Type 1 diabetes and exercise

In Type 1 diabetes the pancreas is not producing enough insulin 

In the last post we looked at the two types of diabetes and the differences between them. Perhaps the most obvious difference is that people with Type 1 diabetes must rely on insulin injections to control their blood sugar levels. This can be tricky enough on a normal day. Get the insulin dose too high, and too much glucose (sugar) will be absorbed from the blood into cells, leading to low blood sugar levels (hypoglycaemia). Get the dose of insulin too low, and not enough of the sugar will be absorbed by muscle and liver cells, leading to high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia).

This becomes more complicated when you add exercise to the mix. In non diabetics, the release of hormones during exercise signals the liver to release more glucose into the blood, so it can be used to fuel working muscles. At the same time, these working muscle cells become more sensitive to the action of insulin, so they absorb more glucose with a smaller amount of insulin. To compensate for this, they body releases less insulin. The longer and more intense the exercise, the more sensitive muscle cells become, so the lower insulin levels fall.

However,  a Type 1 diabetic controls their insulin levels using injections. The cells still become more sensitive to the action of insulin with exercise, so they will need to inject less insulin on a day they plan to exercise. How much less depends on the type and duration of the exercise, and the diabetic’s own body. This means experimenting with different types of exercise and doses of insulin, and risking hyper or hypo-glycemia. What’s more, blood sugar levels can continue to fluctuate for hours after exercise as the body restocks muscle glycogen stores.

Sadly this complexity has led many health care professionals over the years to recommend Type 1 diabetics avoid all exercise. The problem is, most diabetics do not die of diabetes – they die of cardiovascular disease and cancer like everyone else. Diseases which we know are prevented, at least in part, by regular exercise.

So it is worth the time and effort to determine how a particular diabetic reacts to exercise. A continuous blood glucose monitoring device can make all of this much easier, and save the diabetic from having to stop exercising every 10 minutes to check their blood sugar. After a few exercise sessions they should see a trends in how their body reacts and be able to adjust their insulin accordingly.

The most likely problem is a hypoglycaemic episode (low blood sugar). The early symptoms of low blood sugar levels are shakiness, dizziness, sweating, hunger, headache, irritability or moodiness, and anxiety or nervousness. Unfortunately, some of these are also symptoms of exercise, especially in a competition situation, so it can be hard for diabetics to diagnose low blood sugar without testing.  With practice, most become adept at identifying when they “have gone hypo”. The treatment is relatively straightforward – a sugary snack. And most sports drinks and gels are ideal as they are designed to provide easy to digest, quick sugars.

Because of the risk of hypoglycaemia, Type 1 diabetics should never exercise alone. Having a workout partner or coach who can help should they have an episode is an essential safety precaution. It can also give the diabetic the confidence to get out there and give exercise a go.

With proper precautions and medical monitoring, there is no reason why Type 1 diabetics should avoid exercise. It may not always go smoothly, but the long-term health benefits and joy of sport make it all worthwhile.

The problem with sugar

Something I see a lot of in my practice are diets high in sugar. Now this is no surprise, as many people have a sweet tooth and chocolates are available everywhere. However, even people who are eating healthily can end up with a diet high in total sugars. Especially if they have a lot of juices or smoothies, or have a lot of processed foods. Food companies know we like sweet things so add sugar to everything. Unfortunately, regardless of where the sugar comes from, it has the same effect on the body.

Sugar molecules like glucose are the building blocks of all carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates (called simple sugars) are made up of one or two sugar molecules joined together. Complex carbohydrates, such as starches, are made up of long chains of sugar molecules joined together. However, in the body they are both broken down into sugar molecules like glucose. The difference is in how quickly this happens. Complex carbohydrates with their long chains of molecules take longer to break apart and digest than simple sugars with very short chains. As such, simple sugars are very easy to digest and enter the bloodstream quickly.

In response to the increased sugars in the blood, the body releases insulin. Insulin tells cells to absorb the sugars from the blood and use or store them. With easy to digest simple sugars, you get a large spike in blood glucose very quickly after eating. This may make you feel good, but high blood sugar levels are dangerous, and can damage the eyes, nerves, kidneys and blood vessels, and even result in a diabetic coma. To prevent this, the body releases a large amount of insulin to bring your blood sugar level back to normal. The more insulin released, the faster glucose is cleared from the blood, giving you that sugar crash.

