The concept and importance of balance and the insulin response is worth repeating again in a different way. When you eat a carbohydrate ALONE, without protein or fat, blood sugar can rise quickly. Without anything to slow it down, like protein or fat, your blood sugar can “spike” and then be followed by a significant drop. With low blood sugar, your body will probably respond with hunger or need a “pick-me-up” and you naturally reach for more carbohydrates, the preferred fuel source.66 Without anchoring the carbohydrate, you are hungry more often.67
When you eat a carbohydrate combined with a protein source, its entrance into the bloodstream is slowed down, thus stabilizing blood sugar: the rise is slower, it stays longer and there’s not a severe drop after the spike.59 This has several advantages. Because protein serves as a blood sugar stabilizer, you don’t repeatedly get hungry and continue to reach for more carbohydrates.
The more you reach for carbohydrates, the more calories you consume and the more insulin you need to help clear sugar from the blood. The more insulin released, the more potential there is to store fat. Are you seeing a pattern here?
In addition, protein helps maintain fullness.60,62-63,68 One of the challenges of dieting is getting hungry. Feeling full longer can be of great benefit when trying to lose weight. If you have a protein with that carbohydrate, you will likely consume fewer calories and stay full, or at least satisfied, for a few hours.
Adding protein or fat slows the carbohydrate down as it enters your bloodstream.59,69-70 Protein and fat serve as anchors in your bloodstream, preventing the carbohydrate from peaking too fast. Your insulin responds differently too, based on the combination of nutrients entering your bloodstream.59 It is valuable to ALWAYS have a carbohydrate with a protein, and not have a carbohydrate food by itself.
Eating a fist-size serving of carbs with a fist-size serving of protein creates the perfect “ONE-TWO PUNCH.” Carbs alone are digested very quickly causing a spike, followed by a drop in blood sugar, leaving you feeling hungry faster Pairing carbs with a protein slows the digestion of carbs and balances the blood sugar levels. This keeps you satisfied longer.
59. George R, Garcia A, Edwards C. Glycaemic responses of staple South Asian foods alone and combined with curried chicken as a mixed meal. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2014;28(3):283-291.
60. Hätönen K, Virtamo J, Eriksson J, Sinkko H, Sundvall J, Valsta L. Protein and fat modify the glycaemic and insulinaemic responses to a mashed potato-based meal. Br J Nutr. 2011;106(02):248-253.
62. Chang K, Lampe J, Schwarz Y et al. Low glycemic load experimental diet more satiating than high glycemic load diet. Nutr Canc. 2012;64(5):666-673.
63. Bellissimo N, Akhavan T. Effect of Macronutrient Composition on Short-Term Food Intake and Weight Loss. Adv Nutr. 2015;6(3):302S-308S.
66. Gropper S, Smith J, Groff J. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth; 2005: 300.
67. Mozaffarian D. Foods, obesity, and diabetes—are all calories created equal? Nutr Rev. 2017;75(suppl 1):19-31.
68. Dhillon J, Craig B, Leidy H et al. The Effects of Increased Protein Intake on Fullness: A Meta-Analysis and Its Limitations. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016;116(6):968-983.
69. Maki KC, Rains TM, Kaden VN, Raneri KR, Davidson MH. Effects of a reduced-glycemic-load diet on body weight, body composition, and cardiovascular disease risk markers in overweight and obese adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85(3):724-734.
70. Sofer S, Stark A, Madar Z. Nutrition Targeting by Food Timing: Time-Related Dietary Approaches to Combat Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome. Adv Nutr. 2015;6(2):214-223.