Glycemic variability refers to the level and intensity with which your blood sugar fluctuates. GV fluctuates based on a variety of factors from periods of fasting, caffeine intake, post meal rises in glucose levels, overconsumption of specific macronutrients (such as the process of gluconeogenesis from protein converted into sugar), and activation of the stress hormone (cortisol). When GV is fluctuating rapidly and your blood sugar gets too high, your body has two choices - either utilizing the sugar in your muscles and liver or storing it in body fat. This process explains how body fat is gained when activity expenditure is not high enough to convert the blood sugar into useable energy. This also helps to explain why sugar in the form of carbohydrate rich foods - from bread, rice, bananas, yams, etc - are not BAD for you, and an actually a great source of energy which can be burned efficiently while eating enough to match your activity output IF hormones levels are optimal.
However, consuming too much sugar, too frequently, all while in a state of poor hormonal balance can lead to negative effects such as inflammation and body fat gain.
One the most effective strategies in controlling blood sugar is strength training. When you lift weights, you increase your ability to drive glucose into muscle tissue. This helps to reduce the storage of sugar as fat by decreasing blood glucose levels and increasing insulin sensitivity. Some research has even shown that you only need to lift weights at 30% of your 1RM to achieve this powerful control on your blood sugar. So even if you don’t have time to hit the gym, you can use body weight exercises such as push-ups, air squats and lunges to stay consistent with this goal.
Another effective strategy that I tested while wearing a continuous blood glucose monitor is post prandial walks. Taking a quick 15-20 min post meal stroll not only helps to regulate the blood sugar response to each meal, but it also aids in digestion by helping move the proteins, electrolytes, water, vitamins, carbohydrates, and other nutrients to be absorbed and transported more efficiently through your body to wherever they’re needed. This is especially helping if you tend to feel bloated or sluggish after your meals.
If you’re stuck in the office all day, even standing is a more effective strategy than sitting to reduce post-lunch blood sugar spikes. If time constraints may make it difficult to get movement or a workout in midday, invest in a standing desk converter to hack your environment to alternate between sitting and standing to optimize your post lunch energy.
Eating whole, unprocessed food as possible is also a powerful tool in optimizing GV. Insoluble fiber breaks down into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) which inhibit the conversion of glucose to fatty acids in the liver, reducing the accumulation of fat in adipose tissue and improving blood sugar management. Great sources of dietary insoluble fiber include sweet potatoes, yams, dark leafy greens, nuts and legumes.