The problem with too much sugar is it can lead to insulin resistance. Our lifestyles mean most of us get very little exercise, so don’t use up the stored glucose between meals. We then eat plenty of sugar so the pancreas has to make more and more insulin to force the already full cells to store more glucose. In type II diabetes, the cells have stopped reacting to insulin and are not absorbing the circulating sugars the way they should. If muscle cells don’t absorb the glucose it stays in the blood, causing high blood sugar.

What’s more, a diet high in sugar encourages weight gain. Normally, glucose is stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen and then released back into the bloodstream between meals. However, glucose is not our only source of energy; we use fats as well. In fact, free fatty acids are our primary source of energy at rest. Like glucose, high insulin levels after a meal ensure free fatty acids are stored in muscles and fat cells. Falling levels of insulin between meals then causes the release of stored glucose and the breakdown of fat into fatty acids that can be used for energy. However, if insulin levels are always high, either through constant snacking on sweet treats or type II diabetes, then there is never a strong signal to breakdown fat. This makes it very difficult to lose body fat and much easier to gain it.

The good news is that exercise can prevent insulin resistance both by reducing the amount of insulin produced and by making cells more sensitive to its action. In other words, more glucose is absorbed by the cells for a smaller amount of insulin. This makes exercise one of the best ways to manage blood sugar levels and prevent type II diabetes. However, if you want to lose weight then exercise and cutting calories may not be enough. You also need to cut down on sugar.

Stress shows up on my belly

  1 Jan. 1 Feb. 1 Mar. 1 Apr. 1 June        
Morning Weight: 65.5 kg 65.2 kg 63.5Kg 62.4Kg 64.2Kg
Evening Weight: 66.5 kg 66.0 kg 64.6Kg 63.7 Kg 65.5Kg
Morning Body Fat: 30.0% 28.0% 29.2% 26.6% 25.9%*
Evening Body Fat: 31.4% 30.4% 28.5% 26.1% 25.7%*
Measurements:
Bust: 33.5” 34.0” 34.0” 33.5” 33.5”
Waist: 27.5” 27.5” 27.0” 27.0” 27.5”
Belly: 32.0” 33.0” 32.5” 31.5” 32.0”
Hips: 40.5” 40.5” 40.0” 39.5” 40.0”
Thigh: 24.0” 24.0” 23.5” 22.5” 22.5”

I have weighed and measured myself in the same way on the first of the month since August 2005. However, on May first I was travelling and for the first time in a very long time, I failed to weigh and measure myself. So not only has it been two months since I stopped the daily diet diary, but also two months since I properly looked at my body composition.

As I’ve said before, most of April and early part of May were very busy and stressful. No surprise then that my weight and measurements have gone up. I have put on 1.8 kilos and half an inch around my middle (waist, belly and hips). I did use a bioelectrical impedance scale to measure my body fat on June first, however, as I was travelling at the time, it was not my own. That being the case, I don’t think the body fat numbers are at all accurate. I really doubt that I have managed to gain two kilos of muscle mass and no body fat after two months of vastly reduced workouts and increased junk food! In fact, I did measure by body composition on my usual scale when I got home, and it is showing over 27% body fat. Much more realistic given the increase in inches!

I also find it interesting that the increased inches are around my middle. Stress increases the production of the hormone cortisol, which I’ve talked about before (see the article here). Among other things, a high level of cortisol can lead to fat storage around the tummy. Normally when I gain weight, it’s in the hips and thighs, but this time it looks like stress was driving my weight gain. Since an increase in fat around the middle is associated with increased risks of metabolic diseases like type II diabetes and heart disease, this is not a trend to ignore!

Looks like June will not only be a month of healthy eating for weight loss, but also stress reduction.

 

*Dubious values as I was not using my own scale.

Why stress shows up on the waistline

I have had several quite stressful events in the last few weeks, including a death in the family. Unfortunately, as with most people, this has set me back on my fat loss goals.

