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Ideal Blood Sugar Levels for Weight Loss: Does it Matter?

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a person is using a glucometer, ideal blood sugar levels for weight loss
Melissa Mitri post Reviewer Melissa Mitri post Reviewer
Verified by Melissa Mitri
MS, Registered Dietitian, Former President of CT Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics

Table of Contents

Weight loss is a major concern for many these days, and for good reason. In addition to making you look and feel good, losing weight helps prevent illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.

But losing weight is not a simple task: if you’ve ever tried to shed pounds, you know that by experience. Although it ultimately boils down to a calorie deficit, there’s much more to it than meets the eye. 

Successful weight loss also involves optimizing your hormonal control in the body,  and blood sugar regulation is one of them.

In today’s post, we will discuss the link between weight loss and glucose levels and try to find out if there are ideal blood sugar levels for weight loss. Read on to learn more about how blood glucose levels affect weight loss.

Although we instinctively blame fat for weight gain, sugar plays a significant part in the equation as well. Blood sugar—more precisely, blood glucose— mainly comes from the carbohydrates we eat and acts as the primary fuel in our body [1]

What is left after being used for energy production gets stored in the muscles as glycogen. If there is excess glucose, it is stored as fat in the fat cells [2]. This means the more sugar in your blood, the more it can get deposited as fat, leading to weight gain. 

Now you might think that low blood sugar leads to weight loss. On the contrary, it can also result in weight gain if the blood glucose levels drop low consistently. How? We’ll explain in a second.

How Does Blood Sugar Affect Weight Loss? Low Vs. High

Here’s how high and low blood sugar levels can affect your weight.  

When you have high blood sugar levels (known as hyperglycemia), insulin kicks in to bring them back to normal. However, if your blood glucose stays too high for too long, your cells stop responding to insulin, causing a condition called insulin resistance [3]

This leads to elevated glucose concentrations as well as higher-than-normal insulin levels in your blood. Constantly high insulin levels can encourage fat deposition in the body, thereby increasing body weight [4]

When blood insulin remains continuously high, it can also give rise to leptin resistance [5]. Leptin is the hormone that signals fullness. Leptin resistance leads to over-eating in order to get that sense of fullness, which again promotes weight gain.

However, in some people with diabetes, high blood glucose concentrations and insulin resistance can also result in drastic and unplanned weight loss [6]

This is because many times your body thinks it’s starving when your blood glucose (i.e., blood sugar) can’t reach the cells to provide energy. The body then tries to compensate by burning your body fat and muscle at a rapid pace for energy.

And although it might seem like you can draw a clear connection between low blood sugar and weight loss, it’s not exactly true. Low blood sugar levels (or hypoglycemia), in fact, make you excessively hungry and might prompt binge eating [7]. Needless to say, over-indulging will eventually lead to excess pounds. 

Now that you know that both too high or too low blood sugar levels can cause weight fluctuations, you may understand the importance of maintaining a balanced blood sugar profile. So, what are the optimal glucose levels for weight loss?  Jump on to the next section to find out.

Ideal Blood Sugar Levels

In reality, there’s no one ‘ideal blood sugar level.’ It’s always a range that changes depending on your age, gender, activity levels, and so on.

The ideal range can also vary depending on when you do the test. For instance, the numbers differ if you measure your blood sugar after fasting for 8-12 hours (fasting blood sugar) vs. if you measure the same 2 hours after you’ve eaten ( called postprandial blood sugar).

The following are the recommended blood sugar measurements for healthy individuals [8]:

  • Fasting Blood Sugar: A fasting blood sugar level between 72- 99mg/dL (4.0-5.4 mmol/L) is considered normal for a healthy adult.
  • Postprandial Blood Sugar: When measured 2 hours after eating, a glucose level of up to 140mg/dL (7.8 mmol/L) is normal for a healthy adult. 
  • Preprandial Blood Sugar: A range of 72- 106mg/dL (4.0 to 5.9 mmol/L) after-meal blood sugar levels is considered normal for a healthy adult.

