your body. They are already so close to glucose that are rushed through the digestive process and go straight into the bloodstream. While quickly digesting carbs are a great option if you plan to do a high intensity workout shortly after, they can lead to prolonged elevated glucose levels or radical drops in blood sugar if you remain sedentary.
Insulin resistance is when the pancreas releases too much insulin and the body isn’t able to use it properly to pull glucose out of the bloodstream. Higher levels of insulin and insulin resistance can lead to weight gain and metabolic syndrome (like obesity and diabetes).
Glucose and insulin spikes that are repeated often and over time, can result in insulin resistance, weight gain, and metabolic syndrome. So, how do you know your spiking and what can you do to prevent it? A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) can help guide you.
So why not just measure insulin? Insulin can only be measured through a blood test by a lab, which isn’t exactly easy or convenient to do on a regular basis. So we measure glucose instead as the gateway to insulin because we know that large blood sugar spikes from high carb foods cause insulin surges, which eventually can lead to insulin resistance.