The problem with stressful events is that there are both physical and psychological aspects that gang up on you. On the physical side, there are several hormones which are produced in response to stress, notably cortisol. As I’ve discussed before, cortisol prepares the body for fight or flight by narrowing the arteries and increasing heart rate. It also floods the body with glucose, so muscles have an immediate energy source, and inhibits insulin production so blood glucose levels stay high. Since insulin is also suppressed, chronically high cortisol is a risk factor for developing insulin resistance.

What’s more, with all the glucose in the blood and not being absorbed into cells, you get cells crying out for energy. Studies have shown a direct association between cortisol levels and calorie intake. Higher cortisol levels mean an increased appetite and cravings for high calorie, high sugar foods, particularly in women. Cortisol also causes triglycerides to be released from storage and moved to visceral fat cells (the stuff in your abdomen around your organs). In other words, excessive belly fat can be the result of a stressful life.

Many people also get less sleep, or poor quality sleep, when they’re stressed. This really compounds the problem. When most of us are sleep deprived we reach for the caffeine, which feeds cortisol production. What’s more, sleep is when we produce most of our leptin. This is a hormone produced by fat cells which inhibits appetite. Less sleep mean a greater appetite. This combination sets us up to ride the emotional and energy rollercoaster caused by relying on caffeine and sweet treats to make it through the day.

Of course, there is also the psychological comfort of food. We comfort crying babies by offering them milk and distract upset toddlers with a biscuit. Thus the pattern is set early on that food will make you feel better. And it’s usually high fat, high sugar foods (though men are more likely to reach for the numbing properties of alcohol while women more often go for the cake calm). The issue is too many of us are managing our stress by comfort eating on far too regular a basis. Given how busy and stressful modern life can be, no wonder there is an obesity epidemic!

As with most things, exercise is one of the best tools for dealing with stress. Even 30 minutes of moderate physical activity uses up the glucose and triglycerides released by cortisol, and improves sleep. This reduces cravings for comfort foods.

As with many people, the more stressed I get the less I feel like exercising. Even though logically I know it will help me feel better, my emotional half would rather stay on the couch. However, I do find changing things up can make a big difference. If I can’t face a run, I go for a walk. If hitting the gym feels like too much, I do some yoga or go for a swim instead. Something is always better than nothing.

 

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The hows and whys of snacking: Timing

When you eat can be as important as what you eat

Today I’ll be discussing a reader question: Is it true that all snacking is bad and leads to weight gain? Unfortunately, like most things in nutrition, the answer is, it depends.

In the first place, it depends on when you are snacking. Generally, when people talk about snacking they mean anything eaten between the normal meals of breakfast, lunch and dinner. The problem is modern schedules now mean many of us go far longer between meals, sometimes up to eight hours. As discussed in previous posts, blood sugar levels rise after a meal then gradually decline, while hunger hormones gradually increase. If you have lunch at 12 noon, then hit the gym after work, and don’t eat supper until 8pm, it’s no wonder you overeat at dinner and crave junk food in front of the TV. Eating regular meals and snacks helps to keep blood sugar levels constant and hunger hormones under control.

What’s more, the brain runs exclusively on glucose, so falling blood sugar levels can leave you feeling tired, moody, headachy and finding it difficult to focus. Babies and small children need to eat every 3 to 4 hours or they get really tired and cranky. Many people, myself included, follow a similar pattern. In my case, I find four meals spaced 3-4 hours apart works well for me. I have breakfast about 8am, lunch around 12 noon, an afternoon meal before I go to javelin training or after I’ve been to the gym, and dinner between 7 and 8pm.

For athletes, eating before and after training is particularly important. Regardless of whether they are amateur runners or elite footballers, the number one priority for an athlete’s diet should be to help them get the most out of their workouts. That usually means eating 1-2 hours before training so they have enough energy to power through, and having a meal with some protein soon afterwards to kick-start recovery.

