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Manage your blood sugar to maximize your sporting performance and in your daily life: how to stabilize your blood sugar to avoid drops in energy?

In the world of endurance sports, where consistency and performance are essential, managing glycemic balance proves to be an essential key to achieving and maintaining a high level of energy. Blood sugar, or blood sugar levels, plays a crucial role in providing energy to the muscles and brain. For endurance athletes, a stable glycemic balance means better performance, optimized recovery and a reduced risk of sudden fatigue or injury.

 

Blood sugar balance is not only crucial for sports performance, but it also influences the quality of daily life. Significant fluctuations in blood sugar levels can lead to feelings of fatigue, nervousness and difficulty concentrating, thus affecting not only training, but also daily and professional activities. Learning to stabilize your blood sugar helps you maintain consistent energy throughout the day, which benefits both your workouts and your daily responsibilities. Performance is not only sporting, you are also everyday heroes, between work, family, children, etc…

 In this article, we'll explore in detail how to effectively manage your blood sugar levels to maximize your athletic performance and improve your overall well-being. We'll cover the basics of blood sugar, nutritional strategies suitable for endurance athletes, and how to incorporate these practices into your daily routine. Whether you are a seasoned athlete or simply looking to improve your energy and performance, you will find valuable advice here.

 

 Understanding Blood Sugar

Definition of blood sugar: 

Blood sugar corresponds to the concentration of glucose in the blood. Glucose is an essential source of energy for the body, particularly for the brain and muscles, which consume large quantities of it, especially during intense physical efforts such as endurance sports. Simply put, blood sugar is the level of "fuel" available in your blood to fuel your daily activities and sports.

 The body normally maintains blood sugar levels within a narrow range through the action of several hormones, primarily insulin and glucagon, produced by the pancreas. Insulin helps cells absorb glucose from the blood to use for energy or store it as glycogen in the liver and muscles. Glucagon, on the other hand, releases stored glucose when blood sugar levels are too low. In the absence of diabetes, blood sugar levels vary naturally during the day between 0,8 and 1 g/L, depending on meals or physical activity.

 

Impact of blood sugar on the body

For endurance athletes, blood sugar management is essential to avoid fluctuations that can lead to declines in performance. Stable blood sugar levels ensure a constant supply of energy to the muscles, reducing the risk of fatigue and reduced performance.

  1. Hypoglycemia : When blood sugar drops below normal levels, it is called hypoglycemia. This can cause symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, and even loss of consciousness in extreme cases. For an athlete in the midst of competition or training, these symptoms can not only affect performance, but also increase the risk of injury.
  2. Hyperglycemia : Conversely, too high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, can lead to feeling tired, increased thirst, and a frequent need to urinate. In the long term, poorly managed high blood sugar can cause damage to blood vessels and nerves, negatively impacting health and athletic abilities.

 

 

Signs of a blood sugar imbalance

Recognizing the signs of a blood sugar imbalance is crucial for any endurance athlete. Here are the main symptoms to look out for:

Hypoglycemia

hyperglycemia

● Weakness or excessive fatigue

● Dizziness or vertigo

● Excessive sweating

● Severe hunger

● Heart palpitation

● Irritability or nervousness

● Mental confusion or difficulty concentrating

● General fatigue

● Excessive thirst

● Frequent urination

● Blurred vision

● Headaches

● Difficulty concentrating


Athletes should be especially alert for signs of hypoglycemia during physical exertion, as a rapid drop in blood sugar can occur during prolonged activities without adequate energy intake. Likewise, prolonged hyperglycemia may indicate excessive carbohydrate intake or poor nutritional management before, during, or after exercise.

 

Nutrition fundamentals for stable blood sugar levels

 Glycemic index of foods:

The glycemic index (GI) is a classification system that measures how quickly carbohydrates in food raise blood sugar levels after consumption. Foods are ranked on a scale of 0 to 100, with the GI of pure glucose being 100 (this corresponds to beet sugar). Foods with a high GI (70 and above) cause a rapid increase in blood sugar, while those with a low GI (55 and below) stabilize it by releasing glucose more slowly and gradually.

