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Food and Hormones - A Balancing Act

Some basic nutrition science knowledge bombs for our readers, and really what our methods at SoMoved Nutrition are based on...

Nutrition 101 - Really Basic Food Science When you consume food, your body converts that food largely into a readily available energy source, your blood sugar, also known as glucose. Your brain and your muscles use/burn some of that glucose right away for immediate energy. If you consume more fuel than needed in the moment, your muscles and liver store some of it in the form of glycogen. This short-term storage tank is relatively small and limited. If we have more glucose (blood sugar) than we need or can store as glycogen, the excess is stored as adipose tissue (in our fat cells). This unfortunately is an unlimited storage tank that can keep growing and expanding!

Key Hormones that Control this Process There are two key hormones, released by your pancreas, that control your blood sugar levels. One is insulin, and is released when blood sugar is elevated, with the purpose of lowering that blood sugar.  It does that by directing glucose into storage (as glycogen in the liver and muscles, or as adipose tissue…in your fat cells).  The other hormone involved here is glucagon. It's released when the blood sugar is low (maybe you're fasted or exercising), with the purpose of elevating it. It turns glycogen back into glucose for energy primarily. These two hormones work together to balance our blood sugar levels so we have the right amount of energy available to go about our day, train, etc.

SUGAR Creating Insulin Production and Storage Problems Eating sugar, processed, calorically dense, and refined carbohydrates, and even overeating in general, can derail the energy balancing act our bodies and hormones are trying to find.  When we eat this way over the long term, it leads to an excessive production of insulin, excess storage of body fat, and can even lead to chronic levels of insulin in the blood, known as hyperinsulinemia. This condition is at the root of most chronic diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, many cancers and even alzheimer's disease. Scary stuff.  But before that happens you might see the smaller, day to day impacts of that hormonal response to food imbalances and poor nutritional decisions.

Insulin Spikes and Drops Through Your Day When our blood sugar goes up and insulin is released to bring it down by storing that glucose, what we can wind up with is insulin spikes and drops throughout the day. This can provide moments of high energy (feels good like a sugar high), but with lots of sugar/refined carbs/or too much food, can lead to crashing (fatigue/energy drops), and stimulate cravings as the body stores the energy and makes it less accessible (yep, you can even get cranky or hangry). These ups and downs throughout the day can also lead over time to increased inflammation, which at chronic levels can cause the body to be in a constant inflamed state around organs, joints, etc., and ultimately prevent healing and the body’s ability to recover and function properly.  Yeah, that can have an impact on your training, too!

Overcoming the Problem Well, we already know sugar is a big culprit. AVOIDING ADDED SUGARS and sweeteners, natural and artificial, too (as they generate the same or similar insulin responses) is one step. At the current rate of sugar consumption in the US, over 100 million people could have Type 2 Diabetes by 2050 (Center for Disease Control). Yikes!  But we can take additional steps that control our insulin response:

EAT REAL FOOD - Eating fresh, real, whole, unprocessed food as your primary source of nutrients is key step. Think of foods that have no label or package that you can find on the outer rings of the grocery stores (except for the bakery!).  These foods give us the macronutrients (Protein, Fat, Carbohydrates) we need for energy but also the micronutrients (Vitamins and Minerals) we need for our bodies to metabolize and digest food and help our body function properly. Processed food and sugars are largely void of micronutrients.

EAT NUTRIENTS TOGETHER – Combining macronutrients each time you eat is another step, and one that many never think of.  Eat Protein, Fat and Carbs every time you eat a meal or a snack. Combining the macronutrients can keep your insulin levels stable. So, you’ll have fewer energy crashes, fewer manic moments, fewer cravings, and you'll likely store less body fat.  To find good real food macronutrients, think of what your food is predominantly made up of...

  • PROTEINS include foods like Meat, Fish, Eggs.

  • FATS include avocados, nuts and seeds, olives, coconut, olive and coconut oils, some dairy like plain yogurt and unprocessed cheeses

  • CARBOHYDRATES are primarily vegetables and fruit, and unprocessed grains. (The less starchy or sweet the carb, the less calorically they provide less energy but often more micronutrients).

EAT REASONABLE PORTIONS – Remember, overeating also affects your hormone response, so eating in smart amounts will help stabilize your insulin response, as well.  If you're combining macronutrients, you'll likely stabilize things so you won't be as likely to overeat, as well.

Play around with these and find some control!  Unsure of how to do it to meet your particular goals, need support, guidance and accountability if you already do?  Consider a nutrition coach to

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