Ideally you want to finish dinner at least two hours before bed and avoid snacking in front of the TV. First, a very active digestive system can impair sleep, and going to bed with a very full stomach can lead to reflux. Second, having the TV on leads to mindless eating. Studies have shown people eat far more when they are distracted by a TV show or a movie. How many times have you sat in front of the TV with a big bag of crisps or a pint of ice cream, intending to only eat a small amount, only to be surprised an hour later to find it all gone? If you do feel the need for an after dinner treat, measure out a sensible portion onto a plate/bowl and put the package back in the cupboard. If you want more you can have it, but you have to get up and get it, which forces you to think about what you’re doing and how much you’re eating.

In my case, the extra calories came not from the addition of a morning snack, but from the choice of a cheesecake for my afternoon snack. Clearly what you choose to snack on matters, which is what we will discuss in the next post.

The Score for 17 March:

Calories: Protein: Carbs: Sugars: Fat: Sat Fat: Fibre:  
2257 85.70g 204.05g 94.25g 118.77g 43.37g 25.86g  
15% 36%   48%    
     
Calories burned through exercise: 0      

 

What I ate:

Time Item Amount Calories Protein Carbs Sugars Fibre Fat Sat Fat Alcohol
07:15 Centrum Multivitamin,  Vitamin E 400IU, Vitamin D 25 µg
Tap water 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Soft boiled eggs, 2 large 130g 170 16.38 0.00 0.00 0.00 11.70 3.25 0.00
Free From pure oats 50g 171 6.40 30.30 0.60 4.30 2.70 0.50 0.00
made with boiling water 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Tesco mixed frozen fruits 100g 40 0.90 7.90 7.90 2.00 0.20 0.00 0.00
Ground flaxseeds 10g 45 2.21 0.30 0.18 2.37 4.00 0.45 0.00
09:00 Black tea 350mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
10:45 Brazil nuts 5g 34 0.72 0.21 0.12 0.38 3.36 0.81 0.00
Walnuts 5g 34 0.74 0.17 0.13 0.18 3.43 0.28 0.00
Pecan nuts 5g 35 0.55 0.28 0.21 0.24 3.51 0.29 0.00
Cashews 5g 29 0.91 1.35 0.30 0.17 2.20 0.39 0.00
Sunflower seeds 5g 30 1.04 0.57 0.13 0.43 2.58 0.23 0.00
Pumpkin seeds 5g 30 1.51 0.54 0.07 0.30 2.46 0.44 0.00
Easy peeler oranges, 2 small 113g 53 1.02 10.85 10.85 1.70 0.23 0.00 0.00
13:30 Sainsbury’s deliciously free from courgette, spinach and feta pie 1 pie 451 9.20 34.20 1.20 2.72 30.30 15.80 0.00
Sliced tomato 99g 20 0.70 3.10 3.10 1.00 0.30 0.10 0.00
Skimmed milk 250mL 87 8.50 12.50 12.50 0.00 0.25 0.00 0.00
Small plum 54g 22 0.32 4.75 4.75 0.86 0.05 0.00 0.00
16:30 Sainsbury’s deliciously free from vanilla cheesecake 140g 470 6.20 43.70 25.50 1.96 29.70 16.90 0.00
Tesco mixed frozen fruits, microwaved 55g 22 0.50 4.35 4.35 1.10 0.11 0.00 0.00
with sugar 5g 20 0.00 5.00 5.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Decaf black tea with skimmed milk and sugar 450mL 62 3.40 12.00 12.00 0.00 0.10 0.00 0.00
19:30 Grilled mackerel fillet, skin removed 70g 181 14.84 0.42 0.42 0.00 13.37 3.01 0.00
Merchant Gourmet red and white quinoa 90g 166 5.49 25.74 1.35 3.60 3.78 0.45 0.00
Broccoli, microwaved 95g 38 4.09 3.04 1.81 2.38 0.57 0.19 0.00
Tesco tartar sauce 14g 47 0.10 2.80 1.80 0.20 3.90 0.30 0.00

 

Cortisol: The reason stress makes you fat

Gentle exercise is by far the best way to lower cortisol levels

You may have heard that stress causes weight gain. At first this might seem obvious: When we’re stressed, we tend to skip the gym and comfort ourselves with high fat, high sugar foods. However, stress causes far more problems that can be accounted for by a couple of missed gym sessions. The culprit? A little hormone called cortisol.

Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands which sit on top of the kidneys. Cortisol levels naturally rise overnight, peaking about 7am, and help get you up and going in the morning. They then gradually fall during the day, dropping to their lowest levels in the evening, to help you sleep.

Cortisol is also released in response to stressful situations whether they be physical (an intense workout) or emotional (a fight with your boss). Cortisol prepares the body for fight or flight by narrowing the arteries and increasing heart rate. It also floods the body with glucose, so muscles have an immediate energy source. It then inhibits insulin production so blood glucose levels stay high. As well, “non essential” functions like the immune system, digestion and reproduction are suppressed.

The problem is modern life is full of stressors that cannot be solved by fight or flight. This leads to constant high levels of cortisol.  Long term high levels of cortical are a serious risk factor for weight gain and obesity, for several reasons. High cortisol levels mean high blood sugar levels, and since insulin is also suppressed, can lead to insulin resistance. What’s more, with all the glucose in the blood not being absorbed into cells, you get cells crying out for energy. Studies have shown a direct association between cortisol levels and calorie intake. Higher cortisol levels mean an increased appetite and cravings for high calorie, high sugar foods, particularly in women. Cortisol also causes triglycerides to be released from storage and moved to visceral fat cells. Visceral fat is the stuff in your abdomen around your organs and is strongly linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Clearly managing stress levels is an important part of weight loss and staying healthy. And by far the best way to manage cortisol levels is with exercise. While cortisol levels rise during exercise, the physical activity burns off the glucose released into the blood and hormone levels soon return to normal. In other words, you “use” the elevated heart rate and glucose levels for their intended purpose, so there is no lasting harm. The second best way to manage cortisol is to cut down on caffeine. The reason you feel more awake and energetic after a cup of coffee is caffeine increases levels of cortisol. Fine in small doses in the morning, not so good in the evening if you’re planning to sleep that night.

Of course stress is as much mental as it is physical. Having a proper laugh at a funny film, taking a relaxing bath, or visiting with friends all help to reduce cortisol levels. In other words, doing things that keep you relaxed are as important for weight loss as what you eat!

The Score for 16 March:

Calories: Protein: Carbs: Sugars: Fat: Sat Fat: Fibre:  
1847 106.65g 201.79g 61.68g 65.17g 18.05g 30.14g
23% 44% 32%
Calories burned through exercise: 327

 

What I ate:

Time Item Amount Calories Protein Carbs Sugars Fibre Fat Sat Fat Alcohol
07:45 Centrum Multivitamin,  Vitamin E 400IU, Vitamin D 25 µg
Tap water 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Soft boiled eggs, 2 large 115g 150 14.49 0.00 0.00 0.00 10.35 2.88 0.00
Free From pure oats 50g 171 6.40 30.30 0.60 4.30 2.70 0.50 0.00
made with boiling water 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Tesco mixed frozen fruits 100g 40 0.90 7.90 7.90 2.00 0.20 0.00 0.00
Ground flaxseeds 10g 45 2.21 0.30 0.18 2.37 4.00 0.45 0.00
Black tea 450mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
10:00 Fresh ginger tea with a splash of lemon juice and 1 tsp honey 250mL 25 0.00 6.25 6.25 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
12:15 Pork loin steak, grilled, fat removed 81g 157 15.92 0.00 0.00 0.00 10.30 3.77 0.00
with Baxters Albert’s Victorian chutney 19g 30 0.20 7.04 6.44 0.36 0.06 0.00 0.00
Brown basmati rice 130g 150 3.75 30.83 0.51 1.44 1.23 0.29 0.00
with Kikkoman Tamari gluten free soy sauce 7g 4 0.70 0.14 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0
Cauliflower, microwaved 93g 35 3.35 2.79 2.33 1.67 0.84 0.19 0.00
Broccoli, microwaved 81g 32 3.44 2.56 1.52 2.00 0.48 0.16 0.00
13:00 Green tea 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
16:00 Activia natural yoghurt 150g 96 7.50 9.90 9.90 0.00 2.90 2.00 0.00
Natures Path Mesa Sunrise cereal 50g 195 5.00 40.00 6.50 5.00 1.65 0.25 0.00
Sliced plums 97g 41 0.58 8.54 8.54 1.55 0.10 0.00 0.00
Sunflower seeds 5g 30 1.04 0.57 0.13 0.43 2.58 0.23 0.00
Pumpkin seeds 5g 30 1.51 0.54 0.07 0.30 2.46 0.44 0.00
17:00 Javelin Training
18:45 Tesco free from seeded sandwich thins with 51g 127 3.98 16.47 0.56 5.51 3.88 0.31 0.00
Baked chicken breast, 92g 124 29.03 0.00 0.00 0.00 1.75 0.55 0.00
Sliced tomato, 97g 19 0.68 3.01 3.01 0.97 0.29 0.10 0.00
and Helleman’s real mayonnaise 10g 72 0.11 0.14 0.13 0.00 7.90 0.63 0.00
Lindt Excellence 70% Cocoa chocolate bar, 2 squares 20g 113 1.90 6.80 5.80 0.00 8.20 4.80 0
21:00 Tesco Twists cheese and onion 40g 161 3.96 27.72 1.32 2.24 3.32 0.52 0.00

