Anyone who has dealt with nutrition knows that consuming carbohydrates increases blood sugar. In addition to carbohydrates and proteins, five other hormones can also increase blood sugar.
What is blood sugar?
From a chemical point of view, blood sugar is not just any sugar, but a very specific one, glucose or dextrose. There are other types of sugar in the blood in small amounts, but blood sugar is always the glucose in the blood.
What do we need blood sugar for?
The sugar in the blood is an important source of energy for our cells. They absorb sugar from the blood. There it is then converted into the energy carrier ATP by glycolysis and the citric acid cycle, which supplies all of our inches with energy.
Where does blood sugar come from?
There are three primary sources of blood sugar:
1. From food - We don't eat much pure glucose directly, but we do eat "regular" sugar, lactose and starches like rice and potatoes. All of these carbohydrates contain glucose. Carbohydrates are broken down during digestion, producing glucose, among other things, which is then absorbed through the intestines.
2. From the glycogen stores - If we do not eat for a long time, glucose, which is mainly stored in the liver and muscles in the form of glycogen, is released back into the blood. Glycogen is a storage form of glucose. If we have a need for glucose between meals or through activity, glycogen is primarily broken down again from the liver and glucose is released. This is one of the mechanisms by which blood sugar levels are regulated.
3. Through gluconeogenesis - Glycogen stores only last for a limited period of time. If we eat too little food over a long period of time, fat and protein will also be broken down. Our body can produce small amounts of glucose from both fat and protein. This process is called gluconeogenesis and means something like “formation of new glucose”.
Who regulates blood sugar levels?
There are five hormones that raise blood sugar, but only one that lowers it. The primary reason for this unequal number is that low blood sugar carries significantly more acute dangers than high blood sugar. And that over the past millennia, a lack of food has been a much greater challenge than a surplus.
Insulin - lowers blood sugar levels - Insulin is also known as the hormone of energy storage. Insulin promotes the flow of glucose into the cells. Consequence: blood sugar level drops. Insulin promotes the build-up of glucose stores, glycogen, primarily in the liver and muscles. And insulin inhibits the build-up of glucose from protein, gluconeogenesis. However, insulin also promotes fat gain.
Cortisol - Increases Blood Sugar Levels - Cortisol helps prevent low blood sugar levels. They directly and indirectly promote gluconeogenesis.
Glucagon - Increases Blood Sugar - Glucagon increases blood sugar. Many effects are opposite to those of insulin. It is also referred to as the hormone of energy supply. Glucagon promotes the breakdown of the glucose store glycogen in the liver. This releases glucose. Glucagon promotes fat loss. After a meal we have much more insulin in the blood than glucagon, and the ratio is more balanced when we are hungry. Glucagon is proportional to cortisol.
Adrenaline and Noradrenaline - increase blood sugar levels - Two hormones of the adrenal medulla The hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline - also known as catecholamines - are released during stress, anxiety, physical activity and other exertion and lead to the depletion of glycogen stores.
Somatotropin – increases blood sugar levels – Also known as growth hormone. The hormone produced in the pituitary gland helps, among other things, to prevent blood sugar levels that are too low.
As explained in detail in the article “ Hypoglycemia – another form of stress ”, cortisol is the driving force behind stabilizing blood sugar levels, especially when “not eating” for a long time. And in this way, cortisol can also cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels.
The diagram at the beginning of the article shows some excerpts of the blood sugar reaction of YPSI A license trainer Michael Haase based on the CGM measurement (continuous glucose monitoring) over 6 days. CGM systems are devices that measure the level of glucose in the tissue fluid of the subcutaneous fat tissue every five minutes around the clock. And so it allows to determine a curve of the course of blood sugar levels in reactions to certain foods and situations.
From left to right, the blood count shows the following meals and situations
Stremel salmon with peppers and tomatoes - true to the motto " animal for breakfast " this is a breakfast variant that I would like to recommend. And those in the diagram with the combination of moderately fast-digesting proteins, some fats and some vegetables result in the lowest blood sugar increase.
Strawberries – despite the higher carbohydrate content of 40g, 500g of strawberries have very little effect on blood sugar levels.
Whey protein - Certainly a surprise for many, the whey protein shake has a greater effect on blood sugar despite its low proportion of carbohydrates due to the larger amount of very quickly digestible protein.
Rolls with sausage and cheese as well as fruit - A combination that some call a "classic breakfast" has a clear effect on blood sugar given the carbohydrate content of 60g.
Stress, no food intake – No food intake coupled with a stressful situation at work has a clear effect on blood sugar. Since this increase is not due to food, it is the blood sugar-raising hormones, such as cortisol released in a stressful situation, that raise blood sugar regardless of food intake.
In summary, the key point here is that stress without food intake and therefore no carbohydrates and proteins has the greatest effect on blood sugar in this comparison. And so the optimization of the cortisol level, among other things through regular meals, is crucial to stabilize the blood sugar.
Good luck in optimizing your blood sugar level!
Image: Some excerpts of the blood sugar reaction to certain foods and situations by YPSI A license trainer Michael Haase based on the CGM measurement.