I was at the gym today and got into a conversation about blood sugar and the diet he is on to keep his levels within the normal range. His doctor had put him on a diet to lose weight, but which also eliminated 90% of the foods he enjoyed, and he wasn’t sure he could stick with it. He told me his problem was what his doctor called “a lazy pancreas.” In other words, he wasn’t producing enough insulin to keep his blood sugar down. Since diabetes is active on my Mother’s side of the family, and I have probably done more research on the subject than the average guy, I offered my two-cents worth. I told him not to give up yet, he may be able to re-include some of his favorites in the near future. I said, “certainly diet is important, but the real problem is that the muscle cells are not taking in enough glucose, which is called either glucose intolerance or insulin resistance.” To decrease insulin resistance, you need to make the cells more sponge-like to suck in more glucose, thus lowering blood sugar levels. Exercise is the best way to accomplish this, because it “turns on” the glucose receptor sites on the muscle cell itself. For foods, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits are the best sources for carbs, and a diet higher in protein also helps blunt blood sugar. There are two more secret weapons that I use and I’ve talked about them before; cinnamon and apple cider vinegar (ACV). Both of these blunt carbohydrate metabolism so that glucose (sugar) is released more slowly into the blood. Combine that with the effect of exercise on the muscle cells, and voila, lower blood sugar. How much cinnamon? I take 500 mg/day in capsule form, or one can eat 2 to 2 1/2 tsp/day. ACV? Two tbsp, 2x/day, about 20 minutes before two meals. How much exercise? If you are starting out, aim for 4-5 x/week at a moderate intensity. Intensity is subjective; only you know how intense it is, although heart rate is a pretty reliable gauge, as long as you’re not taking heart medication (which can slow it down). If you’ve been at it for a while, 2-3 x/week at a higher intensity is preferrable. Aim for 20-30 minute sessions. Blood sugar control is a big deal; diabetes is a hideous disease, and only you have the power to prevent it.
Speaking of exercise, you don’t have to go to the gym to get fit. A recent study compared home and gym exercise programs which were comparable in frequency, duration, and intensity. They found no differences between the two. If you like the gym, fine. But if you prefer home, that’s great too. Exercise equipment is preferrable, although you can do a lot with only body weight, bags of rice beans, or sand, and canned goods or water bottles. One of my favorites is exercise bands; I can get as much or as little resistance as I want, and they don’t tear my body up like weights. Plus, I can work at any vector angle I like; horizontal, vertical, 45 degrees, etc. There is a link on my home page called Resistance Band Training which will take you to the store.
Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.