Have you ever experienced the mid-day slump, where you feel like you could use a nap or a boost of energy to get through the rest of the day? This feeling is often attributed to low blood sugar levels, and it's related to something called insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance is a condition where your body becomes less responsive to insulin, the hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels. When you eat carbohydrates, they're broken down into glucose, which is then absorbed into your bloodstream. The hormone insulin acts like a key in a lock that allows glucose to enter a cell where it can use it for energy immediately or store it for later. The carbohydrates taken into the cells are either used for energy or stored as fat. If you keep eating a lot of carbohydrates then your cells become full of sugar and fat.
This eventually leads to insulin resistance, which is what happens when your body no longer responds as well to the message that insulin is signalling and the cells can't easily take up any more sugar. This leads to sugar remaining in the blood and therefore high blood sugar levels. To compensate, your body produces more insulin to try and get the signal through to the cells, this in turn can lead to a vicious cycle of high blood sugar and high insulin levels. I like the analogy of a subway train that is already full of passengers. When insulin opens the door there is no room for any more passengers to get on and you need to open all the doors to try and get more in, but there simply isn't room and some are left on the platform. This is what happens when sugar can't get into the cell and flows back into the bloodstream. Eventually if this keeps happening you will become diabetic.
One of the consequences of insulin resistance is fatigue. When your body can't use glucose efficiently for energy, you're left feeling tired and sluggish and at the same time you are not able to burn fat as a fuel because insulin levels are high. Your body struggles to get enough fuel to provide energy for your body's cells, including those in your muscles and brain.
But there's a solution: a low carb and/or a ketogenic diet. By reducing your intake of carbohydrates, you can help your body become more efficient at using fat for energy. When your body is in a state of ketosis, it produces ketones, which are an alternative fuel source to glucose. One of the reasons why a low carb or ketogenic diet is effective is that it can help lower insulin levels. Additionally, as already mentioned, when insulin levels are high, your body can't burn fat for energy. This is because insulin inhibits the breakdown of fat cells and the release of fatty acids into the bloodstream. So, if you want to burn fat, you need to keep insulin levels low.
Another benefit of a low carb and ketogenic diet is that it can help you avoid hypoglycaemic symptoms. Hypoglycaemia, or low blood sugar, can cause symptoms such as dizziness, weakness, and confusion. This happens when your blood sugar levels drop too low, often its actually because of eating a high-carbohydrate meal. This is because sugar is so toxic that it seen as a priority to remove it from the blood stream and when you eat a high carb meal the body rushes to deal with the sugar, often there can be an overshoot with a bit too much insulin produced and hence more glucose is removed ending in a state of low blood sugar.. This leads to a blood sugar rollercoaster with highs and lows.
However, when you're on a low carb and ketogenic diet, your body becomes less reliant on glucose for energy. Instead, it uses ketones and fat for fuel, which helps stabilize your blood sugar levels and prevent hypoglycaemia.
Unfortunately, many people in modern society consume a diet that's high in processed and refined carbohydrates. This has led to a large percentage of the population being insulin resistant, which is a significant contributor to many chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, polycystic ovarian syndrome, obesity, Alzheimer's disease, and cancer. There is even new evidence emerging of a role in many mental illness including depression, biopolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Fortunately, as you have already seen making lifestyle changes can be an effective way to address insulin resistance and reduce your risk of developing these health issues. Here are some of the lifestyle changes that can help:
Eating a healthy low carb diet: eating a healthy diet that's low in high carbohydrate and processed foods and instead focusing on high fibre, protein, and healthy fats can help regulate blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. Focus on real eating whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, lean protein, nuts, and seeds. If you are interested in trying a ketogenic diet then check out my free ‘Quick Start Keto Guide’ to help you get starte.
Exercise regularly: Regular physical activity can help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of developing insulin resistance. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking or cycling, most days of the week.
Reduce stress: Chronic stress can contribute to insulin resistance by increasing cortisol levels in the body. Finding healthy ways to manage stress, such as through meditation, yoga, or deep breathing, can help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of insulin resistance.
