Managing Your Weight While Correcting Lows

By Sheri Colberg, Ph.D., FACSM, author, professor, and exercise physiologist, and Riva Greenberg, diabetes patient-expert, author, speaker, and Huffington Post columnist

Having low blood sugar is not only frustrating, inconvenient, and potentially dangerous, it can also lead to weight gain. It's important to correct a low right away, but it's also important to remember that what you use to correct a low adds extra calories not accounted for in your meal plan. Using something low in calories can help you avoid weight gain when correcting hypoglycemia.

What foods do you use to correct lows? Compare the calories and potential weight gain.

Glucose tablets contain only 4 calories per gram, so 15-20 grams has 60-80 calories. Correcting two lows per week with 15-20 grams of carbs amounts to an extra 6,240-8,320 calories a year, or the equivalent of 1.8-2.4 pounds of body fat (one pound of fat is 3,500 calories).

Getting 15-20 grams of carbs from other foods usually results in more calories, especially if any of the calories come from fat (which has 9 calories per gram) or protein (also 4 calories per gram), and neither fat nor protein will help you rapidly correct a low blood sugar.

  • A 2-ounce bag of Skittles candy contains almost 60 grams of carbohydrate and four times the calories of 15-grams of pure glucose. Likewise, just one ounce of Smarties contains 25 grams, which if you consumed them all would probably raise your blood sugar too much and cause you to take in extra calories.
  • A candy bar like Snickers contains about 100 extra calories for every 15 grams of carbs. Correcting lows with Snickers or similar candy bars adds a weight gain of another 3 pounds a year.
  • A regular soda that contains high-fructose corn syrup may take longer to correct a low (fructose has to be converted to glucose first), and it's easy to consume more than 15 grams — found in only 4 ounces of a soda (one-third of a 12-ounce can).

Even choosing orange juice or a banana to correct a low is less effective because the fructose (fruit sugar) is converted into glucose at a much slower rate. You probably will not be able to stick to only 4 ounces of juice or half of a medium banana (15 grams of carbs) while you wait for your low to be corrected, and end up consuming more calories than necessary.



>>NEXT: Be careful not to over correct>>

Last Modified Date: April 10, 2013

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