Improve Your Gains by Controlling Your Blood Sugar

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Last updated on December 10, 2023

Low blood sugar frequently strikes bodybuilders when they try to reduce body fat or get ripped for a contest. The drive for extreme leanness can result in temporary hypoglycemia. In this state, you feel dizzy and queasy. Working out becomes a chore, leading to lackluster workouts and unsatisfying results.

In this article, we will reveal some key strategies to control your blood sugar levels to avoid hypoglycemia and improve your gains.

Blood Sugar and Hormones

Your body controls blood sugar levels by absorbing carbohydrates from digestive food and breaking down stored carbohydrates that are mainly found in the liver. The process is particularly important when you need energy quickly, such as during exercise.

Blood sugar is controlled by several important hormones, including:

[1] insulin

[2] glucagon

[3] epinephrine (adrenalin)

These hormones go to work when your energy level changes, such as after eating or during a workout. While these hormones are critical to blood sugar regulation, they are ineffective unless they have fuels  – the carbohydrates from your diet – to work with.

Carbohydrates are stored in cells as glycogen, a mass of blood sugar units linked together. Your liver and muscles store most of your body’s glycogen. During exercise, the most important carbohydrate source for muscular work is muscle glycogen: use approximately six times more muscle glycogen and blood sugar to run, ride a bicycle or lift weights. Yet blood sugar is important because it fuels your nervous system.

Without a well-functioning brain and nervous system, your training motivation will drop, no matter how much glycogen you have in your muscles.

Blood sugar can also be manufactured in the liver from substances such as amino acids, lactate (lactic acid without the acid) and pyruvate through a process called gluconeogenesis. Fuel sources flowing into the liver via the bloodstream are converted into blood sugar. This process and the breakdown of liver glycogen helps the body maintain reasonably high levels of blood sugar, even during prolonged fasting.

During exercise, blood sugar control processes allow blood sugar levels to increase. Every unit exercise session with all glycogen stores in your liver, you can maintain elevated levels of blood sugar for several hours of exercise before it begins to decline.

Yet the liver’s storage capacity is limited. When you’re on a prolonged ad training program and don’t get enough calories of carbohydrates, liver glycogen stores can run low. A high complex carbohydrate diet will help to maintain adequate glycogen stores in the liver.

The High Carbohydrate Diet

A diet that is high in complex carbohydrates is the basis for good nutrition, both for bodybuilders, athletes and the general public. As we have already seen, blood sugar is carefully regulated, particularly during times of rapid energy changes in the body. The body’s control mechanism works best when changes occur gradually. After a meal, for example, control mechanisms react much more gradually to carbohydrates that are complex and therefore absorbed more slowly.

Many nutritionists recommend a high-carbohydrate diet to active people. This has prompted some athletes to consume large amounts of starches and sugars immediately before workouts or competition. During exercise, blood insulin generally decreases, allowing blood sugar to increase. Yet exercising of high insulin levels will decrease blood sugar and speed fatigue.

A better approach is to eat low glycaemic index foods before exercise or competition to help control insulin release and maintain blood sugar. The glycemic index is a scale to describe the relative rates at which carbohydrates from different foods enter into the bloodstream. Foods with a high glycaemic index cause a rapid increase in blood sugar, whole foods with a lower index increased blood sugar more slowly.

Mixed meals, which contain protein and fat in addition to carbs, are also slower to be digested than high glycemic carbs eaten alone.

During recovery from exercise, you need a lot of carbs (and a certain amount of protein). Insulin is depressed during exercise and early in recovery, but the cells are very sensitive to carbohydrates. The body is best able to replenish glycogen stores in the liver and muscles during the first two hours of recovery from exercise. High glycemic foods cause an exaggerated increase in blood sugar. Because insulin is low, however, the danger of a rebound decline in blood sugar is low.

Based on the blood sugar response in particular foods and experience with many athletes, some nutritionists recommend consuming lower glycaemic index foods before training and competition, and higher waste semen index foods immediately after. Instead of consuming exclusively high glycemic index foods before a competition, bodybuilders should continue with the normal balanced diet, emphasizing complex carbs and proteins and resulting in lesser, but prolonged, elevation and blood sugar.

Tips for Controlling Blood Sugar

atkins diet

The control of blood sugar is complex. If you follow a few simple principles, however, you can help prevent uncomfortable fluctuations in blood sugar that could affect your progress in the gym:

[1] Avoid high-sugar foods before exercise.

While occasionally eating these foods as part of your diet is okay, try to eat more complex carbs. Simple sugars taste sweeter, so people naturally tend to want to eat them more but this will make blood sugar harder to regulate and contribute to body fat increase. However, small amounts of quick-acting carbs just before and during exercise can help maintain your blood sugar and energy levels.

[2] Eat carbs after exercise

to help maintain blood sugar and replenish glycogen stores during recovery. Total carb intake matters more than the ratio of simple to complex carbs or the high and low glycaemic index ratings.

[3] Eat some protein during each meal.

Amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, help maintain blood sugar through the process of gluconeogenesis. The amino acids from the proteins in your meals act like tiny timed-release blood sugar regulators. Protein in the diet will help maintain blood sugar, keeping hunger away fat in the diet also slows down the absorption of glucose.

[4] Eat smaller meals more often during the day.

All meals that are high in complex carbs make it easier to regulate blood sugar levels, giving you a more sustained energy release.

Wrap Up

By controlling your blood sugar, you will have greater control over your mood and energy levels. As a result, you will be able to strategically consume complex carbs in order to achieve peak focus and energy levels for your workouts.

Steve Theunissen has qualified from the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) and is a certified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist. He has over 30 years experience in fitness and nutrition and currently working with famous fitness professionals. He is currently living in New Zealand with is wife and daughter.

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