Taking a shot of protein before you sit down to eat may help you control your blood sugar, according to research on those with Type 2 diabetes. This is exciting news for many as the rate of type 2 diabetes continues to grow, including in children, teens and young adults.
Nutrition is essential for helping manage type 2 diabetes, which affects blood sugar and is significantly impacted by the foods you eat. Consuming the right foods in the correct portions at optimal times is a vital factor in planning meals for those with diabetes.
Protein and diabetes: Consumption before meals reduces blood sugar
Researchers sought to determine the effects of consuming a shot of protein beverage three times per day before meals in those with type 2 diabetes. They were hoping to decrease the post-meal rise in blood sugar, which can be especially concerning for those with diabetes.
In fact, post-meal blood sugar increases are considered a risk factor for cardiovascular events (heart attacks) and all-cause mortality in those with type 2 diabetes, so controlling this effect is essential.
The study found that a pre-meal shot of whey protein powder containing 15 grams of protein prevented spikes in blood sugar. Participants in the study took the protein powder about 10 minutes before eating three meals per day for a week. They found that blood sugar levels remained more stable for longer than control subjects who took no protein powder before meals.
Moreover, those who drank protein had lower blood sugar levels throughout the day compared to those who didn’t. The interesting part is that the study participants didn’t change anything else about their daily living. They kept their meals and activity levels the same as before the study.
This study was the first to demonstrate an ability to use protein powder as a method for helping control diabetes outside of a laboratory setting. However, several other studies have also shown the connection between taking protein before meals and reduced blood sugar.
How does protein help regulate blood sugar?
Protein helps to regulate blood sugar by slowing digestion. One of the best benefits of a diet including enough protein is that it increases meal satisfaction and fullness, leading to reduced hunger throughout the day. If your goal is to lose weight or maintain healthy body weight — often recommended for those with type 2 diabetes — protein is a superfood.
People with type 2 diabetes have become less sensitive to insulin or don’t make enough of it. They can’t effectively use insulin, a hormone that helps the sugar in your blood, called glucose, to be taken into your cells and used as energy. When you can’t use glucose for energy, it gets stored instead, which leads to fat tissue gain. Protein intake has been shown to increase insulin and decrease post-meal blood sugar spikes.
What kind of protein is best?
In the study, whey protein powder was administered to the subjects. Whey protein is readily digestible, quickly and efficiently absorbed, and used. It’s also a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids your body needs. Whey protein is an ideal pick if you want to mimic the study results for yourself.
Aside from blood sugar control, complete protein builds and repairs your body’s tissues and is an essential macronutrient, meaning you can’t live without it. For those who have difficulty getting enough protein or wish to increase their intake, the convenience of shakes makes them an attractive choice.
Although the study used fast-absorbing whey protein for the pre-meal shot, you can choose a plant-based protein if that suits your diet needs. Studies have consistently shown that some vegan protein powders, such as pea protein, produce similar results regarding tissue building and repair and positive effects in controlling blood sugar.
If you prefer whole foods, including protein in your meals and snacks is still an excellent strategy for controlling blood sugar. As mentioned, protein slows down digestion, so the release of sugars into your bloodstream will also be slower — a good thing if you’re trying to avoid post-meal spikes.
Protein is vital in the diet and can be even more essential for those with type 2 diabetes. Controlling your blood sugar from home with nutrition is a front-line approach recommended by the CDC and other experts.
It’s best to speak to your doctor before taking any new supplements, especially if you have diabetes. Your doctor can advise you on what type of protein is best for you and how much. Those with kidney disorders have protein limitations they need to be conscious of, so ask your doctor before increasing your intake.