Sugar,Carbs,Insulin....What?? Again.

March 18, 2018

Some of you may be thinking we have had this post before, and you would be correct! I am posting this again as I think it is one of the most important things to try and get your head around when discussing the issues with sugar and carbohydrates. As it was one of my early posts from 2016 you may not have read this one if you have only just subscribed. For those of you who read it last time, its all ways good to have a recap on this subject.


Hope you like it.




This one can get confusing for the newbie and even long term participants to the ancestral health world. Information from all sides and conflicting recommendations can make the transition difficult and confusing so I am going to try and keep it as simple as I can.


Sugar comes in many forms other than the granulated white stuff you immediately picture when you think of it. Although they are different and coming from different sources the body does not differentiate between them or how it deals with them. Sugar from a teaspoon or from an apple has the same raising effect on blood glucose levels, however depending on the source this happens to varying degrees. 


Note:This response was the basis for the Glycemic Index (GI) table. GI is a measurement of the speed of which a carbohydrate source raises blood glucose. Not to be confused with Glycemic load (GL) which is the total carbohydrate of a food.


When the blood glucose levels rise the pancreas is signalled to produce Insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is important in blood sugar regulation, it transports glucose into the muscle cells for energy, It also signals the body to store excess in the liver for future use and starts to store body fat as we clearly have a lot of food if all this energy is coming in, so best hold some back for when we don't.


Type 1 diabetics have to inject insulin  to control blood sugar as the dont have the ability to produce it themselves.


Type 2 diabetics however have a dysregulation or resistance to insulin. This is where the cells no longer respond to the effects due to the constant bombardment of sugar They don't accept the signals and blood glucose levels rise  (Hyperglycemia), the bodies response to this is produce more insulin, and the cycle continues.


What is the problem with high blood glucose?


It gets converted to fat! When blood glucose and glycogen stores in the liver become full the body converts them into fat (Triglycerides) and ends up in fat cells on the body in all the places people don't want them. This is why all of the carbohydrate rich food that we have constant access to is the real culprit to the obesity problem we are seeing not the fat.


Cutting out the processed junk and keeping to lower carbohydrate options helps to regulate blood glucose levels, getting us off the high and low sugar crash feed me more cycle. This allows our fat burning metabolism to switch on giving us a much more sustainable energy source, We can't access our fat stores in the presence of insulin and the body will use glucose first as a form of energy as it is easy to burn but it is important to know that there is no essential nutritional requirement for carbohydrate the body can produce all it needs.


But what about during exercise?


For the majority of the population and especially those trying to lose weight you do not need extra carbohydrates for exercise. I regularly see the overweight person walking on a treadmill swigging back a sports drink thinking it will help in their workout, But think about it they will have to burn through all that glucose and bodily stores before they even begin to break into the fat stores they are trying so hard to shift.


There are some cases where an extra bit of carbohydrate can be of help, but only in highly glycolytic sports like MMA, powerlifting or sprinting, Fast high intensity type of work does require the fast acting glucose to a greater extent. There are many high end endurance athletes however who are now getting off the carb loading ideas that have been with them for years and switching to fat as a fuel, many going into ketogenic approaches and getting great results. 


Primal eating can really help regulate blood glucose and decrease the risk of developing diabetes. At the same time allowing your body to start burning fat as a fuel keeping you sustained for longer and helping you stay lean. You can hopefully forget about the mid morning crash and need to visit the vending machine for a sugar hit just by cutting out the junk and keeping to lower carbohydrate options like leafy green veg, meat and good fats.


I hope this makes sense, as I said at the start it can be confusing so if you have any questions please get in touch and I will try and clear things up.


Keep it Primal




Further reading:


The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance - Volek PhD,RD, Jeff S. and Phinney MD,PhD, Stephen D


Primal Blueprint - Mark Sisson










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