Blood Sugar Regulation for Optimal Performance
Blood Sugar Regulation is aimed at regulating blood sugar levels to optimise energy production (and remove slumps in energy levels – such as mid afternoon).
Most of us over-consume or eat mostly carbohydrate rich foods, which the body converts into high levels of glucose for energy production in the cells. It is estimated that the average Westerner consumes at least 50% more carbohydrates daily than our hunter gatherer ancestors. In response to a higher carbohydrate intake, the pancreas produces high levels of insulin, which is used to transport this glucose to the cells for energy production.
Excessive production of insulin is termed hyperinsulinaemia, and prolonged hyperinsulinaemia can result in the cells becoming insulin resistant. The cells do this to prevent more energy being produced than our body demands at the time. What this means over time however, is that the cells, having become conditioned to being resistant to insulin, can no longer get the glucose they need for energy.
The cells of the body make up all of the systems within the body. If these cells cannot produce enough energy to function properly, then the systems begin to break down leading to the indicators of lack of health mentioned earlier. And, ultimately to more the deep seated, chronic pathological conditions.
In addition, insulin resistance is a process that is inflammatory in nature. It is no surprise also, the the chronic illnesses that we most commonly suffer from, and that account for 90% of deaths in the Western World, are inflammatory conditions.
Unfortunately, as is very often the case, if the input of fuel for energy outweighs the demand for energy, then this glucose floating around in the blood stream must be stored. Apart from the small amounts of glucose that can be stored in the liver and skeletal muscles as glycogen, the main storage mechanism of this fuel involves converting the glucose to fat and storing it wherever this fat may be deposited (and most of us are aware of these areas in our own bodies).
What compounds this even further, is that insulin is a storage hormone, and elevated levels of insulin, or hyperinsulinaemia, prevents the release of this converted glucose from the fat stores when it is required. Fat is the most efficient source of fuel for energy in our bodies (in terms of amount of energy produced per gram), and when the cells can no longer gain access to this extremely efficient fuel source, apart from the circulating glucose in our blood or glycogen stores in the liver and muscles which are very limited, the body must access our protein stores for energy. Our protein stores include our muscles and vital organs. Not ideal.
Extensive scientific research has shown that the number one biological marker in the body of ageing is a reduction in our muscle mass to fat ratio. And this marker adversely affects all other biological markers of ageing; such as basal metabolic rate, heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, HDL (good fat) to VLDL (bad fat) ratio, bone density, blood sugar tolerance, aerobic capacity etc.
So, in addition to our systems not producing energy efficiently and adequately, and potentially leading us down the path to obesity, we are also accelerating our own ageing process. This all leads to a poor quality of life in comparison to what is available to us all if we are prepared to open up to our genetic potential.
If you are lean it does not mean however, that your cells are not insulin resistant. It just means that you are burning all of your circulating glucose for fuel before it gets deposited in the fat cells. The excessive levels of carbohydrates and resultant insulin resistance will still cause the body to function less efficiently as it will not produce the energy required at the rate that it is demanded, as it can’t get access to the fuel quickly enough. And body will also be inflammatory.
The “Optimal Performance Nutrition” program is based on predominantly eating foods that our hunter gatherer ancestors ate, as, from a genetic perspective, our body still functions as if we were still wandering the bush. These foods are generally low glycaemic load (GL) foods. The GL is the ranking of foods based on their immediate effect on blood glucose (blood sugar) levels and the amount of sugar they contain. The lower the GL, the lower the sugar content, and the better the food is for you.
Some of the benefits of a low GL diet:
• Improved energy levels.
• Maintenance of healthy cardiovascular function.
• Weight/fat loss.
• Low GL foods keep you feeling fuller for longer.
It was once thought that table sugar and particularly sugary foods such as sweets were the only foods that had to be avoided by people trying to control their blood sugar. However, the GL has shown us that complex carbohydrates such as potatoes, and particularly refined grains such as white flour (bread, pasta, cakes, biscuits, many cereals etc. etc.) and white rice can have an effect that is comparable to eating table sugar. And our hunter gatherer ancestors did not have access to these foods either.
One of the reasons for this is that refined grains have the fibrous, outer (often brown) shell removed. This outer shell, or husk, contains a lot of fibre which slows down the entry of the sugar into the blood stream. Fibre is also very important in maintaining the motility of our digestive system, and keeping our bowel movements regular. Given that up to 70% of our immune cells line our digestive tract, it is far more healthy to have an efficient, regularly moving digestive system than one that is blocked, irritated and festering!!!!
In addition, the husk also contains most of the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) in the grain. These micronutrients are essential in so many of the chemical reactions and processes that occur in the body. If these vitamins and minerals are absent in the food we consume, then the body will take them from its own stores.
An example of this is Calcium. The main stores of calcium in the body are in the bones and muscles. Calcium is essential in firing many of the chemical reactions in the body, including the production of energy in the cells. If Calcium is deficient in the food we eat, then the body will remove it from the bone and muscle stores. Maybe this may go a long way towards explaining why in the Western World, whilst we are the largest consumers of dairy (which are high in Calcium), we also experience the far higher rates of osteoporosis in comparison to countries where the population eat predominantly whole foods, and are far more active. Is it possible that because we eat such extraordinary amounts of refined carbohydrates, that our bodies end up leeching our bones of major minerals such as Calcium or Magnesium to perform their functions?
So, essentially, when consuming refined grains, you are eating nothing more than empty, sugary calories (see Table 2 – Pasta & Sugar Equivalents).
In addition to low GL foods, the Optimal Performance Nutrition program may require you to modify your protein intake. More specifically, to have small amounts of protein regularly. This is because you may not have been eating enough protein at certain times of the day, and too much at other times. A healthy protein intake improves appetite control, increases metabolism and helps maintain lean muscle mass. It is important to note that this does not imply or suggest a high protein diet – just a small to moderate amount regularly.
On the Optimal Performance Nutrition program you will also need to ensure you consume adequate amounts of “good” fats, known as ‘essential fatty acids’. Whilst saturated fats and trans fats (a thickener found in margarine, spreads, biscuits etc.) are very bad for you, certain fats and polyunsaturated fatty acids are very good for us and have important health benefits. Fats from oily fish, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils such as extra virgin olive oil anti-inflammatory and immune stimulating. They improve a wide range of conditions and may even help improve your mood and skin.
To gain optimal performance from your nutritional program, certain basic guidelines need to be observed.
In this program Tim will assess your current daily food intake and offer solutions to optimise your health and energy production by providing a plan which focuses on your body’s needs.
Follow up consultations will continue to assess your performance and energy levels while building a solid foundation for a healthier, happier you.