Welcome to the second installment of “So Your Doctor Told You”. Today I’m going to discuss pre-diabetes, and how exercise and nutrition can help prevent it, or even get you or someone you know backed away from it.
What is pre-diabetes? Also known as impaired glucose intolerance, it is where your blood sugar levels are higher than normal (fasting glucose levels of 100-125mg/dL or HbA1c between 5.7-6.4) but not quite high enough to be type 2 diabetes.
*HbA1C is Hemoglobin A1c or Glycated Hemoglobin -120 day average measurement of sugar in your blood, essentially*
How common is it? According to Mayo Clinic, there are over 3 million new cases each year – so it’s pretty damn common. The best way to know if you have it is to maintain your checkups with your doctor and get your regular blood work done. That good news is that if you have it, it can easily be reversed and we can keep it from becoming type 2 diabetes.
Trainer Mike Says:
- Get lifting – heavy! Studies have shown that heavy resistance training can help greatly with glucose uptake; clearing it from the blood stream. Your muscles soak up glucose to rebuild and refill with glycogen, and lifting heavy weights will help speed up the process. I’m not saying to run down to the nearest gym and try to squat as heavy as possible, make sure you are doing it safely, but still challenging your muscles. Focus on the big, compound exercises, and skip the dinky machine leg extension.
- Combine aerobic training with your lifting. By combining aerobic training with lifting, you will be hitting your blood glucose levels with a 1-2 punch. Weight lifting will decrease your blood sugar levels by giving the glucose bigger places to go besides your blood stream, and aerobic (cardio) will increase uptake by triggering greater insulin action (the hormone that pushes the glucose into your bigger, stronger, muscles)
- Set up your plan, and do it! If you are new to exercise, start slow, and listen to your body. I recommend starting with 2-3 weight lifting sessions per week (45-60 minute, full body workouts) and 2-3 planned aerobic sessions (45-60 minutes). I say planned here because you also need to make an effort to be more active in general. Walk up stairs, park further away, take more trips to the drinking fountain, etc. More movement will help greatly.
Dietitian Mike Says:
- Don’t go crazy with fad diets. Often times when people are diagnosed with “x” they run to the internet and look up the latest guru diet to fix their problem. This can create some huge imbalances in the body, and could essentially lead to greater issues down the road. Take a good look at your current diet. What are you putting in your body now that you KNOW you could cut back on. Start there. Do you pound a pint of ice cream every night? Stop buying it, and tell yourself that eating stops after dinner. Find your high calorie trigger foods and start by eliminating one.
- Control your portions, control your weight. By simply controlling your portions at meals, you could easily cut out 200-300 calories per meal, thus leading to a great caloric deficit. By losing, or keeping your weight down through diet, you will greatly improve your body’s ability to produce insulin and allow that insulin to properly do its job. Pass on seconds, and don’t fill your plate to the point that it is overflowing.
- Focus on protein and veggies first. Base all your meals around protein and vegetables. This is a huge strategy for helping with any excess body fat related condition, but it works for them all. Make sure you are getting some quality protein at each meal, pairing it with some sort of non-starchy vegetable, THEN add in an appropriate portion of a carbohydrate. Notice I didn’t say skip the carbs, but use appropriate portions. Most of us tend to go carb heavy first, then get some protein and maybe veggies. Flip that around and you will do yourself justice.
- Start the day with breakfast. Study after study has shown that eating breakfast can help decrease daily calorie intake anywhere from 200-400 calories per day. Why? Because when we skip breakfast, we often over-eat at successive meals and snacks. As in tip 4, get some protein (eggs, plain yogurt, lean sausage, cheese, protein powder) in at breakfast too. The American breakfast is especially carb heavy, and if you have pre-diabetes, one of the worst things you can do to your body is to load it up with high-glycemic carbs first thing in the morning. vs.
- Carbs are NOT the enemy. Just because diabetes has to do with blood sugar/glucose, doesn’t mean that its all about carbs/sugar intake. It really depends on your whole lifestyle, diet, weight, some genetics, and activity levels. Yes, eating twinkies and jolly ranchers probably won’t help, so focus on higher quality carbs that contain more fiber, vitamins and minerals to help improve your overall health.
I hope these basic tips can help you beat pre-diabetes and get you started on the path to health! As always, let me know if you have any questions, concerns or comments!
*By no means am I claiming I can cure these issues, replace certain medications, or an entire medical team. My intent is to provide you with some quick nutrition and fitness based, actionable steps, that can help you or someone you know.*
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Stay healthy my friends,