I've helped women lose weight and maintain a healthy weight for over four decades. One significant factor that consistently stands out is the role of balanced blood-sugar levels. Particularly for women over 40, understanding this relationship is crucial for your health.
As you age, your body's ability to regulate blood sugar often changes. This means your cells might become less responsive to insulin, a condition known as reduced insulin sensitivity. This reduced responsiveness can cause blood-sugar levels to remain elevated. In response, the pancreas produces more insulin. Over time, persistently high insulin levels can favor fat storage. This dynamic might be why weight loss methods that worked in your 20s and 30s seem less effective now.
How a High-Sugar-Impact Meal Contributes to Weight Gain
High-sugar-impact foods send your blood sugar on a rollercoaster ride. I’m talking about the usual suspects like high-glycemic cookies and birthday cake, but also the sneaky sugars I discuss in the Sugar Impact Diet that you might never suspect. You’ll often find those in things like conventional salad dressings, sauces, and bottled green juices.
The ride up might be fun, but the crash won’t be! When your body breaks down carbohydrates from those foods and beverages, you get a quick surge of glucose, or blood sugar, into your bloodstream. Fluctuations in blood-sugar levels can lead to feelings of energy crashes and cravings for more sugary foods. Mood swings, irritability, and even cognitive difficulties (the familiar “sugar crash”) can leave you feeling defeated yet wanting more.
When glucose releases into the bloodstream, this signals your pancreas to release insulin to pull your blood sugar back down. In some cases, especially after consuming foods high in quickly digested sugars, the released insulin can cause blood sugar to drop too rapidly.
Insulin helps transport glucose into cells for immediate energy or to store as glycogen. Cells only absorb the glucose they require at that moment. Likewise, your liver and muscles have limited storage for glucose in the form of glycogen. When these stores are full, any excess glucose is converted into fat and stored in adipose tissues
In the bigger picture, that sugar overload takes its toll on your metabolism. Repeated exposure to high levels of insulin can make cells less responsive, leading the body to produce even more insulin. Eventually, this leads to insulin resistance, a condition marked by persistently high blood sugar and insulin levels.
Constantly elevated blood sugar and its associated insulin response heighten the risk of weight gain and metabolic syndrome—a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat, and abnormal cholesterol.
Can’t Lose Weight After 40? Here’s Why
Insulin resistance, a core component of metabolic syndrome, can progress to type 2 diabetes if left unchecked. This chronic condition impairs the body's ability to regulate blood sugar effectively. Type 2 diabetes can lead to complications such as cardiovascular disease, kidney issues, and nerve damage.
Altogether, this creates the perfect storm for weight gain. If you struggle to lose weight after 40, blood-sugar fluctuations can contribute to these seven issues that stall fat loss.
- You experience chronic stress. Chronic stress results in prolonged elevation of cortisol levels. Elevated cortisol can promote fat storage, particularly in the abdominal region, and interfere with insulin signaling.1
- You have chronic inflammation. Inflammation is a natural response of the body to injury or infection, but chronic inflammation, which can increase with age, can impair insulin signaling and contribute to insulin resistance.2
- You carry more visceral fat. You’re more likely to gain weight around the abdominal area as you age. Researchers connect excess body fat, particularly dangerous visceral fat (deep abdominal fat that surrounds organs), with increased chronic inflammation and insulin resistance.3 Adipose tissue, especially abdominal fat, can release inflammatory substances that interfere with insulin signaling and contribute to insulin resistance.
- Your estrogen levels fluctuate. Estrogen helps keep insulin in check. As women age, especially during menopause, estrogen levels drop. This can make it harder for the body to manage insulin, leading to potential weight gain.4
- Your risk of heart disease increases. Especially around menopause, the risk of cardiovascular disease can increase.5 Elevated blood-sugar levels can contribute to heart-disease risk factors, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Conversely, insulin resistance contributes to many types of heart-related conditions.6
- You’re AGEing. Sugar is sticky. Excess sugar in the bloodstream can bind to proteins, reducing their effectiveness. This process, called glycation, speeds up the aging process and leads to cellular damage. The compounds formed, called advanced glycation end products (aptly abbreviated as AGEs), exacerbate chronic inflammation, affecting your skin, joints, and overall health.7
- You're losing muscle. A decrease in muscle mass, common with aging, impacts how well your body utilizes glucose.
