Contributor: Kelly Schmidt, RD, LDN
We have 168 hours in a week, but each hour is not equal in productivity or attention. The morning is a time we have the most control over, and therefore we can take advantage of this window of our day to set ourselves up for success. Perhaps getting out of bad earlier is the answer to allowing you to get the most out of your day verse the day getting the most out of you. Yet, as we approach the most resolution oriented month of the year, perhaps this year, you can be motivated by a routine that leads to a concrete wellness goal. Enlightening ideas below:
Three Square Meals: Research has shown that regular daytime eating patterns help regulate leptin release (satiety hormone), resulting in reduced hunger scores and cravings throughout the day. Try scheduling consistent mealtimes daily, with the same amount of carbohydrates at each meal. Avoid snacking to reduce stacking insulin and risking low blood sugar episodes. A perk of eating only three meals a day is that it improves intestinal movement. The migrating motor complex (MMC) is the nerve complex that is active in the upper gut; it empties the stomach and energizes the small intestines. MMC starts working two hours after eating, so if you snack shortly after a meal, you will stop food movement and shut down the gut and fluid nutrient absorption. Try to allow for 4-5 hours between eating.
Eat with the Sunlight: If you must eat after 7 pm, eat light. Research shows prolonged delayed eating (eating from noon to 11 pm) can increase weight, insulin and cholesterol levels, and negatively affect fat metabolism, and hormonal markers implicated in heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems, according to results from researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The research discovered late-night meals caused people to gain weight by reducing the body's ability to burn fat. If it's not possible to have dinner earlier, convert this meal to be the smallest one of the day, and include an afternoon snack with a combination of protein, fiber, and fat to help keep you on goal.
It’s Dinner Time, 6 PM: In case I didn’t spell it out, I want to share another study, bringing home the message to eat dinner between 5:30 – 6:30 PM. Eating a late dinner worsens glucose tolerance and reduces the amount of fat burned. On average, after late dinner, the peak glucose level was about 18 percent higher, and the amount of fat burned overnight decreased by about 10 percent compared to eating an earlier dinner. Early dinner is a target to hit most nights. Again, for the occasional late meal, try to eat lighter to minimize the impact of insulin resistance and fat storage, and if need be, adjust your overnight insulin to compensate.
Walk Daily: Research shows that physical activity can improve insulin sensitivity for 16 hours or more. Make it a rule of thumb to exercise most days, or at least every other day. Doing so can allow for easier blood sugar management and stable basal insulin needs. There is so much magic in walking. Walking can drop blood sugar on average 1mg/dL per minute. This can be handy if a bolus was miscalculated or blood sugar is elevated before, during, or after a meal. Walking can act faster than insulin and can be beneficial in small increments. Though few studies have tested walking in people with type 1 diabetes, the results seem positive, particularly after meals. A 2012 study examined 12 patients with type 1 diabetes over 88 hours. Those who walked after meals had approximately half as many glucose excursions compared to those who did not walk after meals.
Morning Exercise: Overall, it’s a win if you are moving your body any time of the day, and indeed exercise makes insulin work faster. However, you may find exercising in the morning easier without any active insulin on board.
Enjoy (Pace) Your Meals: In a study by Gastroenterology, participants who consumed a mineral drink while they were in a relaxed state absorbed 100 percent of the drink's nutrients. Yet, when the participants were asked to concentrate as two different people spoke to them simultaneously about different topics while drinking the same mineral drink, they showed a significant reduction in nutrient absorption. With distraction and stress, food digestion gets put on the back burner. Your body is working to digest information and threats. Additionally, stress depletes nutrient stores. Vitamins A, E, and C, B-vitamins, chromium, copper, iron, zinc, and magnesium are some of the first to go, which are all very important for mental health, sleep, detoxification, and blood sugar management.
High-Protein Breakfast: Eating a high protein breakfast can help improve calorie intake and blood sugar management throughout the day.
Hydrate Between Meals: Drinking water regularly re-hydrates the blood, and may lower blood sugar levels, and reduce diabetes risk. Research shows that drinking water before meals reduced calorie intake and may be effective in weight management. Friendly-reminder, water, and other non-caloric beverages are best. Liquid calories raise blood glucose, drive weight gain, and increase diabetes risk.
Create A Bedtime Routine: Poor sleeping habits and a lack of rest also affect blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity. Lack of sleep increases both appetite and insulin resistance. In a 2012 study, data showed that four nights of 4.5 hours of sleep increased insulin resistance by 30% in participants without diabetes. I commonly tell clients that sleep is the secret sauce to health and blood sugar management.
As a Registered Dietitian who has lived with type 1 diabetes since 1991, Kelly knows blood sugar management inside and out on a professional, personal, and holistic level. Kelly is America's type 1 speaker and coach, providing practical solutions and personalized nutrition.