Everyone knows that exercise is important, but why is that? It's certainly true that exercise is fundamental to building strength and maintaining a healthy weight. However, there is another important reason that many of us overlook—its ability to manage our glucose levels and increase insulin sensitivity.
Exercise plays a pivotal role in glycogen management. Glycogen is our body’s storage form of glucose, it provides our body with an easy-to-access 24-hour energy reserve. Glycogen stores only exist in two places in the body: the skeletal muscle and the liver. While the liver can shuttle glucose throughout the body, the muscle holds on to its own glucose, using it as fuel when the need arises. Exercise allows the body to make use of the stored glycogen in the muscles and increases that muscle's ability to siphon excess glucose from the blood for a period of time after the workout. The eventual increase in muscle mass also translates to increased storage space for glucose. Whereas the liver cannot change much in size, we can certainly increase our muscle mass through repeat exercise.
The second way that exercise helps us manage glucose is by enhancing our cells' sensitivity to the hormone insulin. This translates to less insulin production by the pancreas and an increase in insulin's glucose lowering effects. While traditional exercise recommendations indicate a need for 150 minutes weekly to reap these benefits, research has shown that the intensity of exercise matters just as much as duration.
Research Brief: Short on time? Both diabetics and non-diabetics can reap the benefits of high-intensity exercise (HIE) training. Utilizing training programs of 20 minutes HIE or less, insulin sensitivity has been shown to increase for 1-3 days afterward. In non-diabetics, just 40 minutes of maximal interval running weekly improved blood glucose to the same effect as 150 minutes moderate-intensity exercise weekly. In individuals with type 2 diabetes, a single session of HIE improved post-prandial glucose for 24 hours. Read the full study here.
With your gym closed, staying active can be a challenge! “Sheltering at home” doesn’t mean you have to give up your exercise routine though, you may just need to change it up a bit. Here are our tips for incorporating glucose lowering exercise while stuck at home:
- Try an online workout channel (for free!). There are a ton of great free options online today, and many of them require very minimal equipment. YouTube channels like Fitness Blender, Sydney Cummings, Yoga with Adrienne, Adam Rosante, BodyRock, and Scott Herman Fitness offer exercise routines for all fitness levels and time commitment preferences.
- Download an app. Peloton’s workout streaming app is offering a 90-day free trial. Aaptiv, an app focused on quick, audio-based workouts, offers a free 7-day trial period all year round. Alternatively, check your smartwatch for free training programs to reach your fitness goals.
- Get creative with your household items. Strength training is important for glucose disposal and building glucose storage space. No equipment at home? No problem! Try using a couch or desk to do tricep dips. Fill a backpack with textbooks and do lunges. Try building a circuit with ab exercises, push-ups, and stair lunges or jumps. Incorporate weights and banded movements if able, and do what you can with what you have.
- Build an EMOM. EMOMs, or Every Minute on the Minute, are great for time constraints. Typically only 10-20 minutes long, they can give you a swift kick in the behind. Simply choose your desired workout length, and pick a handful of movements to complete. For example, a 20 minute workout might be:
- Minute 1, do 12 burpees;
- Minute 2, do 20 squats;
- Minute 3, do 20 push-ups;
- Minute 4, do 10 pull-ups (or tricep-dips)
Complete the first exercise, and the rest of the time remaining in that minute is your rest time. When the next minute starts, begin the next exercise. Repeat 5x total. Find more ideas here.
Things we are paying attention to this week
- Boost your COVID-19 knowledge with Sanjay Gupta on Armchair Expert podcast, or chill out with Sam Harris on how to manage emotions during this crisis on Peter Attia’s The Drive.
- Grant Sanderson of 3Blue1Brown runs some interesting simulations of how what we do affects the spread of the epidemic.
- Want more evidence that great glucose control matters? This study suggests that elevated glucose values, even within the non-diabetic range, increase the risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
Micronutrient Spotlight: Vitamin B2 / Riboflavin
- Riboflavin, like other B vitamins, helps to convert the foods we eat into ATP (energy). Specifically, B2 is important for burning dietary fat. In fact, high-fat diets increase riboflavin requirements by up to 40%.
- Riboflavin is also important for preventing oxidative stress and lowering homocysteine, both of which can reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. Higher doses of riboflavin have been shown to improve migraine frequency and duration.
- The RDA for riboflavin is 1.3 mg/day for men and 1.1 mg/day for women, although many experts recommend 2-5 mg/day for optimal intake. A whopping 50% of adults and 75% of children are thought to be low in B2. Weight loss and exercise (particularly cardiovascular exercise) increase the need for riboflavin by up to 60%.
- Liver and other organ meats are by far the best source of riboflavin, providing over 100% of your RDA in just one serving. Other top sources include almonds, animal proteins, eggs, salmon, spinach, milk, and mushrooms.
- Recipe Idea: Want to boost your intake of riboflavin, but hate liver? Try masking the robust flavor by mixing 1 lb of liver to 3 lbs ground beef. Make into hamburger patties, use in recipes, or form into meatballs and cover with a delicious marinara sauce.
Engage with Your Blood Glucose Levels with Nutrisense
Your blood sugar levels can significantly impact how your body feels and functions. That’s why stable blood glucose levels can be an important factor in supporting overall wellbeing.
With Nutrisense, you’ll be able to track your blood glucose levels over time using a CGM, so you can make lifestyle choices that support healthy living.
Ready to take the first step? Start with our quiz to see how Nutrisense can support your health.