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7 Ways to Reduce Blood Sugar Spikes After Meals

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By April Hopcroft

Many individuals with diabetes – even those using the newest technology – struggle with high blood sugar after eating. We spoke with experts for tips about find out how to minimize those stubborn glucose spikes.

We’ve all been there: it’s been a protracted, demanding day at work and also you’re excited to sit down down for dinner at your favorite restaurant.

Or possibly you’re wanting to watch the sport and dig right into a feast of wings, nachos, and sliders with family and friends. Perhaps you’ve been traveling or in your feet all day and are able to gobble up the primary food you encounter.

Whatever the situation, it’s likely you don’t need to take the time to bolus and wait to your insulin to kick in before you begin eating. In spite of everything, meals are sometimes a social activity, and it’s no fun to attend while others are chowing down.

But because the meal wears on, you catch a glimpse of your phone and are startled to see your blood sugar is well into the 200s and rising. Soon, you begin to acknowledge the telltale signs of high blood sugar: achiness, fatigue, and a general feeling of unease.

There’s little doubt about it – navigating meals will be tricky when you’ve got diabetes. Even amongst individuals who use automated insulin delivery (AID) systems, research suggests that achieving postprandial glycemic control will be difficult.

Why do blood sugar spikes after meals occur?

Sudden increases in blood glucose after eating are normal, even in people without diabetes. After consuming carbohydrates, blood sugar levels rise as our bodies break carbohydrates down into sugars.

In people without diabetes, this increase in blood sugar triggers the immediate release of insulin. Inside minutes, insulin starts transporting glucose from the bloodstream into cells, helping to cut back blood sugar after eating. Post-meal blood glucose spikes are often temporary and sometimes go unnoticed in those without diabetes.

Nevertheless, in individuals with diabetes, blood sugar spikes will be more pronounced and last more. Insulin delivered via injections or an insulin pump takes longer to start out working in comparison with the insulin produced naturally by the body, meaning blood glucose will proceed to rise while the injected insulin kicks in.

Individuals with diabetes produce other hormonal differences that may affect the speed of digestion. Those without functional beta cells also cannot produce the hormone amylin, which helps slow digestion and reduces post-meal glucose. Which means people without enough amylin may experience challenges with high glucose levels after eating.

When you’ve been battling post-meal hyperglycemia, take stock of your current circumstances and if you happen to’ve experienced major life changes recently, suggested LaurieAnn Scher, certified diabetes care and education specialist.

Have you ever experienced stressors, equivalent to studying for a giant exam, switching jobs, or moving? This could trigger the discharge of stress hormones like cortisol, which may promote weight gain and affect metabolism, including insulin resistance.

Possibly your eating or exercise patterns have shifted, perhaps as a consequence of changes like starting college, moving in with a partner, or navigating parenthood. Weight-reduction plan changes can lead people to realize more muscle or fat. With a distinct proportion of fat and muscle mass, insulin resistance can fluctuate, impacting your insulin needs, Scher added.

Many other aspects can affect insulin resistance and blood glucose management, equivalent to using contraception, environmental conditions, dehydration, and more.

Why is it vital to cut back blood sugar spikes?

High blood sugar after meals raises your risk of diabetes complications, including kidney disease, heart problems, and diabetic neuropathy. Post-meal hyperglycemia can even affect quality of life, resulting in negative effects on mood, diabetes distress, and issues like brain fog or sluggishness.

To place it simply, high blood sugar after eating “doesn’t feel great, and it may be hard to think and see,” said Scher.

Research also suggests that higher glycemic control after meals is linked to improved A1C and fasting glucose levels.

In line with the American Diabetes Association 2024 Standards of Care, it’s best to aim for blood sugar to be lower than 180 mg/dL inside 1-2 hours after you begin eating. In contrast, in most individuals without diabetes, two-hour postprandial blood sugar levels are typically lower than 120 mg/dL and barely exceed 140 mg/dL.

prevent blood sugar spikes after eating

From medications to food plan and physical activity, there are lots of different strategies to forestall bothersome blood sugar spikes after meals. As with all parts of diabetes care, it’s vital to acknowledge that what works for one person may not work for another person.

“It’s all about tailoring to the patient’s needs, comfort level, background, what they’ve tried, and what they’re willing and concerned about,” said Rina Hisamatsu, a registered dietitian on the Michigan Collaborative for Type 2 Diabetes (MCT2D).

