Crazy moods, zero energy. Who hasn’t been there? Too many of us experience this every single day, but what we often don’t realize is that how we’re eating can actually be making us feel tired and crazy by turn.
How? It’s a blood sugar thing. You probably know that whenever you eat, the food is broken down into sugars that the body can use for energy. Insulin is pumped out into your blood to let your body know to get the sugars whisked away into your cells, where they belong. The problem comes when we eat in a less-than-awesome way that makes our blood sugar spike and crash continuously.
Ideally, we want to have small rises and falls as sugar comes into the blood and is taken into our cells. But there are a lot of common pitfalls that put us on a constant blood sugar rollercoaster, causing us to be everything from tired to anxious to moody.
Let’s take on the biggest pitfalls and how to avoid them, so you can get off the bloodsugar rollercoaster once and for all and start feeling like your energetic, happiest self.
The Pitfall: Eating big meals several hours apart
You eat a huge lunch because, well, you’re starving. Skipped breakfast, anyone? Your body responds with a blood sugar explosion. BOOM. The more sugar entering your blood at once, the steeper the crash when it’s taken into your body’s cells. The most drastic version of this crash is called hypoglycemia and can cause dizziness, anxiety, even sadness.
Then a few too many hours pass before dinner so your blood sugar’s low again. You’re starving, you eat a ton and, yep, it’s one ugly cycle.
What to do instead: Eat every 3-4 hours.
A moderately sized breakfast, lunch, and dinner interspersed with 2 healthy snacks is a good way to go. Pack travel-friendly snacks in your purse and car glove compartment so you don’t find yourself hungry and desperate on-the-go.
The pitfall: Living on simple carbs and added sugars
We know everything we eat is broken down into sugars: glucose, to be exact. But when we’re mostly depending on simple carbs and foods full of added sugars to fill us up, we’re creating a problem for the body.
Carb isn’t a dirty word. They’re just foods made up of the sugar glucose, which isn’t bad. We actually depend on it to live. For instance, vegetables are actually carbs. They break down into sugars slowly in the body, creating an easy-breezy blood sugar situation, sort of like “complex carbs” like rice or quinoa. Simple carbs like refined breads, pasta, pastries, the things most of us eat all the time, are carbs that break down into sugar in a “wham-bam-thank you-ma’am” amount of time. And as you can imagine, foods that have extra sugar hiding out to make them extra tasty just multiply the problem.
What to do instead:
Eat meals full of whole grains, protein, and veggies. Keep the simple carbs and added sugars to a minimum. And know that sugar hides out in all kinds of packaged foods you wouldn’t expect to find it in, like salad dressings and condiments.
The pitfall: Snacking gone wrong
What do you think of when you think of a healthy snack? Some crackers? A couple pieces of celery? Not only is that a damn disappointing snack, it’s actually not doing you any favors. These measly snacks are keeping you in your blood sugar nightmare because they lack a vital ingredient to keeping your blood sugar stable: protein.
Research has shown that protein is remarkable for blood sugar stability, making it important to eat consistently throughout the day. Unfortunately, we’re often led to believe that this just means constantly eating common animal foods like burgers and cheese, which is totally not the case.
What to do instead: Try to include some healthy protein in every meal and snack, but especially breakfast. You go a long time throughout the night without eating, and that addition of protein in your breakfast will help keep you even as you get back into the groove of eating for the day.
Like I mentioned, animal products aren’t the only place to find protein. Don’t get me wrong: safely-sourced animal products are a healthy source of protein. But Americans tend to way over-indulge, which makes it important to get acquainted with our plant proteins. Think stuff like nuts, seeds, and even oats.
Believe it or not, you’re not destined to feel like some sub-optimal version of yourself, tired and moody all the time. You can have great mood and even better energy, and the first step to getting there is making sure that what and how you’re eating isn’t keeping you stuck on a blood sugar rollercoaster.
Which pitfall do you find yourself stuck in the most?