Raise you hand if you know someone with diabetes. OK, all of you. Raise your hand if you have ever heard that person say "I just want to get off these meds!". Alright, looks like most of you.
Or maybe you are the person we're talking about; diabetic or prediabetic and you just want to learn how to manage your blood sugar better.
While it is not up to you or I to decide if you are able to come off your medication (always speak to your Doctor about these things), the intention of this article is to cut through the noise of the fitness industry and deliver what you need to know in order to better manage your blood sugar and your health.
A large and important aspect of managing your blood sugar levels has to do with your insulin sensitivity. 'Insulin sensitivity' is something you may have heard your personal trainer or M.D. say when discussing your blood sugar, but not many people really understand what the term even means. To make sure we're all on the same page before we dive into what you can do to control your blood sugar and improve your insulin sensitivity, let's define 'insulin sensitivity'.
Insulin Sensitivity refers to your bodies muscle, fat and liver cells effectiveness in absorbing glucose from the blood stream when being prompted by insulin. When the bodies cells are not responding properly to the insulin, the pancreas is forced to release more and more insulin in order to get the glucose to enter the cells. This is called Insulin Resistance, another term you may hear being thrown around, and is the precursor to diabetes and prediabetes.
If you are diabetic, prediabetic, or just have high blood sugar levels, here is some great news. You can take a few simple steps to improve your blood profiles, insulin sensitivity and overall health.
Ah yes, exercise. I know this is a dreaded word for some, and to other's it's their favorite stress management tool and outlet. For those of you that just hate exercising, first let me say there is nothing wrong with that. It is very possible you have been misled about the fitness world, and the 'No Pan No Gain' mentality has kept you away. There is absolutely No need to feel pain, or do something you hate.
The type of exercise you do will be dictated by your current fitness level, but I will assure you right now that something is WAY better than nothing, no matter how minuscule you think it may be.
A combination of resistance training and aerobic training has been shown to produce the best results in improving insulin sensitivity, but I am a firm believer in doing what you like. I can sit here and preach to you all day about why you should be doing some form of resistance training, but if you hate it, you aren't going to do anything, and adherence is the name of the game. The details of the plan are just that. Details.
What can you do, and how does it work:
Aerobic training: this can be anything that elevates your heart rate, makes you breathe a little harder than normal, and can be sustained for 20-50 minutes. I recommend finding something you enjoy and making it a routine. This could be hiking, a walk through your neighborhood, a bike ride, or a jog.
If you haven't been exercising and are just starting or re-starting, start by walking for 20 minutes after dinner or before work. You'll find it is not only beneficial for your blood sugar levels and physical health, but also a very effective stress reliever and form of meditation.
Resistance Training: this is the one that tends to scare people who are new to exercise. This really doesn't need to be the case, because as I mentioned above, the No Pain No Gain mentality that has trickled down from the elite athletic circles doesn't sit too well with your average person who just wants to get into better shape and feel better.
Resistance training does not need to be scary, risky or painful, but I really do recommend it strongly. Resistance training comes in all forms, so just like aerobic training, find what you like, since sticking with the plan is much more important than the details of the plan itself.
I'm partial to barbell and dumbbell training, since these tools allow you to train your entire body using basic everyday movement patterns effectively and efficiently. If you have never used barbells or dumbbells before, I recommend finding a coach or a trainer to teach you how to train with these tools as well as how to lay out a plan. If you HATE weight training, but still want to enjoy the benefits, I recommend getting a trainer or coach who comes with some good jokes, since that will turn it into a fun experience.
Some other great tools you can use are kettlebells and of course your own body weight. Kettlebell and body weight exercises can be combined with dumbbell and barbell training, but they don't need to be. Just like everything else, find what you enjoy most, and stick with it.
Why Exercise, and How does it Help Me?
Insulin sensitivity is greatly improved for two hours after each bout of exercise. The reason for this initial increase of insulin sensitivity is because the muscle contractions during exercise cause an increase of a protein called Glut4 which is responsible for transporting glucose from the blood stream to fat and muscle cells at the command of insulin. Insulin sensitivity is also shown to be elevated for up to 16 hours after each bout of exercise, and this longer term improvement in insulin sensitivity have to do with adaptations and improvements in glucose transportation and metabolism.
To put it in a way that really matters, exercise will greatly improve your insulin sensitivity both in the short term and over a longer period of time as well, and this means a better blood glucose reading, and better managed diabetes/prediabetes.
The approach to nutrition for someone with diabetes or prediabetes really does't look much different from how anyone else should approach it.
Managing your diabetes can be simple, but it starts with your decision to change a few things around. The intention of this article was to cut through the noise and give you what you need to know, but if it is still a little overwhelming then start small. Pick a couple easy to manage habits, and focus only on those. It could be going for a walk a couple times per week and adding some more vegetables to your plate.
If you feel like you could use some help or guidance, then feel free to contact me. You can use the 'contact me' tab here on the web site, or use the e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .
Remember, find something you enjoy, and stick with it.