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I know that we have discussed sugar previously on this site, and by now you should know my stance on it. However, a friend of mine came to me recently with a more in depth question about sugar and how it is processed in our bodies. What she wanted to know was whether or not sugar (this includes fructose) is handled differently at different times of day. The answer to this is a resounding yes!
First and foremost, we have certainly all heard of insulin before. Well the long and short of it is that insulin, and our insulin levels, are what drives our bodies to crave sugar. As well as decides what to do with the sugar once we get it.
If insulin levels are too low, then the body will drive any sugar we get into the bloodstream to be used immediately as energy.
But if insulin levels are too high, then our body will move the sugar to our liver, muscle or fat cells to be stored for future use.
Insulin levels are naturally lower at night while we are sleeping and also in between meals. But are naturally higher right after eating a meal.
That makes logical sense, right?
When our bodies store sugar (glucose) for future use it is in the form of glycogen. This glycogen will then be broken down, in times of need, and dispersed throughout the body using a process called glycogenolysis.
But there are times when there isn’t quite enough sugar in the liver, so the body will use a different process called gluconeogenesis to make its own sugar. It does this by harvesting fat by products (oh yeah!), waste products and/or amino acids.
But wait, there is yet another process the body can use to get the sugar that it desperately needs for proper brain and red blood cell function. Ketogenesis!
Ketogenesis is a process that we have also discussed previously. This was when we talked about whether or not it is beneficial for you to experiment with a ketogenic diet. If you recall, this process is basically a last resort from the body to get the sugar that it simply must have to continue operating properly.
That being said, there are other hormones besides just insulin that effect our blood sugar levels. These include:
- Growth hormone
I am not going to go into these here since there is already a great article that explains them well. There is no point in reinventing the wheel, in my mind, so read that article if you want to learn more about each hormone.
But, and here is the kicker, it is not only these other hormones that have an effect on your insulin levels, but stress itself. Yep, you heard it. Stress!
And we all know that the typical human being has too much stress in their lives at this point in history. Stress can really trigger your hormones to do some crazy things. How they affect insulin release and uptake just happens to be one of them.
When we are stressed or anxious, our body is entering the flight or fight response.
When that occurs, we pump out more epinephrine and glucagon to pour more glucose into the blood stream. But at the same time, we increase the levels of cortisol and growth hormone to make the muscles less susceptible to insulin uptake. And if you are eating while stressed (as the majority of us do), what do you think is happening with all of that extra sugar you are ingesting?
You guessed it! Now you have a ridiculous surplus of sugar in your bloodstream. And we all react differently to too much sugar. But very rarely are our responses to excess sugar great. So you can see where we are at now.
All of that being said, how we process the sugar that we eat ultimately depends on the insulin levels in our bodies. But our insulin levels are directly affected by a multitude of other hormones, our stress level and the time of day.
What I really want you to understand from all of this is that how we respond to sugar is directly affected by so many other things, besides just the amount of sugar that we are ingesting.
So if you are finding your response to sugar, in any form, to not feel right at certain times of the day, then there is a logical explanation for it. Something is off with one or some of your hormone levels or you are stressed, or some combination thereof.
We are all different and nobody’s body reacts exactly the same. I always say that the bell curve exists to create a better understanding of how things work MOST of the time. But, there are always people on the opposite spectrums. That could be you in some instances.
You know your body better than anybody else, so pay attention and listen to it. If there are times that you don’t feel right eating sugar, or if there are certain types of sugar that make you feel off kilter, then pay attention to that and limit them.
This is your body and your overall health, after all!
Have you had issues with your body’s response to sugar in the past? Have you found the time of day to have an effect on how you respond to sugar intake?