1. Experiment with different insulins and dose timing

For any diabetes medication, Scher advised, “Don’t set it and forget it.”

That’s, it’s best to frequently examine basal and bolus insulin, along together with your other medications. It’s possible you’ll need to regulate your insulin regimen and tweak bolus doses and timing throughout your life.

There are several several types of mealtime insulin, each with its own time to onset of blood glucose lowering:

Type Names Time to onset Peak Duration
Short-acting (regular) Humulin R and Novolin R (NPH) half-hour 2-3 hours 3-6 hours
Rapid-acting Apidra (glulisine)
Humalog (lispro)
Novolog (aspart)
Quarter-hour 1 hour 2-4 hours
Lyumjev (lispro) Quarter-hour 2-3 hours 4-7 hours
Afrezza (inhaled) 12 minutes 30-60 minutes 1.5-4.5 hours
Fast-acting Fiasp (aspart) 3 minutes 1-3 hours 3-5 hours


The timing of rapid-acting insulin plays a giant role around mealtime. For some meals, you could need a 30-minute pre-bolus before, while others might require a shorter pre-bolus of 10-Quarter-hour before eating.

Some people find they like an prolonged bolus, which suggests the insulin is delivered over an prolonged period, as a substitute of all of sudden.

Digestion rate also aspects into the timing of mealtime insulin, especially for individuals with conditions like gastroparesis or exocrine pancreatic insufficiency.

2. Try a brief amount of physical activity

Being energetic for even just just a few minutes after eating can assist lower blood glucose and forestall blood sugar spikes.

Any movement is best than no movement, regardless of how small. And most significantly, Hisamatsu said, try to search out an activity that you just enjoy so which you could make it a sustainable habit.

Taking a walk – whether inside your apartment, across the block, or on a motorcycle path – goes a great distance toward regulating glucose. Beyond taking a stroll, there are lots of other options for brief bursts of exercise like:

  • Climb a set of stairs in your own home or workplace.
  • Jump rope, jog in place, or do jumping jacks – these take up little or no space.
  • Do squats at your desk. Since squats exercise the biggest muscles in your body (your glutes and quads), they’re very effective at lowering glucose. “The quads and glutes are like sponges, they suck up all of the glucose and use it way more readily than smaller muscles,” Scher said.
  • Have a dance party – placed on your favorite songs and jam out to your heart’s content.

Research shows that breaking up a sedentary lifestyle every hour can improve insulin sensitivity (how efficiently your body’s cells reply to insulin) and post-meal glucose.

When you prefer to think ahead, consider the several types of exercise which you could do throughout the day that increase insulin sensitivity. Strength training before eating has been shown to improve post-meal blood glucose in individuals with prediabetes by enhancing insulin sensitivity. Likewise, research suggests that exercising before meals can increase insulin sensitivity and improve overall glycemic control in individuals with type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes.

After all, any type of exercise can result in drops in glucose levels and cause hypoglycemia. When you use insulin, it’s due to this fact vital to think about your insulin on board and take steps to forestall hypoglycemia during exercise, Scher said.

3. Eat high-fiber foods

In contrast to other carbohydrates, fiber can’t be digested by the body, so it has less of an impact on blood glucose levels. In consequence, it helps you’re feeling full and satisfied.

Fiber also plays a key role within the gut microbiome, helping sweep bacteria from the colon and keeping bowel movements regular. You’ll be able to eat more fiber by adding fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains to your food plan.

“We will consider fiber one among our greatest friends,” Hisamatsu said, as fiber-rich foods are inclined to be low-calorie but have a high nutrient density, particularly non-starchy vegetables.

Likewise, Scher said fiber is sort of a parachute. Whenever you pair fiber-rich foods with carbohydrates, it helps prevent blood sugar spikes and in addition reduces rapid drops in blood sugar.

Adding an excessive amount of fiber too quickly may cause some GI distress, so Hisamatsu suggested going “low and slow” when increasing fiber intake and ensuring to remain adequately hydrated. Start by considering of foods you already enjoy and take a look at so as to add some vegetables or whole grains. As an illustration, add sauteed vegetables to spaghetti, tuck some beans right into a quesadilla, or swap whole-grain bread for white bread.

4. Offset carbs with fat and protein

Understanding the differing types of carbohydrates is essential to managing post-meal blood sugar spikes.