 

Oestrogen: Not just for women

Most fruits, vegetables, pulses and whole grains are good sources of fibre

Having looked at testosterone, the “male” sex hormone, today we’ll be discussing oestrogen, the “female” sex hormone.  Like testosterone, oestrogen is present in men and women, simply in different amounts. And like testosterone, oestrogen is essential for both sexes.

It is known as the female sex hormone because oestrogen is responsible for turning girls into women by stimulating the growth of breasts, increasing fat mass, and starting ovulation and menstruation. However, oestrogen acts all over the body and can have many diverse effects. For example, it can increase serotonin, a feel-good neurotransmitter, and increase factors that help blood to clot properly. Oestrogen also regulates certain functions of the male reproductive system important for the maturation of sperm. What’s more, testosterone needs oestrogen to increase sex drive in both men and women: Without oestrogen, testosterone actually decreases sexual desire.

The difference is that in men, oestrogen remains at a fairly constant low level. However, in women, oestrogen levels fluctuate in line with their menstrual cycle. Oestrogen levels rise rapidly after menstruation, to a sharp peak just before ovulation, then drop quickly, reaching their lowest point just before the start of the next cycle. This means most women experience higher energy levels and better moods in the week following their period, when oestrogen levels are high. They then have low energy and low moods the week before their period starts, when oestrogen is at its lowest level.

What many people don’t realize is that oestrogen also has an important role in appetite and weight gain. High levels of oestrogen suppress appetite, while low levels can lead to binge eating. You would think this means high levels would be good for fat loss, but oestrogen is also responsible for a woman’s ability to store more body fat. If oestrogen levels get so high they overpower progesterone (the second female sex hormone) it then becomes impossible to lose weight. Likewise, if a man has unusually high levels of oestrogen, he will find it much harder to lose body fat.

Once again, a healthy diet is your friend. In this case, fibre is the key to keeping oestrogen under control. Fibre binds to oestrogen and moves it out through the bowels, managing the amount in circulation. Yet another reason why high fibre diets help with fat loss!

The Score for 14 March:

Calories: Protein: Carbs: Sugars: Fat: Sat Fat: Fibre:  
1987 104.83g 256.63g 109.69g 55.47g 17.09g 35.45g
22% 52% 26%
Calories burned through exercise: 528

 

What I ate:

