Balancing Blood Sugar with Protein to Support Fertility

For many people, boosting fertility is all about leading a healthy lifestyle. And a big part of that healthy lifestyle is nutrition. If you’ve done even cursory research into improving your chances of conception, you’ve likely stumbled into the role nutrition plays in fertility and you’ve almost certainly been warned to steer clear of sugar. But… why? It all comes down to blood sugar, baby, and it’s not as simple as cutting out the candy and cookies. We’re covering everything you need to know about the effects of sugar on the body, why it’s problematic during conception and pregnancy, and why balancing blood sugar with protein can help boost fertility. Whew!

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Carbohydrates have a direct effect on blood sugar levels, and the type of carb will affect how quickly and how high those levels rise.
  • Diets high in refined carbs and sugar can create insulin resistance and have a negative effect on fertility for both men and women.
  • Regulating blood sugar is one way to support fertility, and prioritizing balanced meals that include protein and fiber is a great start.

Nutrition can be difficult to manage, especially if you’ve been living on a diet of processed foods. But while you may need to depend on sheer willpower in the beginning, those cravings really will begin to subside when you’re getting adequate amounts of nourishing foods that deliver sustained energy. Pro tip? Start with protein in the morning. Not only will you make all your hard working muscles happy, you’ll start off your day with stable blood sugar – and when you’re looking for a fertility boost, that’s exactly what you want.

This is Your Body on Sugar

Have you ever seen a kid race around after downing a candy bar or a bowl of ice cream, becoming increasingly frantic and out of control until finally collapsing in (often teary) exhaustion? You’re watching a blood sugar spike in action, and it’s not pretty.

Every carbohydrate you eat breaks down in the digestive tract into simple sugars, which are then absorbed into the bloodstream and thus increasing blood sugar levels. How quickly that level rises, and how high, depends on whether you’ve eaten simple or complex carbohydrates. Simple carbs, found in baked goods, fruit juices, refined flour, candy, and table sugar, break down quickly because they’re simple molecules made with large amounts of glucose. That means a big glucose dump in the bloodstream, creating a big, rapid rise in blood sugar levels.

Complex carbs are, as the name indicates, more complex structures with fewer glucose molecules. These are the carbs found in veggies, low-sugar fruits, whole grains, and legumes. They also contain fiber, which has a dampening effect on the breakdown and absorption of glucose into the blood. While complex carbs do have a mild increase in blood sugar, it’s much slower.

Here’s the thing – it’s not great for the body to have a bunch of glucose cruising through the bloodstream. Actually, sugar is downright damaging to the organs and tissues, which is where insulin comes into play. To move glucose into muscle cells, where it can be used for energy, the pancreas releases insulin to help maintain stable blood sugar levels. The more simple carbs we eat, the higher our blood sugar, and the harder the pancreas works to release insulin. It creates a pretty nasty little cycle where we chow down a bagel and a cup of coffee, and after a little burst of energy, you realize you’re irritable, tired, and desperately craving another sugar fix.

What’s more, this kind of simple carb-heavy diet means our cells can become insulin resistant, which means we’re no longer capable of effectively regulating blood sugar. It’s a direct path to prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Now, what do sugar and insulin have to do with fertility and reproductive health? We’re so glad you asked!

This is Your Fertility on Sugar

Let’s get straight to the facts. Women with diets high in sugar and refined or simple carbohydrates have a much higher risk of ovulatory infertility. Those undergoing fertility treatment have lower pregnancy rates. And because insufficient blood sugar regulation can ramp up cortisol, mess with adrenals, interfere with sex hormones, and negatively affect thyroid function, it means chances of conception drop.

If you’re familiar with PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome, you may already know that insulin resistance is a key player. When the ovaries are routinely exposed to high levels of insulin in the bloodstream, they begin producing higher levels of male hormones. That interferes with ovulation, creating irregular cycles and infertility.

Oh, and men aren’t immune, either. Diets high in sugar and simple carbs can affect sperm concentration and motility, while also lowering testosterone levels. For couples hoping to conceive, experts recommend dialing in nutrition, among other healthy lifestyle habits, and in an effort to stabilize blood sugar and optimize fertility. But let’s get specific, shall we?

Regulating Blood Sugar with Protein

Clearly, you should both be prioritizing complex carbohydrates over the simple kind. But your focus should also be on protein. The big benefit of protein, especially in the morning, is its impact on blood sugar. Balanced meals that include protein, fiber, and healthy fats, along with complex carbs, slow that carb breakdown of and help stabilize blood sugar all the livelong day. Reach for organic, pasture-raised meats, eggs, wild-caught fish, nuts, seeds, whole and unprocessed carbs in their natural form (i.e. vegetables and whole grains like oats, quinoa, buckwheat), and olive oil.

Make a conscious effort to avoid processed vegetable oils, trans fats, added sugars (honey, maple syrup, agave), sodas and sweetened beverages, and pretty much anything made with flour – which is a long list. Doing so will help ensure your blood sugar stays stable throughout the day. Not only will that help support your fertility, you’ll notice that you have more energy.

Try This

No time, energy, or inclination to prepare a balanced breakfast? Mix up a nutritious smoothie and whizz in a scoop of high-quality collagen. This animal-sourced protein has all the amino acids your body needs, and because it's mostly taste-less, it's a smart addition to just about anything (think juices, coffee, oatmeal, and even soup).

