The terms “blood sugar” and “glucose” both refer to the same thing – how much sugar is circulating in your bloodstream at a given moment in time.
Glucose is the fuel that gives us energy. To function at a high-level and maintain your level of energy all day long, you need to keep your glucose level consistent. Managing this is a complex process but it all begins with what you eat.
When we eat, most carbohydrates (with the exception of fiber) are broken down into glucose during digestion. First, your body will first replenish any glycogen (a form of glucose) if needed, in your liver and muscles. If extra glucose remains, your pancreas will produce the hormone insulin, which allows fat cells to store extra glucose for future energy needs.
Glucose levels naturally change throughout the day in response to what you eat, how much physical activity you do, and a range of other factors. Keeping your glucose levels stable is important for maintaining a good energy level, mental sharpness, avoiding weight gain, and overall health.
Fun fact: On average, we have about four grams of sugar in our bloodstream at any given time, or just enough to fill a teaspoon.
To give a little perspective on how much extra sugar we might consume without even thinking about it, one Big Gulp (30 oz cup) of regular soda contains 92 grams of sugar. As we drink that soda, our digestive system absorbs the sugar which then enters the bloodstream and causes your glucose to rise rapidly or “spike”. Carbs in liquid form are absorbed more quickly than those in solid food, and they are absorbed even faster if you drink them without a meal.
In addition to eating, glucose levels can be affected by exercise, sleep, stress and some medications. Some people will have slightly elevated glucose goals, including people who:
- Are 60 or older
- Have medical conditions, such as heart, lung or kidney disease
- Have a reduced ability to sense low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia unawareness)