Ideal Blood Sugar Levels For Weight Loss

So, is there an ideal blood sugar level for weight loss? Although different numbers are thrown around on the internet, there’s no mention of such in scientific literature. 

We can safely conclude that maintaining a steady blood sugar concentration within the normal range, without sudden dips or spikes, is beneficial for keeping a healthy weight. 

Blood Sugar & Weight Management 101

Based on this knowledge, let us answer some FAQs related to weight loss and blood sugar. 

Does Lowering Blood Sugar Help You Lose Weight?

Yes. If you have high blood sugar, lowering your blood glucose can help you maintain low insulin levels, thus leading to weight loss [9]

As we explained earlier, continuously high insulin levels contribute to fat deposition, thereby leading to weight gain. Decreasing circulating glucose brings down insulin levels, thus interfering with this process. 

Does Your Body Burn Fat When Blood Sugar Is Low?

Theoretically, yes. Glucose is the main source of energy in your body, and it’s derived from carbohydrates. When blood glucose levels are low, your body starts to break down stored carbohydrates (aka glycogen). 

When the glycogen stores are depleted, as when you’re on a fast, your body does something called ‘metabolic switching’ and starts breaking down fat [10]

However, if blood sugar drops too low, say below 70mg/dL, you enter the danger zone of hypoglycemia [11]. This brings about many unwanted symptoms like shakes, dizziness, confusion, and extreme hunger [12]. If this persists for too long, you can end up over-eating, which leads to gaining weight.

Does High Blood Sugar Make Weight Loss Harder?

It does. As we said before, consistently high blood sugar levels lead to insulin resistance, which in turn brings about fat storage and over-eating. These can eventually end up increasing body weight.

Does Losing Weight Lower Fasting Blood Sugar?

Yes, it does. When you maintain a healthy weight, your pancreas works more efficiently in producing insulin and in turn, regulating blood sugar. In some instances, you can control blood sugar levels just by losing weight, as the Mayo Clinic reports [13]

How To Balance Your Blood Sugar Levels For Weight Loss

Now that you know how a well-controlled blood sugar profile benefits a healthy weight, here are some tips you can employ to balance your blood sugar levels:

Keep Track Of Your Carb Intake

Carbohydrates in your diet primarily determine your blood sugar levels, so it’s best to keep an eye on your carb intake. A low-carb diet that incorporates a healthy portion of protein and fat can curb your blood sugar spikes. Also, it’s best to eat complex, low-GI foods such as whole grains and leafy greens. Limit the simple, high-GI carbs such as white rice, white bread, and sweets [14].

Exercise Regularly

Regular physical exercise helps to burn more sugar and increases the insulin sensitivity of your cells [15]. This improves insulin activity, thus lowering blood sugar. 

Manage Your Stress

Stress can trigger hormones that raise blood sugar levels. Living with uncontrolled stress for the long term can result in insulin resistance, which can eventually lead to diabetes [16]. Control your stress levels to reduce high blood sugar.

Get Enough Sleep

CDC reports that not getting enough sleep can induce insulin resistance and impact high blood sugar [17]. Get a good night’s sleep of 7+ hours to keep your blood sugar levels in a healthier range.

Do You Need To Monitor Your Glucose Levels?

It’s a good practice to regularly monitor your blood glucose levels to make sure they are in the healthy range. This is especially true if you’re prone to diabetes or already have diabetes. 

Even if you don’t have diabetes, you might want to keep track of your blood sugar levels—although not as frequently as those with diabetes. In particular, check your blood sugar levels if you’re having a hard time losing weight despite dieting and regular exercise.

Bottom Line

  • Both high and low blood sugar levels can result in weight fluctuations, so it’s a good idea to track your blood sugar levels while you’re trying to lose weight. 
  • While low blood glucose concentrations up to a certain limit can induce fat burning, letting them dip too low for too long can be problematic. It can result in a cycle of extreme hunger and weight gain, along with other dangerous conditions. 
  • There are no ideal blood sugar levels for weight loss, but it’s best to maintain your blood sugar levels in the healthy range, which is 72- 99mg/dL (4.0-5.4 mmol/L) for fasting blood sugar. 
Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

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