Add a scoop to our fertility smoothie recipe, blend, and enjoy!

The Takeaway

The health of both parents plays a big role in the success of a future conception, pregnancy, and healthy little baby. If you’re thinking of becoming a parent, this preconception window is a prime time to clean up your act and support your fertility. So be clear about the role your diet plays, start taking a high-quality prenatal vitamin now, and skip the nutrient-void cereals in favor of a protein-rich breakfast. You’d be surprised what a difference it makes.

Additional Resources

PCOS is one of the most common causes of infertility in women, but it doesn’t mean you can’t get pregnant. Supplementing with ingredients proven to support women with PCOS can help increase your chances, and so can speaking with your doctor and dietician.

Read More

Science makes it clear that key micronutrients really do play a role in fertility. If you’re researching how exactly that works, and what exactly you should be taking, here’s what to know about the right vitamins and minerals for healthier sperm and eggs.

Read More

An icy-cold, nutrient-dense smoothie is perfect in the dog days of summer, and we've worked up a recipe that makes taking your prenatal vitamins a downright treat. Pair this Beli summer morning smoothie recipe with your Beli prenatals and drink up!

Read More

It’s 2022, and CBD has officially arrived. But what does it mean for couples, and specifically men, trying to conceive? Does CBD have an impact on male fertility? Here’s what the most current research says, and what you should keep in mind about CBD products if a baby is the plan.

Read More

Research shows that the overall health of both biological parents during the preconception window plays a huge role in everything from conception to pregnancy health to the lifetime health of their baby. Luckily, there are simple steps you can both take to improve your health together.

Read More

The decision to add another baby to the family is thrilling. But what happens if trying for baby number two or three isn’t as easy as it was the first time around? Unsurprisingly, secondary infertility can feel like a slap in the face, but understanding more about the issue is always empowering.

Read More

You know that vitamin D is one of those essential nutrients we need to be healthy, and you probably know it’s a key player during pregnancy, too. But did you know that vitamin D may directly influence fertility?

Read More

If you have endometriosis, you can already recite its lengthy list of pretty terrible symptoms. And the standard options for managing those symptoms — medications, hormone therapy, hormonal birth control, estrogen blockers, surgery —  aren’t always great. But there is evidence that a so-called “endometriosis diet” can help.

Read More

These days, men’s prenatal vitamins are part of the fertility and conception conversation — and they should be. Sperm health plays a big role in everything from conception to the health of future generations. But how did we get here? This is the story of Beli Vitality, the men’s prenatal vitamin that started it all.

Read More

"Infertility problems aren’t just all about the woman- it’s about the men too! Beli for men does a great job with taking all of the vitamins and supplements needed and wraps them up into one pill, which is very convenient for him. It has everything from Vitamin C, D, E, B6, B12, Zinc, and more to help increase sperm quality and count!"

Read More

Way back in 2007, a study found that following a “fertility diet” was associated with a lower risk of ovulatory disorder infertility and other causes of infertility. Fast forward more than a decade and science once again confirms that a healthy diet can definitely boost fertility.

Read More

There are a few things you can try to get pregnant faster, but they won’t work for everyone. Still, in the interest of positive thinking, we did some digging and came up with 5 obvious and not-so-obvious tips for getting pregnant faster.

Read More

Fertility nutrition is absolutely in your control, so yes, men should take prenatal vitamins if they're trying to have a baby. But if you’re not entirely sold just yet, let’s see what else the science says.

Read More

Is there anything unsexier than scheduled, pressure-ridden, trying-like-hell-to-conceive sex? But good news. We’ve found handy workarounds and tricks of the trade, so forget the basal temperature chart for a second and read on for four ways to keep things hot when you’re TTC.

Read More

The quality of a man’s sperm is measured a few different ways, but spoiler — motility is critical. Read on for a deep dive into this aspect of sperm quality, plus details on how to improve sperm motility.

Read More

There’s an entire body of evidence proving that regular exercise improves sperm quality. And since sperm quality plays a critical role not only in conception, but the health of the placenta and the lifelong health of your future baby, well, that’s pretty compelling motivation for a serious gym habit.

Read More

There is evidence that women on the Pill have lower nutrient levels than those who don’t, and it’s a shortfall that can stick around. Here’s why you really should take prenatal vitamins while you're on birth control, and definitely afterward if you’re trying for a baby.

Read More

An icy-cold, nutrient-dense smoothie is perfect in the dog days of summer, and we've worked up a recipe that makes taking your prenatal vitamins a downright treat. Pair this Beli summer morning smoothie recipe with your Beli prenatals and drink up!

Read More

Who doesn't love a good charcuterie board? And before you assume these delicious hors d'oeuvres are automatically off the table once you see those two pink lines, we have good news. The Gourmet Shop has a killer list of pregnancy-safe cheeses and accompaniments that will absolutely hit the spot.

Read More

When we aren’t on the baby train, we tend to get enough iron in our diets. But that all changes when there’s a pregnancy in the picture, and prenatals are all over the map when it comes to this important nutrient. Here’s what to know about prenatal vitamins and appropriate iron amounts.

Read More