Time Item Amount Calories Protein Carbs Sugars Fibre Fat Sat Fat Alcohol
07:45 Centrum Multivitamin,  Vitamin E 400IU, Vitamin D 25 µg
Tap water 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Soft boiled eggs, 2 large 115g 150 14.49 0.00 0.00 0.00 10.35 2.88 0.00
Free From pure oats 50g 171 6.40 30.30 0.60 4.30 2.70 0.50 0.00
made with boiling water 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
topped with sultanas 25g 74 0.68 17.35 17.35 0.50 0.10 0.03 0.00
and ground flaxseed 10g 45 2.21 0.30 0.18 2.37 4.00 0.45 0.00
Black tea 450mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
10:00 Fresh ginger tea with a splash of lemon juice and 1 tsp honey 250mL 25 0.00 6.25 6.25 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
12:30 Homemade carrot and lentil soup 350g 217 8.93 26.68 9.45 4.69 7.53 1.47 0.00
Tesco free from seeded sandwich thins 58g 145 4.52 18.73 0.64 6.26 4.41 0.35 0.00
Skimmed milk 250mL 87 8.50 12.50 12.50 0.00 0.25 0.00 0.00
Fresh raspberries 45g 14 0.63 2.07 2.07 1.13 0.14 0.05 0.00
Fresh blueberries 55g 37 0.39 7.98 5.50 1.32 0.17 0.00 0.00
Green tea 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
15:00 Natures Path Mesa Sunrise cereal 50g 195 5.00 40.00 6.50 5.00 1.65 0.25 0.00
with skimmed milk 200mL 69 6.80 10.00 10.00 0.00 0.20 0.10 0.00
topped with sliced nectarine 87g 39 1.22 7.83 7.83 1.04 0.09 0.00 0.00
16:00 Medicine Ball session
18:45 Salad with spinach, 30g 8 0.84 0.48 0.45 0.63 0.24 0.03 0.00
sliced tomato, 99g 20 0.70 3.10 3.10 1.00 0.30 0.10 0.00
Merchant Gourmet red and white quinoa, 100g 185 6.10 28.60 1.50 4.00 4.20 0.50 0.00
Steamed sweet potato, 150g 131 1.63 28.66 12.48 3.11 0.45 0.15 0.00
Baked chicken breast, 100g 135 31.90 0.00 0.00 0.00 1.90 0.60 0.00
and Tesco French Dressing 1 tbsp 13 0.10 2.20 1.70 0.10 0.40 0.05 0.00
Lindt Excellence 70% Cocoa chocolate bar, 4 squares 40g 226 3.80 13.60 11.60 0.00 16.40 9.60 0.00
21:15 Twinings camomile and spiced apple tea 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00

Image Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_baibakova’>baibakova / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Testosterone: Not just for men

Brazil nuts are by far the best source of selenium

I have previously discussed in some detail the various hormones involved in appetite regulation. However, there are many, many hormones and several of them can have a huge impact on what we eat and how we feel, even if they are not directly related. So this week we’ll be looking at hormones again, starting with the infamous testosterone.

Testosterone is an important hormone in both men and women. It is produced by the testes in men, the ovaries in women and the adrenal glands of both sexes. This is the main hormone responsible for turning boys into men by stimulating the growth of facial and body hair, deepening the voice, increasing muscle mass and starting sperm production. What many people don’t realise is that testosterone also has an important role in keeping energy levels up. Low levels of testosterone can result in a slower metabolism, less muscle mass and weight gain. For both sexes keeping natural testosterone levels up means more energy, a bigger sex drive, more lean muscle mass, and less body fat.

Generally, testosterone levels peak in the early twenties in both sexes and starts to slowly decline after that. Certain forms of birth control can also reduce levels in women.  However, once again it’s a case of use or lose it. The good news is that resistance, or weight training, encourages testosterone production, as does a healthy sex life. Unfortunately, low testosterone levels can be a vicious cycle. You feel tired so you skip the gym and snack on sweet treats. This causes testosterone levels to drop further, leaving you more tired, and so even less likely to exercise, and the cycle repeats.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, what you eat can have an impact on your testosterone levels. As previously discussed, your body needs vitamin D and selenium to make testosterone, so getting some sun and eating a couple of Brazil nuts a day is helpful. But the main ingredient is cholesterol, a type of fat found in animal foods. Testosterone is made from cholesterol while you sleep. In fact, people on very low fat or vegan diets have lower levels of testosterone than those who regularly consume eggs, full fat cheese, and red meat. Early research has also found a link between testosterone production and the amount of sugar in the diet: It looks like eating too much sugar can turn off the gene that regulates the amount of active testosterone. These two things may explain why people on low carbohydrate, high fat diets often increase muscle mass as well as lose body fat.

Given I had eggs for breakfast, hit the gym, then had beef chilli for dinner, I should be feeling more energetic tomorrow!

