Here are seven ways to keep your blood sugar in control: vinegar; glycine, proper balance and eating order within your meals, walking after your meal, putting your carbs after exercise, managing your glycemic load per meal, and focusing on meals that have a low glycemic index for you personally.
The video covers these recommendations in more detail.
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Read the Transcript
This is how to keep your blood sugar in balance.
Hi. I’m Dr. Chris Masterjohn of chrismasterjohnphd.com, and this is Chris Masterjohn Lite, where the name of the game is “Details? Shmeetails. Just tell me what works!”
And today we’re going to talk about a few ways to keep your blood sugar in balance. Alex Leaf, who you may know from his work at Examine.com, or who you may follow on Facebook, where he shares a lot of research, recently posted a few hacks to control your blood glucose after meals.
So, he says, “How can we reduce postprandial glucose and glycemic variability? A couple of hacks are to consume 1 to 2 tablespoons of vinegar before you eat, consume 3 to 5 grams of glycine before you eat, consume your proteins and fibrous vegetables before your starchy carbohydrates, and go for a brief walk after eating.
So, if we go through these one by one, the vinegar, it’s probably the acid that’s important, but I would use raw apple cider vinegar. You can take your pick of choice. For the glycine, to get 3 to 5 grams of glycine, we could either get that from pure glycine powder, or you get it from collagen or gelatin, or we could get it from bone broth. If we’re talking about pure glycine powder, then the advantages are it’s cheaper, and it’s also sweet, so you can use it as a substitute for sweetener.
But the advantage of using something like collagen or hydrolyzed collagen or gelatin is that the peptides that you get from those, probably hydrolyzed collagen peptides are best, but even with gelatin, when you’re getting it from the protein, the peptides that you digest it into are more easily synthesized into collagen. So if you’re trying to think about benefiting your skin and bones, then you’re better off using collagen. If you do that, to get 3 to 5 grams of glycine, you want to use 10 to 15 grams of hydrolyzed collagen or gelatin.
Now, bone broth has the same benefit of the collagen and the gelatin, but you also get some minerals in there, and you also get the culinary, the culinary benefits of being able to—either you like the taste of it, or you can cook your food in it, and it adds the certain texture and taste of the foods that you’re eating. In bone broth, it all really hangs on how much protein is there in the bone broth. So if you can verify that the protein content is about 10 grams per serving, then 1 to 1 and 1/2 servings presumably is going to give you that 3 to 5 grams of glycine.
In terms of brands, I like Vital Proteins, and I like Great Lakes for the collagen. Vital Proteins as well as Thrive Market is now selling a hydrolyzed collagen supplement, and they use enzymatic processing. It’s a little bit more expensive, but some people find it more digestible. If you’re just looking to save money, I think Great Lakes is a great brand. For bone broth, there are two companies that I know of that sell bone broth that they guarantee be 10 grams of protein per serving, and that includes Kettle and Fire, and it includes Kitchen Basics.
If we go to the next point, consuming the protein and the fibrous vegetables before the carbohydrates, one other way we could put this is you should always be eating your carbohydrates in the context of a mixed meal. So, sometimes people say they don’t tolerate carbohydrates, and it turns out that they’re eating just a bunch of bananas, and they’re not eating a balanced meal. So make sure you have protein about the size of the palm of your hand as a general rule of thumb, or if you have a more specific protein target, use that. Make sure you have protein, make sure you have vegetables, and make sure you have your carbohydrates alongside them. If you really need to manage your blood glucose to that extent, you could eat them in that order: protein, vegetables, carbohydrates. I tend to eat everything all together. At least have that balance.
And then exercise is important because when you exercise, your muscles start using the glucose, and if you have the glucose coming in, and it’s going somewhere, then your blood sugar is going to be a lot more stable than if the blood glucose is coming in and doesn’t have anywhere to go. And so going for a walk after you eat can be very helpful, and also placing your carbohydrates after a larger exercise load can also be helpful. So for example, if you eat a bunch of carbs after you just did a really intense weightlifting session or a really intense martial arts session or anything like that, then when your muscles have been using the carbohydrate, there’s going to be a lot of room for that glucose to go somewhere back into those muscles.
I’d add a couple more things here. So first of all, I think it’s important to manage the glycemic load, meaning how much carbohydrate are you getting in a given meal, and I think it’s important to—it can be important to pay attention to specific foods that impact you in a unique way.
So in terms of glycemic load, I think if you are eating a moderate- or low-carbohydrate diet, then getting away with two or three meals a day is fine, but you may find that if you’re eating a high-carbohydrate diet, or because of your exercise routine, you have very high caloric needs and you’re eating say a 100, 200 grams of carbohydrates at a meal, then you may be pushing your ability to handle that load at that one meal. And so what I find is that when my caloric needs go up and when my exercise is driving my carbohydrate needs up, I eat more frequently because I find that I feel much better if I’m never really getting over 100 or so grams of carbs, except maybe at night, when I’m eating dinner or before I’m going to bed, where it might knock me out, and I don’t really mind.
Then the other thing is specific foods. So, you could look up the glycemic index of a variety of foods. You may find some general principles like lentils, for example, a recent study showed that lentils lead to more stable blood sugar than potatoes or rice, but actually this is going to be highly variable from person to person, so I think that if you have a blood sugar problem, you do want to test specific foods and see how you respond, and the only way you can truly gather that data is with trial and error.
In terms of symptoms that you might experience, anxiety, tiredness, brain fog, shakiness could all be signs of blood sugar that’s too high or too low. Sometimes you get reactive hypoglycemia meaning your blood sugar spikes after or soon after the meal, and then a few hours later, it drops to the low range, and you might be experiencing symptoms like that in either of those cases. The only way to really know is to test with a glucometer. There are many out there. I’m currently using a Precision Xtra because it also measures ketones, and sometimes I like to see that.
In terms of how strictly you would need to follow any of these things, I really think it depends on whether you have a blood sugar issue to deal with. So if we look at the normal ranges, you want to keep your blood sugar under 140 milligrams per deciliter postprandial, which means in the hours after you eat a meal, and there could be arguments that maybe it should be kept even lower than that. If your blood sugar is not highly variable after your meal, or it’s not causing you any symptoms, or it’s not exceeding that range, then you might not want to worry about these things.
But if these things are easy for you to do and implementing them brings your blood sugar to a more stable position even within the normal range, then it’s probably a good idea to follow those principles insofar as they seem easy to you because it probably is better to keep your blood sugar more stable when you can while still meeting all your other nutrients and meeting all your other goals.
On the other hand, if the way that you eat right now leads to stable blood sugar, then you have nothing to worry about, and I wouldn’t go changing your diet around these specific hacks if you don’t have any particular need to.