If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you know that your body has trouble regulating blood sugar levels. This is because the cells of your body no longer respond properly to the hormone called insulin, creating a condition called insulin resistance. When your body is resistant to insulin, your cells cannot properly absorb sugar from the blood stream, so your blood sugar levels remain high- especially after meals.
Chronically high blood sugar levels can increase your risk of damage to many body systems, including your heart and blood vessels, nerves, kidneys, and eyes. It is important to do all that you can to maintain good control over your blood sugar levels. The good news is, you can minimize insulin resistance with nutrition and lifestyle changes! Here are 5 ways to minimize insulin resistance and help improve your blood sugar levels:
1. Build more muscles. Resistance training, like weight lifting and bodyweight exercises, can help you increase your muscle mass, making your body more sensitive to insulin. Maximize the effects by including your gluteus maximus often called the glutes- the biggest muscles in your body. Strengthen them by doing some squats or leg lifts. You don’t have to be at a gym to do squats. You can perform them as chair exercises. Stand, then sit down, but before your bottom touches the chair stand up again. Start with 10 and work your way up. Always research the best form for knee and ankle position with chair squats to avoid injuries. Try to work your muscles two or more days a week. Include legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms. Start with very light weights and always make it a priority to use proper form with each repetition. The great thing about resistance training is that it can be done just about anywhere, even with no equipment! Squeeze in some reps during commercial breaks while watching TV, or designate 10-15 minutes every other day for strength training! You can set an alarm on your phone to remind you of your commitment.
2. Cut back on the wrong types of carbohydrates. When it comes to grain products such as bread, pasta, rice, choose WHOLE GRAINS as much as you can. Here are some tips to follow:
- Buy 100% whole grain bread and pasta, and brown rice.
- Instead of sugary cereals, try whole grain cereals or whole oatmeal with out added sugar.
- Limit your consumption of sugary snacks and dessert such as brownies, cakes, and ice cream. Even “healthy” desserts like whole grain brownies are loaded in sugar. Try to save these treats for special occasions, and stick with a small slice. Also watch out for hidden sugar in crackers, pretzels or sauces.
- Read the nutrition label. Aim to buy whole grain products with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving, that avoid or limit added sugar.
3. Spread your carbs throughout the day. Since most of the sugar that ends up in your blood stream comes from carbohydrates, it is wise to spread them out throughout the day. Aim to eat every 4-5 hours, and be sure to incorporate appropriate carbohydrate portions in every meal. Aim for 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates at each meal, depending on your activity levels, age, gender, and more. If you don’t know what your recommended serving of carbs per meal is, speak to your doctor, registered dietitian nutritionist, nurse, or certified diabetes educator.
4. Watch portion sizes. We have gotten so used to eating big portions of carbohydrates and protein, with very little or no vegetables! Try this when you are plating your next meal. Look at your plate and aim for this half to have non-starchy vegetables (broccoli, zucchini, tomato slices, lettuce, carrots). Boost healthy fats and choose lean proteins. Choose the right whole grain carbohydrates in smaller amounts. Always adjust your carbohydrates based on your individual response to carbohydrate and include post prandial blood glucose measurements as part of the equation.
5. Exercise. Cardiovascular exercising can sensitize the cell’s ability to take in glucose, reversing the insulin resistance! If your blood sugar is high after a meal, go for a walk to help bring it back down. You can also try dancing around your living room, or doing some weight resistant exercises. Anything to get your blood pumping and muscles working!
Try utilizing these lifestyle techniques in your life. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel when you manage your insulin resistance and keep your blood sugar levels under control.
Article was edited on January 18, 2016 to help clarify the language in number 4