The Secret to Balancing Blood-Sugar Levels
Stable blood sugar is critical for fat loss after 40. Not only does this balance boost your energy, making you more inclined to choose an after-dinner stroll over vegging out on the couch, but it also reduces cravings and helps regulate appetite. Two primary hormones, insulin and leptin, which govern hunger and fullness, are directly impacted by steady blood-sugar levels.
Combining a protein-first meal approach with weight resistance is the secret to balancing blood-sugar levels. High-protein foods create a slower, steadier rise in blood sugar than high-carbohydrate foods. This slower increase in blood sugar helps prevent rapid spikes in insulin levels, promoting better insulin sensitivity. Protein-rich foods can also promote better satiety so you’re not dealing with nagging cravings between meals.
Protein also has a higher thermic effect than carbohydrates and fat, meaning your body burns more calories when it digests protein. Protein also helps preserve muscle mass while optimizing hunger-regulating hormones like insulin. One study among obese women with insulin resistance found that compared with a Mediterranean diet, a high-protein diet offered better control of insulin resistance and blood-sugar balance.8
Integrate protein with fiber and healthy fats to maintain steady blood sugar. This combo, when coupled with strength training, is an effective strategy to regulate blood sugar, mitigate insulin-resistance risks, promote metabolic health, and steer you towards your weight goals. Age-related muscle decline, or sarcopenia, reduces the cells that can uptake glucose, causing blood-sugar spikes. When its mass diminishes, the body's response to insulin weakens, leading to potential imbalances.9
More muscle mass, on the other hand, increases your resting metabolic rate, so you're burning more calories even at rest. Muscles secrete proteins known as myokines, which combat inflammation and bolster insulin sensitivity as well. Think of muscle as a sugar sponge: skeletal muscle is essential for glucose clearance and manages over 80% of glucose uptake.10 Studies show that higher muscle mass means better insulin sensitivity and a lower risk of diabetes.11
Strength training is the ideal way to build and maintain muscle. And you don't need a fancy gym setup; simple equipment like free weights or a TRX Suspension Trainer is enough for effective home workouts.
Ready to start your fitness journey? My Resistance Training Cheat Sheet includes home gym essentials, an 8-week workout plan, and a progress tracker to track your sets, reps, and weights with each workout. It’s FREE, so grab yours here.
6 More Ways to Regulate Blood Sugar & Reach Your Goal Weight
While your risk of insulin resistance increases with age, the repercussions aren’t inevitable. Combine these strategies with a protein-first meal plan and strength training to best control your blood sugar.
1. Master Meal Timing
What you eat is important, but so is when you eat. Research shows that intermittent fasting enhances insulin resistance by positively influencing hunger-controlling hormones such as leptin and adiponectin.12 A simple 12-15-hour overnight fast can do wonders for your blood-sugar levels and overall metabolic health.
Here’s how that overnight fast might look:
- Have a loaded smoothie by 9 or 10 am
- Eat by the plate every 4-6 hours
- Space your meals 3-5 hours apart (this can help your cells re-sensitize to insulin)
- Stop eating 3-4 hours before bed
My Eat Protein First Loaded Smoothie Cookbook provides 60 protein-packed shake recipes to keep you full, focused, and fast-track your weight loss journey. It’s FREE, so download yours here.
2. Prioritize Sleep
Even a single night of inadequate rest can raise insulin-resistance risks, as found in one study involving healthy participants.13 Insulin imbalances knock other hunger-regulating hormones out of balance. This leaves you hungry, struggling with cravings, and relying on boatloads of caffeine for energy.
The solution: 7-9 hours of solid, uninterrupted sleep every night. Create a sleep ritual, including chamomile tea, a hot bath, and deep breathing or meditation. Blackout curtains and keeping your thermostat at 68°F can help.
The Optimal Sleep Kit contains three supplements (Sleep Candy™, Magnesium Body Calm, and All-In-One Shake) that help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep through the night, and wake up feeling rested.*
3. Manage Stress
Your stress hormone cortisol is helpful in the short term. Your fight-or-flight response provides glucose for energy. Elevated cortisol levels from chronic stress, however, can keep your blood-sugar levels high, too.14
Take Ten Stress Support is a uniquely formulated product that provides gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a key neurotransmitter in the body involved in a normal, calm stress response. This synergistic formula also supplies other calming nutrients including glycine, niacinamide, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6.*
4. Stay Hydrated
Filtered water is a simple, free way to manage blood sugar. Even being half a liter dehydrated can increase cortisol, which impacts your body's response to insulin and glucose metabolism.