“I’ve at all times said there’s nothing that an individual with diabetes can’t eat, except poison and food with poison,” Scher said. “You’ll be able to have cake, candy, etc. You’re human. You simply must learn find out how to manage it.”

Carbohydrates will be divided into two general categories:

  • Easy carbs are sugars. These carbs are broken down quickly and frequently result in big spikes in blood sugar. Examples include soda, baked goods, breakfast cereals, and fruit juice.
  • Complex carbs are broken down more slowly and result in more predictable, gradual increases in blood sugar. Examples include beans, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Hisamatsu suggested starting with “low-hanging fruit” by identifying parts of your food plan where you are inclined to eat more refined or easy carbohydrates. Possibly you’re flying out the door to work within the morning, so breakfast has grow to be a sugary granola bar. Otherwise you crave fruit juice at lunch and a cookie for dessert.

When you’ve identified those areas, consider ways so as to add more complex carbs and fiber-rich foods. Start with small modifications and take a look at habit stacking to make sure sustainable changes.

Overall, Hisamatsu really useful specializing in increasing fiber and protein intake, while adding fat for flavor and fullness.

“When we will give attention to a balance of various food groups, it may be helpful to enhance one’s postprandial glucose,” she said.

5. Try setting a brief basal rate

In the identical way that some people decide to lower their basal insulin rate during exercise, you possibly can consider temporarily increasing your basal rate by a certain percentage before or after meals.

Likewise, some insulin pumps can help you set a lower pre-meal goal, equivalent to 80 or 85 mg/dL quite than 95 mg/dL before eating.

Setting a brief basal rate will be helpful if you’re eating food that has significant refined carbohydrates in it, equivalent to pastries, bread, pasta, pancakes, pizza, and even white rice. This strategy could also be especially useful for those with more insulin resistance.

You may should experiment through trial and error to work out what works best for you. Seek the advice of your healthcare provider to search out the best basal rate for mealtimes.

6. Use CGM as a tool to tell decisions

Continuous glucose monitors (CGM) provide priceless information that may aid you manage post-meal blood sugar.

Since everyone responds in a different way to food, Scher said CGMs can help you understand your body’s unique response. As an illustration, some individuals with diabetes can eat white rice with none blood sugar spikes, while many others will experience high blood sugar shortly after eating rice.

“Individuals with type 2 diabetes, whether or not they’re on insulin therapy, may profit from using a CGM,” Hisamatsu said. “In tandem with lifestyle change, CGM could be a helpful guide for patients to see real-time data and the way food and lifestyle impact postprandial glucose which can assist discover areas for improvement.”

The trend arrows on a CGM can assist inform mealtime insulin dosing. Use time in range to discover patterns and make adjustments as needed – you would possibly need a distinct insulin-to-carb ratio or correction factor depending in your mealtime.

Even when you’ve got type 2 diabetes and your insurance doesn’t cover CGM, skilled CGM could also be an option for you.

“The trick is finding a provider in your area that can aid you do an expert CGM trial,” Scher said. In most states within the U.S., insurance policy will cover one or two trials of skilled CGM per yr.

7. Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated throughout the day is crucial to many bodily functions, from regulating blood pressure to body temperature to blood glucose.

Whenever you’re dehydrated, the quantity of water in your bloodstream decreases, making the glucose in your blood more concentrated. This could result in barely higher blood sugar levels or cause rapid spikes.

Indeed, research suggests that not drinking enough water results in worse glucose control in type 2 diabetes. Dehydration can result in a cycle of upper glucose levels, so it’s especially vital to hydrate well when it’s hot outside.

Whether it’s investing in a colourful water bottle or pairing hydration together with your morning coffee, be sure you get your fluids in.

The underside line

Blood sugar spikes after meals are a standard a part of life when you’ve got diabetes. While having a consistent meal structure can assist prevent large spikes, it isn’t at all times possible to plan all of your meals.

To administer post-meal blood glucose levels, it’s a great idea to construct a “toolbox” of strategies. Everyone seems to be different, so you could must undergo some trial and error to work out what works best for you.

“We’re not test tubes,” Scher said. “What works for one person, may not work for another person.”

It’s also vital to know when to achieve out to your healthcare provider for skilled advice.

“We’re here to support you and to work as a team,” Scher said. “If something doesn’t feel right, let’s work as experts together to assist figure it out.”

Learn more about managing high blood sugar here: 

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