Not Losing Weight? Check Your Blood Sugar

Let’s get to it. Controlling blood sugar (or blood glucose by a different name) levels is key to optimal fat loss. After all, why would your body want to break down fat that it might need later, if there’s plenty of sugar in the bloodstream for quick energy. That means a good diet of proteins, healthy fats and complex carbs, rather than the junk, processed, sugar laden type of carbs which jack up blood sugar.

Chronic high blood sugar levels can also increase systemic levels of inflammation, leading to other diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancers along with generalized damage to nerves and blood vessels. The compounding factor today is the major issue of body fat. Obesity is a epidemic, but even being overweight increases health risks and can also raise blood sugar levels, even without a terrible diet. Why? Because fat cells increase insulin resistance, and insulin plays a huge role in clearing sugar from the bloodstream and delivering to our cells for energy production.

On average in the U.S., the age of onset for type 2 diabetes is 45 years. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommend annual diabetes screening tests after people reach 45 years of age. While that’s good, it may surprise you to know that more and more young people are becoming diabetic.

In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that almost 6% of all new cases of diabetes occur in people between 18 and 29, and that number is rising.

One of the best ways to monitor how your body is doing with regards to managing blood sugar levels is by a simple blood test know as Hemoglobin A1C or often just called A1C for short. While a finger prick blood test, or a 12 hour fasting blood sugar test can give a snapshot, the HA1C will tell you over about a 90 window how your blood sugar levels have been controlled. This is a more significant test as if will show an average of fasting levels but also levels in response to your diet. Target values in the low 5% range (at least). A level above 5.7 – 6.4% indicates a diagnosis of “pre-diabetes” and levels above 6.5% indicates diabetes. What is even more interesting, is that multiple sources estimate the as many as 10 million cases of undiagnosed type 2 diabetes exist in the U.S. which makes monitoring HA1C levels so important.

In the meantime, let’s discuss some symptoms that are often linked to high blood sugar levels and or diabetes. These are symptoms that should not be swept under the rug. If one of more of these symptoms are present, you should discuss with your doctor.

Having a tough time losing bodyfat

As discussed above, higher blood sugar levels inhibit fat loss. If your diet it clean, if you are training at least three times per week, and even if you have cut calories with little of no results it might be worth getting your HA1C checked.


While it may sound counter-intuitive, high blood sugar levels (blood sugar being the body’s primary source of energy) often mean low blood sugar levels inside the cells. That can mean that the cells are starving for the sugar, and therefore have low energy production. Fatigue can be triggered by high blood glucose, because your body is not storing or using glucose properly. Cells don’t get the fuel, and therefore can’t produce the energy they need, so you may feel tired and low on energy. A simple sugar snack can only make this problem worse.

Weight Loss

Say what? Yes, you read that right. High blood sugar can cause weight loss despite an increase in appetite and food consumption. And while many people want to “lose weight”,  this type of phenomenon is actually dangerous. This is because 1) chronic high blood sugar levels often results in more frequent urination (which can be a symptom by itself), which reduces water weight (remember a gallon of water weighs more than 8 pounds) and 2) because insulin levels are low, or too low to push adequate sugar into the cells, body cells are actually starving (being catabolic), and are forced to use up stores of cellular proteins resulting in weight-loss, but not the kind we want.

Slow Healing (Cuts Or Sores)

Chronic high blood sugar levels effect the immune system on a number of levels. First, general inflammatory markers increase systemically, and second the healing process can be impeded directly as well as being slowed by a reduction in nerve or blood supply. If you feel that you are slow in healing, always consult with your doctor.


Chronic high blood sugar levels can damage nerves everywhere in the body (diabetic neuropathy). When that damage occurs to the major nerves or cranial nerves in the head or neck, headaches can develop. There are dozens of causes of headaches, and this may be a later sign in more advanced stages of diabetes, but as stated above, many cases of diabetes are undiagnosed so headaches that are out of the ordinary, or those that occur more consistently, should be checked out by a doctor.

Numbness or Cold Feet

These symptoms can be viewed as an extension of the above related processes including blood vessel and nerve damage from chronic high blood sugar levels. For instance blood vessels can become narrowed from plaque buildup (which is worsened by inflammation) and hardened thereby reducing blood flow and causing cell death. This can cause coldness (poor circulation and oxygenation) in the feet. Numbness can happened together or independently as nerves can also be damaged by lack of adequate blood flow.

Blurred Vision

If you are following along, it is easy to image the foundational problems caused by chronic high blood sugar levels, namely circulatory and nerve damage on a systemic level along with chronic dehydration, can cause a symptom like blurred vision. Dehydration reduces fluid in the eye and in the lens which negatively impacts vision. In a more severe case, damage to the retina (retinopathy) can occur causing permanent damage to the eye or blindness.

Dry And Or Itchy Skin

As mentioned above, in the body’s attempt to reduce chronically high blood sugar levels, urination can be increased which can cause chronic dehydration and dry skin. This can be further worsened with lack of proper circulation as discussed above, and nerve damage resulting in unhealthy, dry  skin in general.

Change In Bowel Habits

The heading is code for either diarrhea and constipation. Chronic high blood sugar can cause either, or eventually both, depending on what part of the bowel is being affected. If the small intestine is effected by nerve or circulatory issue, gas, bloating and or diarrhea can occur. If the large intestine is effected (which absorbs water back into the body), then constipation can occur.

Developing chronic high blood sugar levels is typically a process that happens over years and is accelerated by a poor diet of refined carbs, lack of exercise and being overweight or obese. That said, there are still many people who are trying to eat right who are unknowingly still on the path to Type 2 diabetes. Monitoring blood sugar levels, no matter what you age, via screenings and HA1C can go a long way toward a better, healthier lifestyle and the avoidance of Type 2 diabetes.

About the Author: Dr. Tom Deters

Dr. Tom Deters is the former Editor in chief and publisher of Muscle & Fitness magazine and publisher of both FLEX and Men’s Fitness magazines. He has published hundreds of articles and given hundreds of seminars on training, performance nutrition, diet strategy and bodyfat control.

Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice, nor is it to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your physician before starting or changing your diet or exercise program. Any use of this information is at the sole discretion and responsibility of the user.