Low GI foods (<55)

Medium GI foods (55-70)

High GI foods (>70)

 

 

-Green vegetables

 

 

-Whole grains

 

 

-White bread

-Legumes (beans,

(oats, quinoa)

-Potatoes

lentils)

-Basmati rice

-Mashed potatoes

-Low fruit

-Banana

-Quick cooking bench rice

sugar (apples, berries,

-Pineapple

-Cereals from

pears)

-Multi-grain bread

Breakfast

-Oilseeds (cashew nuts,

Well-cooked pasta

-Sweets and sodas

almonds, hazelnuts, etc.)

-White sugar (sucrose)

-Aperitif biscuits

-Dark chocolate

 

-Cornflour

-Cheese

 

-Glucose

-Natural yogurts

 

 

 

To find out the GI of different foods, you can consult the more detailed table glycemic indexes on the Nutrition website.

 

 

 For endurance athletes, favoring low GI foods before training and competitions helps maintain stable energy, while consuming high GI foods can be strategic immediately after exercise to quickly replenish glycogen stores.

 

Specific nutritional strategies for endurance athletes

For endurance athletes, maintaining stable blood sugar levels is crucial not only for performance during exercise, but also for recovery and preparation for future training sessions. Here are specific nutritional strategies to help you manage your blood sugar levels before, during and after exercise.

Nutrition before, during and after exercise:

  1. Nutrition before exercise: 
To prepare your body for prolonged exercise, it is important to consume a balanced meal 2 to 3 hours before exercise. This meal should be rich in complex carbohydrates to provide lasting energy and contain protein to support muscle repair. 

 Examples of meals before exercise:

  • Oatmeal with fresh fruit and a handful of
  • Brown rice with grilled chicken and vegetables.
  • Wholemeal pasta with homemade tomato sauce and

 A small snack rich in simple carbohydrates can also be eaten 30 to 60 minutes before exercise to increase blood glucose levels without causing excessive blood sugar spikes.

 Examples of snacks before exercise (between 30min and 60min before):

  • A banana
  • A cereal-based energy bar.
  • A fruit smoothie 
  1. Nutrition during exercise:

 For long endurance sessions (more than an hour), it is important to consume carbohydrates regularly. To maintain blood sugar levels, it is recommended to eat every 30 to 45 minutes depending on the intensity, for example:

 
    3. Nutrition after exercise

Recovery begins as soon as the exercise is finished. It is crucial to consume carbohydrates and proteins within 30 minutes of exercise to replenish glycogen stores and initiate muscle repair.

 Examples of meals after exercise:

  • A smoothie made with banana, milk (or plant-based substitute) and protein powder for convenience
  • Chicken and rice with vegetables.
  • Greek yogurt with fruit and honey

 Hydration and blood sugar

Hydration is an often overlooked but crucial element in blood sugar management. Proper hydration helps maintain adequate blood volume, making it easier to transport nutrients and glucose to the muscles.

 Tips for optimal hydration:

    • Drink regularly throughout the day, not just during exercise.
    • Consume approximately 500 ml of water 2 to 3 hours before exercise.
    • Drink 200-300 ml of water every 20 minutes during exercise.
    • Use isotonic drinks for prolonged efforts, because they contain electrolytes and carbohydrates which help maintain blood sugar levels.

 Effectively managing your blood sugar is a key element in maximizing your sports performance and maintaining constant energy in your daily life. By understanding the basics of blood sugar and its impact on the body, you can adopt specific nutritional strategies to stabilize your blood sugar levels.

 By choosing foods with a low glycemic index, balancing your macronutrient intake, and carefully planning the timing of your meals and snacks, you can avoid blood sugar fluctuations that lead to fatigue and reduced performance. For endurance athletes, proper nutrition before, during and after exercise, combined with adequate hydration and the judicious use of supplements, can optimize your energy and improve your recovery.

 By incorporating these practices into your daily routine, you will be able to maintain stable blood sugar levels, which will result in a significant improvement in your sports performance and overall well-being. Take the time to experiment and adjust these strategies to your specific needs, and you will quickly discover the benefits of effective blood sugar management.

 Remember that each individual is unique, and it may be helpful to consult a nutritionist or healthcare professional to tailor this advice to your specific needs.

 

 

 

Marine Lecuisinier

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