I’m often asked about diabetes and how it relates to carb cycling and exercise, so let’s talk about diabetes!
Here are some interesting—and sobering—statistics straight from the American Diabetes Association:
- As of January 2011, 25.8 million children and adults in the United States—8.3% of the population—have diabetes.
- 18.8 million people are diagnosed.
- 7.0 million people are undiagnosed.
- 79 million people are pre-diabetic.
- 1.9 million new cases of diabetes were diagnosed in people aged 20 years and older in 2010.
No wonder questions about diabetes and diabetes management are so common!
Let me say this up front: I am not a doctor or registered dietician, so if you have diabetes, please discuss carb cycling and exercise—and how both fit into your individual situation—with your health care team. They might decide carb cycling is the answer for you, or that it is not, or that it could be with a few modifications. That being said, here is some general diabetes-related information I’ve found that will hopefully help you and your team create the best plan for you!
If you’d like some very basic and easy to understand information about diabetes (what it is, symptoms, an explanation of the three types, etc.), check out the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ website.
Diet and Diabetes:
You’ll probably notice that a lot of these ideas apply to carb cycling in general (for diabetics and non-diabetics), with a few adjustments for Gestational Diabetes.
- Avoid skipping meals, and plan your meals so you’re eating regularly. Gestational Diabetes: Eat 3 meals and 2-3 snacks a day. I never recommend carb cycling while pregnant, but I do suggest eating 5 meals a day, spaced 3 hours apart. For all types of diabetes, try to eat within 30 minutes of waking up, and if you need to, set an alarm to remind yourself to eat regularly throughout the day.
- Watch your portion sizes. Gestational Diabetes: This is not the time to “eat for two.” ☺
- Limit or avoid foods and beverages containing simple sugars (soda, cake, cookies, candies, etc.) that will elevate your blood sugar.
- Choose foods high in fiber (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, etc.) that help keep blood sugar levels in a good range, as well as healthy proteins and fats. Make sure your meals are well balanced throughout the day as outlined in your eating plan.
- Watch your salt intake.
Here are a couple of personal observations from my own experience of working with diabetics (again, please discuss these with your health care team to see if they’re right for you):
- Many of our show “peeps” have Type 2 Diabetes and have totally reversed this by following our most conservative carb cycle, The Easy Cycle.
- Diabetics have insulin resistant cells, and carb cycling—alternating between high and low-carb days—can make cells insulin sensitive, which is the goal of any diabetic!
No matter what type of diabetes you have, the actual amount of food (carbs, protein, and fats) to eat at each meal depends on the number of calories you need, which is based on your age, sex, weight, activity level, and whether or not you take insulin. Work with your health care team to design the program that is best for you. To find a registered dietician in your area, go to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ website.
Exercise and Diabetes:
The guidelines for exercise and diabetes can depend on which type of diabetes you have, but here are some general tips:
- Include stretching, aerobic, and strength activities in your program based on the recommendations of your health care team.
- Try walking, swimming, dancing, rowing, cycling and other moderate intensity exercises.
- Make it a goal to exercise 5 days a week to achieve the optimal benefits.
Besides the many benefits of exercise everyone can enjoy, the following are especially important for diabetics:
- Better control of your glucose levels.
- Reduced potential for problems with your kidneys, eyes, nerves, feet, legs, and teeth.
- Improved use of your body’s insulin.
- Improved circulation.
- Increased cardiovascular function (lowers blood pressure and bad cholesterol, and increases good cholesterol).
- Improved sense of well-being and a more positive attitude.
Always be sure to monitor your blood sugar levels before, during, and after exercise as outlined by your health care team, and follow their suggestions for what and when to eat while exercising.
Here are some awesome resources for even more information:
I know I’ve just touched the surface of the diabetes discussion, but the most important thing to remember is that you can have diabetes and reach your health and fitness goals. It might take some time, creativity, and a lot of communication with your healthcare team, but once you find the formula that works for you, the sky’s the limit! ☺