Fine tune Your Blood Sugar Control With Brief Bouts of Exercise
Earlier this week I mentioned recent research which shows that eating protein after a workout is better for your metabolism than eating carbs. It's all about regulating blood sugar levels. Ideally, hunger remains under control and you're less likely to put on body fat when your blood sugar levels remain relatively steady throughout the day. I've also talked this week about the fact that not all calories are created equal. We used to believe that a calorie was a calorie. But it's now clear that the body handles calories from different sources quite differently.
The body is much better able to keep blood sugar levels steady when we eat whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and lean protein, for instance, rather than simple carbs, such as refined sugar, or starchy foods such as pasta, white potatoes, or white rice. It comes down to the hormone insulin, and how responsive the body's cells are to it. Ideally, the body's cells are highly responsive to insulin, which signals that it's time for cells to take up sugar from the circulation and burn it for energy.
But among people who are diabetic, or pre-diabetic, cells gradually lose the ability to respond to insulin. As a result, blood sugar levels can skyrocket. And that plays havoc with health. The American Diabetes Association estimates that 79 million Americans are presently prediabetic. About 26 million people have type 2 diabetes, requiring medical intervention. Pre-diabetes is of particular concern because most people who have this gateway condition are completely unaware that they are at risk of progressing to full-blown diabetes. Only about 7% of Americans with prediabetes have ever been told they are at risk.
It's possible to reverse the long, slow slide towards diabetes with lifestyle interventions. But the message never reaches many pre-diabetic people, and they don't realize the peril they're in. Having type 2 diabetes puts a person at increased risk for a host of serious conditions and diseases, including heart disease, infections, and even blindness.
The message here is one of hope, though. Prediabetes is all-too common, but it represents an opportunity to intervene by changing certain aspects of the lifestyle (primarily diet and activity levels). By doing so, it's possible to reverse the condition and reclaim optimal health. In a recent small study, researchers reported that people with insulin resistance (a hallmark of prediabetes, and a sign that type 2 diabetes could develop) dramatically improved their blood sugar control by engaging in brief bursts of intense exercise right before eating. Rather than doing 30 minutes of moderate-level exercise, such as walking briskly at a slight incline, they did extremely intense bouts of exercise for one minute (six times) before eating. The scientists called this approach "exercise snacking." The approach is "time-efficient and effective," at improving insulin sensitivity, the scientists noted.