Get enough sleep: Poor sleep quality and duration have been linked to insulin resistance and other health issues. Aim for 7-9 hours of restful sleep each night to support healthy metabolic function and reduce the risk of insulin resistance.
Limit alcohol intake: excessive alcohol consumption can increase the risk of developing insulin resistance and other health issues. Many alcoholic drinks are packed with carbohydrates including beer and cocktail mixes. Think about significantly reducing your alcohol intake.
To sum it up, blood sugar and insulin resistance are crucial factors in energy metabolism and fatigue symptoms. A low carb and ketogenic diet is a great start to help reduce insulin levels and stabilize blood sugar levels, leading to increased energy and reduced fatigue. By avoiding high carb, processed foods, as well as making other supportive lifestyle changes you can reduce the risk of insulin resistance and many chronic diseases.
If you need help you can read my blog on How Eating Keto Can Fix Your Fatigue and the next step is to download my Quick Start Keto Guide For Fatigue https://www.moiranewiss.co.uk/quick-start-keto-guide-for-fatigue
Disclaimer: Before changing your diet or lifestyle and taking any supplements always seek the advice of your doctor or another suitably qualified professional such as a nutritional therapist. The content of this blog is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor with regards to any questions you have about a medical condition.
Noakes TD, Windt J. Evidence that supports the prescription of low-carbohydrate high-fat diets: a narrative review. Br J Sports Med. 2017 Jan;51(2):133-139. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2016-096491. PMID: 28053201.
Paoli A, Rubini A, Volek JS, Grimaldi KA. Beyond weight loss: a review of the therapeutic uses of very-low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) diets. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013;67(8):789-796. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2013.116
Ludwig DS, et al. The carbohydrate-insulin model of obesity: beyond "calories in, calories out." JAMA Intern Med. 2018;178(8):1098-1103. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.2933
Newman JC, Verdin E. β-hydroxybutyrate: a signaling metabolite. Annu Rev Nutr. 2017;37:51-76. doi:10.1146/annurev-nutr-071816-064916
Oliva-Olivera W, et al. White adipose tissue insulin signaling and glucose metabolism in overweight and obese patients with polycystic ovary syndrome. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2021;94(2):288-296. doi:10.1111/cen.14326
Wang X, et al. Non-invasive blood glucose monitoring using saliva samples: current and future perspectives. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2021;14:2725-2741. doi:10.2147/DMSO.S318517
Zheng J, et al. The role of insulin resistance in the development of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Rev Endocr Metab Disord. 2021;22(2):219-227. doi:10.1007/s11154-020-09626-4
American Diabetes Association. Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes-2022. Diabetes Care. 2022;45(Supplement 1):S1-S218. doi: 10.2337/dc22-S000
St-Onge MP, Grandner MA, Brown D, et al. Sleep duration and quality: Impact on lifestyle behaviors and cardiometabolic health: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2016;134(18):e367-e386. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000444
Epel ES, McEwen B, Seeman T, et al. Stress and body shape: Stress-induced cortisol secretion is consistently greater among women with central fat. Psychosom Med. 2000;62(5):623-632. doi: 10.1097/00006842-200009000-00011
O'Keefe JH, Lavie CJ, Holley CL. Physical activity/exercise and type 2 diabetes. Circulation. 2020;141(17):1434-1436. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.120.046870
Fertig BJ, Chopra D, Tuszynski JA (2022) The Four Stages of Insulin Resistance Induced Chronic Diseases of Aging. J Altern Complement Integr Med 8: 232.
Zhao H, Zhang J, Cheng X, Nie X, He B. Insulin resistance in polycystic ovary syndrome across various tissues: an updated review of pathogenesis, evaluation, and treatment. J Ovarian Res. 2023 Jan 11;16(1):9. doi: 10.1186/s13048-022-01091-0. PMID: 36631836; PMCID: PMC9832677.