Blood Glucose Basics: What is Glucose and Why Does it Matter?
with Dr. Emily Fritz
Let’s talk about how we give our bodies the energy they need to keep going… Think about it like you’re in a video game, your character needs energy to keep running, jumping, and fighting off bad guys. Your character gets energy by chasing cute little video game stars and battery packs that give you added “life”.
That concept isn’t too far off from how the carbohydrates in snacks or meals work in our bodies. Instead of adorable video game icons, the energy we need comes from the food we eat – and after we do the work of chewing and swallowing, carbohydrates are further broken down and absorbed into our blood stream. The circulating carbohydrate in our blood is called blood glucose and it travels around to deliver energy to the cells in our body that need fuel.
Now most of what we eat isn’t just simple carbohydrates – or it really shouldn’t be. When we consume things that are simple carbs or high in added sugar, they break down easily and end up in our blood stream fast, spiking our blood glucose. Look at what a serving of carb-loaded nacho cheese chips did to my blood glucose over 2.3 hours using a continuous blood glucose monitor:
When we eat carbohydrates with protein and fiber they create a lower and slower rise in our blood glucose that provide steady energy. Foods that create a lower and slower rise in our blood glucose are called low glycemic index and keep our video game character charged up for longer. This is what my blood glucose did after a serving of Rivalz over the same 2.3 hour period using a continuous blood glucose monitor:
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Our bodies have a neat system to manage this blood glucose and get it into the cells that need energy. Imagine if you had a door that only opens with a special key. This is how it works with glucose and our body cells. Our pancreas (a small organ near our stomach) makes a key called insulin. Insulin unlocks the doors of our cells, letting glucose into the cell to provide energy.
Sometimes, we have too much glucose, more than we need right away. Insulin helps us here too! It tells our liver and muscles to store this extra glucose for later when we might need an extra boost, just like storing extra lives in a game.
But what if we don't eat for a while, like between meals or while we're sleeping? Don't worry, our body has a plan for that too! Our pancreas makes another special hormone called glucagon. This guy is like a game master, telling the liver to change the stored glucose back into energy. This way, our body always has the right amount of glucose it needs to keep going.
Having too much or too little glucose in our blood can be a bit like losing a game, though. It can make us feel unwell and lead to health problems. So, we have to keep a balance.
If you want to be a pro at maintaining a healthy, steady blood glucose level, here are five top-secret tips:
Be Food Smart:
Just like a pro gamer knows the best power-ups, you should know your foods. Try to eat more veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins that provide a steady supply of energy.
Think of exercise as a fun mini-game that helps you use up the glucose in your blood. Plus, it makes your insulin key work better!
Choose healthy snacks that include protein, fiber and healthy fats like nuts, or yogurt instead of sugary treats. Look for snacks that are Low Glycemic Index like Rivalz - They give you slow and steady energy instead of simple carbs that give you a sudden spike in your blood sugar.
Good Sleep Equals Good Health:
Just like turning off your gaming console for a bit, your body needs to recharge too. A good night's sleep helps keep your blood glucose balanced.
And that's it, champion! Understanding blood glucose is like unlocking a secret level to better health. So keep these tips in your toolkit, and you'll always be ready for the game of life!
This article has been fact-checked by Dr. Emily Fritz. About Dr. Emily Fritz:
Dr. Emily Fritz earned her M.S. and Ph.D. at South Dakota State University in Exercise, Nutrition and Food Science. Emily joins Rivalz from her role as VP of Scientific Affairs at the Beachbody Company and is passionate about advancing scientific discovery for companies leading the way in human health and nutrition. In addition to her commercial work, she has authored, presented, and collaborated on many research studies ranging from large National Institutes of Health (NIH) studies to leading student research projects during her time as an Assistant Professor at Simpson College in Indianola, IA.