Beyond water, green tea can help manage blood sugar and support insulin sensitivity.15
5. Monitor and Measure
By consistently monitoring, you get insights into factors affecting your blood sugar, like food, exercise, and other lifestyle habits. Use these tools for comprehensive insights:
- Body-composition scale: A bathroom scale doesn’t give you the full picture of your weight. A body-composition scale provides critical measurements like lean mass and body fat, which impact your weight and overall health. Oxiline Scales are a great option for comprehensively analyzing body composition, giving you a complete picture of your health.
- Macro-tracking app: No more guessing how much protein you’ve eaten! Cronometer is a comprehensive macro tracker that helps you tally up your protein intake, water, and more.
- Blood-sugar monitoring. A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is a great way to track blood-sugar levels and pinpoint what foods may be holding your weight hostage. This simple device stays on your body and provides lots of actionable data. Seeing glucose levels in real-time can help you make better decisions about food, your activity, and sometimes even your medications.
6. Focus on Key Nutrients
Beyond a basic supplement plan, a few specific nutrients can help balance blood-sugar levels while aiding weight loss:
- Berberine: A botanical extract that influences multiple pathways in blood-sugar metabolism and supports insulin sensitivity. Blood Sugar Support combines berberine with the antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) for comprehensive blood sugar and insulin support.*
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Helps normalize chronic inflammation. This low-grade, deadly inflammation can disrupt your body's ability to regulate glucose, leading to insulin resistance. Research shows that supplementing with omega-3s can help improve glucose metabolism for better blood-sugar control.16
- Magnesium: Primarily researched in the context of type 2 diabetes, magnesium aids insulin sensitivity and secretion.17 Magnesium Body Calm offers a potent dose of this essential mineral for comprehensive metabolic health.*
Take Control of Your Metabolism
Blood-sugar fluctuations can slow metabolism, creating insulin resistance and stalling fat loss. When your blood sugar isn’t balanced, your body is more likely to store fat and become resistant to the effects of insulin, leaving you less able to access stored fat for energy.
However, this isn’t set in stone. Blood-sugar balance helps your body burn fat more efficiently, creates a healthy metabolism, reduces disease risk, and gives you all-day energy and focus. Those benefits can start with your very next meal!
My Metabolism Rescue Program is the ultimate way to balance blood-sugar levels and maintain insulin sensitivity. This cutting-edge program features a comprehensive guide, an exclusive one-hour masterclass, and a hand-selected bundle of metabolism-supporting supplements (All-In-One Shake, Metabolic Reset™, and Collagen Peptides Powder).*
- Schernthaner-Reiter MH, Wolf P, Vila G, Luger A. The Interaction of Insulin and Pituitary Hormone Syndromes. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2021 Apr 28;12:626427. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2021.626427. PMID: 33995272; PMCID: PMC8113952.
- Park MH, Kim DH, Lee EK, Kim ND, Im DS, Lee J, Yu BP, Chung HY. Age-related inflammation and insulin resistance: a review of their intricate interdependency. Arch Pharm Res. 2014 Dec;37(12):1507-14. doi: 10.1007/s12272-014-0474-6. Epub 2014 Sep 20. PMID: 25239110; PMCID: PMC4246128.
- Gugliucci A. Biomarkers of dysfunctional visceral fat. Adv Clin Chem. 2022;109:1-30. doi: 10.1016/bs.acc.2022.03.001. Epub 2022 Jul 13. PMID: 35953124.
- Matsui S, Yasui T, Tani A, Kunimi K, Uemura H, Yamamoto S, Kuwahara A, Matsuzaki T, Irahara M. Associations of estrogen and testosterone with insulin resistance in pre- and postmenopausal women with and without hormone therapy. Int J Endocrinol Metab. 2013 Spring;11(2):65-70. doi: 10.5812/ijem.5333. Epub 2013 Apr 1. PMID: 23825975; PMCID: PMC3693666.
