Four tips to get sugar to work for you - By Health Coach and founder of Peppermint Wellness, Suzy Glaskie.
How would you rate your energy these days? Do you sail through the day with consistently high energy – with lots left over for your evening? Or do you regularly hit an energy wall, maybe around 11am or 3pm, when you can’t think straight, get irritated with your colleagues, partner or kids, and basically stop functioning? If that sounds familiar, then you are probably one of the millions of people in the UK who are stuck on a blood sugar rollercoaster.
I know exactly how that feels. Up until my mid-40s, I was up and down throughout the day and regularly felt starving (even though I was eating constantly). I’d suddenly turn white as a sheet, get very shaky and go from mild-mannered and helpful to hangry, cranky and irritable.
When our blood sugar crashes, our pre-fontal cortex (the executive bit of our brain which is responsible for making wise decisions) can’t work properly, so we get brain-freeze. Plus, our mood is strongly affected. So, instead of feeling emotionally resilient and speaking calmly and constructively to colleagues and clients, we explode and say things we later regret.
What I failed to understand throughout all those years was that it was actually my food choices which were creating this rollercoaster.
My typical food at work day would go something like this:
7.30am - Toast or cereal for breakfast
Starving by 9.00am: start eating lots of toast to get me through till lunchtime
Lunch at 12.30pm (soup and baguette or a sandwich)
Starving again by 3.00pm: reach for a chocolate fix to get me through until home time
If you’re starting your day on a bowl of cereal (yes, even the ones that look healthy!) or toast, a bagel or a breakfast bar, you’re giving yourself a massive spike in blood sugar. That’s because refined carbs turn into sugar. This spike will then be followed by a crash that shrinks your mental faculties and has you craving another sugar hit. And that won’t generally be too hard to find, given that most workplaces are awash with cakes, doughnuts, biscuits etc.
The good news, though, is that this is easily and quickly resolvable once we make some small switches to our diet. The first thing to remember is that we need protein with each meal. My carb explosion of toast or cereal was setting me up for an entire day of crashes and cravings. Once I switched to eggs for breakfast, my whole day transformed. Because the protein and good fats stabilised my blood sugar, I was able to concentrate the whole morning for the first time in my life.
With just a little bit of planning and tweaking, you too can quickly get your blood sugar to work for you. Here’s how:
- Ditch breakfast cereals and all the other processed junk that’s pitched as a “healthy start to the day” (breakfast bars, I’m looking at you!). Choose a high-quality protein and some good fats: these will keep you feeling full and your blood sugar stable.
- Beware of fruit juices and fruit smoothies – they look healthy but they’ll spike your blood sugar. Stick to eating the whole piece of fruit and, ideally, pair it with some protein such as a handful of nuts.
- If you’re having a salad for lunch, make sure it includes protein – top it with last night’s chicken or salmon etc and throw in some avocado and pumpkin/sunflower seeds for extra healthy fats.
- Keep a bag of nuts, such as walnuts, handy and eat little and often to avoid that 3pm danger zone.