Content by: Jamie Rinaldi RD LD
Prediabetes, also called borderline diabetes, is the condition in which blood glucose levels are elevated, however not to the extent that a diagnosis of diabetes can be made. Fortunately, a few lifestyle changes can reverse this condition or at least prevent the development of type 2 diabetes.
Achieving and maintaining a weight appropriate for one’s height and build, especially with a favorable body composition, can stop prediabetes in its tracks, as can the habits that produce weight loss.Such habits are regular exercise, a balanced diet of primarily minimally processed food, stress management, and quality sleep.
Working out is a direct way to lower blood sugars, as skeletal muscle pulls glucose from the bloodstream to use as fuel. Steady state aerobic exercise requires some carbohydrate but preferentially uses fat for energy, while higher intensity and strength training (anaerobic) exercise rely solely on carbohydrate. Both aerobic and anaerobic workouts contribute to fat burning and muscle gain, indirectly lowering blood glucose with improved metabolism and weight loss.
A diet supportive of weight loss and improved blood glucose levels includes plenty of high fiber foods with complex carbohydrates. It also requires protein, as amino acids from protein digestion are the building blocks of muscle tissue and insulin, the main hormone that regulates blood glucose. Last but not least, dietary fat helps protein do its job and is essential for many aspects of metabolism. All three macronutrients are vital on their own, but also combining them in meals and snacks promotes blood sugar stabilization. Fiber from high carbohydrate foods, fat, and protein all slow digestion and absorption so that glucose enters the bloodstream steadily, rather than spiking. Conversely, heavily processed foods and those with added sugars promote weight gain and elevated blood sugar.
Coping with stress may not come to mind when people are trying to manage or reverse prediabetes, but it plays an important role. The body reacts to stress in a way to ensure adequate energy in the form of glucose is at hand; this is known as the fight or flight response. Insulin release from the pancreas drops, and production of glucagon, growth hormone, cortisol, and epinephrine increases. These hormonal shifts cause the liver to pump out more glucose from its glycogen stores and make the body’s cells less sensitive to insulin, resulting in elevated blood sugar.
Addressing sleep may be another overlooked task in blood sugar management, but it’s a critical one. Research has clearly demonstrated that too little or too much sleep is associated with poorer control of blood sugar. There are likely many factors at play, including hormonal changes that influence hunger, the lack of energy that prevents people from exercising, and increased insulin resistance. A solid seven to eight hours of good sleep is ideal for maintaining favorable blood glucose levels.
1️⃣ Logging food intake, exercise, stress levels, sleep quality and blood sugar readings is an invaluable tool for identifying patterns and where changes may be helpful.
2️⃣ Hormonal changes throughout the menstrual cycle impact blood glucose levels and are therefore useful to include in that log.
3️⃣ Spacing meals evenly throughout the day and consistency from one day to another are best for steady blood sugar levels.