What You Don't Know About Caffeine

Caffeine is a regular part of many people’s daily schedule, and because it is a substance that contains no calories, it is often overlooked when considering what can affect blood sugar. You often see coffee (with nothing added to it) referred to as a “free” food, which may lead you to think it’s fine to have as much as possible.

Unlimited caffeine, even straight black coffee, is not safe for anyone. The recommended daily allowance for caffeine is 400 mg, and an 8 oz coffee (aka, about the amount that fits in a mug), contains around 130 mg. More than three cups of coffee a day is not necessarily safe for anyone.

People living with diabetes have even more of a reason to keep an eye on caffeine consumption. Caffeine can alter the way glucose is processed and insulin is regulated, leading to higher blood sugar. In other words, caffeine may cause a higher spike in blood sugar from consuming the same amount of carbohydrate consumed without caffeine. This is notable because caffeine is almost always consumed with carbohydrate: sugar added to coffee and tea, sodas, and breakfast served alongside coffee are some examples of this.

People who consume large amounts of coffee (or other caffeinated beverages) each day might find it very difficult to cut these drinks out, due to the addictive nature of caffeine. If you drink more than the recommended safe level, cutting back should definitely be a priority. Similarly, if you regularly drink caffeinated beverages daily, especially if you drink more than two every day, and you feel as if you have less control over your blood sugar than you should, decreasing the amount of caffeine you drink may be helpful. If you try drinking less caffeine and your blood sugar control improves, then it’s very possible that caffeine was the culprit.

If you drink caffeinated beverages and want to cut back, here are some tips:

  • Phase out some caffeinated beverages and switch them for decaf. Maybe switch coffee or tea to a blend of decaf and regular within each drink or change some around so half are regular and half are decaf.

  • If you enjoy tea, green or herbal teas have less caffeine than black tea.

  • Don’t use soda to quench thirst, because it’s very easy to chug too much. Reach for water instead as a solution to thirst.

  • Aim to add no sugar to your morning beverage; it may be easier to phase the amount of sugar out over several days so it isn’t as noticeable.

Diabetic-Friendly Snack Ideas You Need to Know Now

 

  • Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, pistachio’s, mixed nuts

  • One Ounce pistachio’s (40-45 pistachios)

  • Cucumber slices and carrot sticks with Greek yogurt dip

  • One Small bag of Skinny pop popcorn (150 calories)

  • Cottage Cheese and berries (1/2 cup 1% Cottage Cheese with ½ cup blueberries or strawberries with a dash of cinnamon)

  • Kale Chips (150 calories)

  • ½ cup (out of shell) roasted Edamame

  • Siggi’s Greek Yogurt

  • One Gala with one package Justin’s Peanut butter

  • Small vegetable or broth based soup

  • 3 Finn Crisp or Scandinavian Bran Crispbread with one package of Justin’s Peanut butter or 1/3 avocado spread on it

  • Pumpkin seeds

 

How to Exercise Without Getting Hypoglycemia

Exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. Ideally, you should be doing some type of physical activity every day. However, because of the reactions between exercise and blood sugar, Diabetics have to plan the balance between when they exercise and when they eat carefully.

Exercise often lowers blood sugar, and if you don’t plan your diet to adequately compensate for this, it can result in a hypoglycemic episode. This happens because exercise increases insulin sensitivity, and also because muscles that are active take in more glucose and use it to perform the exercise, so sugars aren’t building up in the blood. If you are on an insulin pump you can account for this by decreasing your basal rates, however, if you are not on a pump you will likely need to account for this by eating something before, during or right after you exercise.

Several things can make a hypoglycemic episode more likely, including:

  • Exercising on an empty stomach

  • Skipping a meal earlier in the day

  • Exercising for a long amount of time

  • Exercising strenuously

  • Taking insulin before exercise

If you tend to go low before or after exercise a good place to start is by snacking on 15 grams of carbs before the planned activity. Some snack ideas include:

  • ½ banana

  • 1 slice of whole grain bread with 1 TB peanut butter

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt with ½ cup berries

  • Homemade trail mix: ½ cup granola, 1TB raisins, 10 Almonds

It is also important to note that a blood sugar drop can occur several hours after exercising. Therefore, it is better to maintain the same diet pattern and not skip meals or snacks before  or after exercising.

To ideally plan a great exercise regimen, you should:

  • Be prepared with supplies (glucose tabs) to treat hypoglycemic episodes.

  • Test blood sugar often, and definitely before and after exercise.

  • Avoid doing other things that also lower blood sugar before you exercise, for example alcohol and hot showers.

  • Do not plan to exercise during the peak effectiveness of your insulin.

  • Drink lots of water

Four Ways to Prevent Alcohol From Messing With Your Blood Sugar

 Alcohol is not considered a carbohydrate, protein, or fat, but like these nutrients, alcohol does contain calories (7 per gram, to be exact), and therefore, alcohol can have an impact on blood sugar just like food does.

Alcohol can lead to both high and low blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels can result from the alcohol decreasing the effectiveness of insulin, but can also be caused by the carbohydrates in alcoholic beverages, as well as the fact that drinking alcohol can increase your appetite and lower your inhibitions and ability to carefully monitor what you are eating. Effectiveness of insulin begins to decrease over time, so continued consumption over long periods of time will make you more susceptible to hyperglycemic episodes following alcohol consumption.

On the other hand, hypoglycemia can result from alcohol consumption each time you drink alcohol, because alcohol causes more insulin to be secreted. This is because when alcohol enters your system, your body’s immediate reaction is to focus on filtering it out. Because of this, the body is less responsive towards the pathway it normally uses to correct low blood sugar. Furthermore, since a lot of the symptoms of low blood sugar are similar to the symptoms of intoxication (nausea, flushing, slurred speech), these symptoms may be masked and more difficult for you and those around you to identify.

Alcohol should always be consumed in moderation, but this is especially true for diabetics, who should limit consumption to one drink a day for women, or two for men.

Some Quick Tips:

  • Don’t ever drink on an empty stomach. This will amplify the alcohol’s effect on your blood sugar.

  • Never use alcohol to replace a carbohydrate snack. Alcohol is metabolized similar to fat (and a drink should be counted as two fat exchanges, or 10 grams of fat).

  • Don’t choose alcohol as a solution to being very thirsty, as this makes it easier to drink too much or too fast. Instead, start with a nonalcoholic beverage if you are very thirsty.

  • Take small sips to make the drink last longer.

Pre Diabetes

Here are the first 5 things you should do if your doctor says you have PreDiabetes

1. Consult a registered dietitian and preferably a certified diabetes educator (http://www.ncbde.org/find-a-cde/) to find out the what you should be eating.

2. Ask your doctor if you are cleared to begin an exercise regimen. If so, and if you haven't exercised in a while start with 20 minutes of walking per day (go at your own pace but you should be  breaking a sweat) if you have been moderately active then start with 30 minutes of brisk cardiovascular exercise 5 x's per week.

3. Gradually increase the fiber in your diet until you get up to 30-40 grams of fiber per day.

4. Cut out all sources of added sugars: cakes, cookies, candies, soda, ice cream.

5. Increase the vegetables in your diet. Half of your plate should be covered with vegetables.