- Rosano GM, Vitale C, Marazzi G, Volterrani M. Menopause and cardiovascular disease: the evidence. Climacteric. 2007 Feb;10 Suppl 1:19-24. doi: 10.1080/13697130601114917. PMID: 17364594.
- WebMD: Insulin Resistance and Your Heart
- Davis KE, Prasad C, Vijayagopal P, Juma S, Imrhan V. Advanced Glycation End Products, Inflammation, and Chronic Metabolic Diseases: Links in a Chain? Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2016;56(6):989-98. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2012.744738. PMID: 25259686.
- Tettamanzi F, Bagnardi V, Louca P, Nogal A, Monti GS, Mambrini SP, Lucchetti E, Maestrini S, Mazza S, Rodriguez-Mateos A, Scacchi M, Valdes AM, Invitti C, Menni C. A High Protein Diet Is More Effective in Improving Insulin Resistance and Glycemic Variability Compared to a Mediterranean Diet-A Cross-Over Controlled Inpatient Dietary Study. Nutrients. 2021 Dec 7;13(12):4380. doi: 10.3390/nu13124380. PMID: 34959931; PMCID: PMC8707429.
- Karlsson HK, Zierath JR. Insulin signaling and glucose transport in insulin resistant human skeletal muscle. Cell Biochem Biophys. 2007;48(2-3):103-13. doi: 10.1007/s12013-007-0030-9. PMID: 17709880.
- Merz KE, Thurmond DC. Role of Skeletal Muscle in Insulin Resistance and Glucose Uptake. ComprPhysiol. 2020 Jul 8;10(3):785-809. doi: 10.1002/cphy.c190029. PMID: 32940941; PMCID: PMC8074531
- Srikanthan P, Karlamangla AS. Relative muscle mass is inversely associated with insulin resistance and prediabetes. Findings from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011 Sep;96(9):2898-903. doi: 10.1210/jc.2011-0435. Epub 2011 Jul 21. Erratum in: J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Jun;97(6):2203. PMID: 21778224.
- Cho Y, Hong N, Kim KW, Cho SJ, Lee M, Lee YH, Lee YH, Kang ES, Cha BS, Lee BW. The Effectiveness of Intermittent Fasting to Reduce Body Mass Index and Glucose Metabolism: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Clin Med. 2019 Oct 9;8(10):1645. doi: 10.3390/jcm8101645. PMID: 31601019; PMCID: PMC6832593.
- Donga E, van Dijk M, van Dijk JG, Biermasz NR, Lammers GJ, van Kralingen KW, Corssmit EP, Romijn JA. A single night of partial sleep deprivation induces insulin resistance in multiple metabolic pathways in healthy subjects. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2010 Jun;95(6):2963-8. doi: 10.1210/jc.2009-2430. Epub 2010 Apr 6. PMID: 20371664.
- Li L, Li X, Zhou W, Messina JL. Acute psychological stress results in the rapid development of insulin resistance. J Endocrinol. 2013 Apr 15;217(2):175-84. doi: 10.1530/JOE-12-0559. PMID: 23444388; PMCID: PMC3804337.
- Liu K, Zhou R, Wang B, Chen K, Shi LY, Zhu JD, Mi MT. Effect of green tea on glucose control and insulin sensitivity: a meta-analysis of 17 randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Aug;98(2):340-8. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.052746. Epub 2013 Jun 26. PMID: 23803878.
- Rafraf M, Mohammadi E, Asghari-Jafarabadi M, Farzadi L. Omega-3 fatty acids improve glucose metabolism without effects on obesity values and serum visfatin levels in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. J Am Coll Nutr. 2012 Oct;31(5):361-8. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2012.10720443. PMID: 23529993.
- Veronese N, Dominguez LJ, Pizzol D, Demurtas J, Smith L, Barbagallo M. Oral Magnesium Supplementation for Treating Glucose Metabolism Parameters in People with or at Risk of Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Double-Blind Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients. 2021 Nov 15;13(11):4074. doi: 10.3390/nu13114074. PMID: 34836329; PMCID: PMC8619199.
The views in this blog by JJ Virgin should never be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Please work with a healthcare practitioner concerning any medical problem or concern. The information here is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or condition. Statements contained here have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.