The Score for 13 March:

Calories: Protein: Carbs: Sugars: Fat: Sat Fat: Fibre: Alcohol:
1883 93.12g 206.52g 72.96g 59.46g 13.37g 31.91g 16.49g
20% 44%   29%   6%
     
Calories burned through exercise: 363      

 

What I ate:

Time Item Amount Calories Protein Carbs Sugars Fibre Fat Sat Fat Alcohol
07:15 Centrum Multivitamin,  Vitamin E 400IU, Vitamin D 25 µg
Tap water 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Soft boiled eggs, 2 large 115g 150 14.49 0.00 0.00 0.00 10.35 2.88 0.00
Free From pure oats 50g 171 6.40 30.30 0.60 4.30 2.70 0.50 0.00
made with boiling water 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Tesco mixed frozen fruits 100g 40 0.90 7.90 7.90 2.00 0.20 0.00 0.00
Ground flaxseeds 10g 45 2.21 0.30 0.18 2.37 4.00 0.45 0.00
Black Tea 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
10:30 Brazil nuts 5g 34 0.72 0.21 0.12 0.38 3.36 0.81 0.00
Walnuts 5g 34 0.74 0.17 0.13 0.18 3.43 0.28 0.00
Pecan nuts 5g 35 0.55 0.28 0.21 0.24 3.51 0.29 0.00
Cashews 5g 29 0.91 1.35 0.30 0.17 2.20 0.39 0.00
Sunflower seeds 5g 30 1.04 0.57 0.13 0.43 2.58 0.23 0.00
Pumpkin seeds 5g 30 1.51 0.54 0.07 0.30 2.46 0.44 0.00
Fresh raspberries 100g 32 1.40 4.60 4.60 2.50 0.30 0.10 0.00
Fresh ginger tea with a splash of lemon juice and 1 tsp honey 250mL 25 0.00 6.25 6.25 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
12:30 Pork loin steak, grilled, fat removed 80g 157 15.92 0.00 0.00 0.00 10.30 3.77 0.00
Steamed sweet potato 199g 178 2.20 38.60 16.80 4.20 0.60 0.20 0.00
Steamed broccoli 51g 20 2.15 1.60 0.95 1.25 0.30 0.10 0.00
Steamed cauliflower 100g 38 3.60 3.00 2.50 1.80 0.90 0.20 0.00
Gravy made with 10g Bisto Best pork gravy granules in 100mL boiling water about 75mL 25 0.43 5.00 0.17 0.06 0.35 0.04 0.00
Green tea 250mL 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
15:45 Natures Path Mesa Sunrise cereal 50g 195 5.00 40.00 6.50 5.00 1.65 0.25 0.00
with skimmed milk 200mL 69 6.80 10.00 10.00 0.00 0.20 0.10 0.00
17:00 Gym session
19:30 Homemade chilli con carne with extra vegetables 300g 269 22.26 21.14 14.16 5.32 8.86 2.07 0.64
Brown basmati rice 130g 150 3.75 30.83 0.51 1.44 1.23 0.29 0.00
Glass of red wine 150mL 127 0.15 3.90 0.90 0.00 0.00 0.00 15.85

 

Insulin and fat loss

Yesterday I mentioned that too much sugar and too little exercise can lead to insulin resistance and type II diabetes over time. However, you may have noticed that type II diabetes is strongly correlated with being overweight and obese. Unfortunately, obesity can be another effect of too much insulin.

Normally, glucose is stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen and then released back into the bloodstream between meals. However, glucose is not our only source of energy; we use fats as well. In fact, free fatty acids are our primary source of energy at rest. Like glucose, high insulin levels after a meal ensure free fatty acids are stored in muscles and fat cells. Falling levels of insulin between meals then causes the release of stored glucose and the breakdown of fat into fatty acids that can be used for energy.

The problem is for people with chronically high levels of insulin. If insulin levels are always high, either through constant snacking on sweet treats or type II diabetes, then there is never a strong signal to breakdown fat. This makes it very difficult to lose unwanted body fat.

This is rationale behind both low carbohydrate and periodic fasting diets. The idea is to drastically reduce insulin levels to force the body to use fat as fuel.  And they usually work – blood sugar and insulin levels go down, and body fat is reduced. However, such diets can be very hard to maintain long term and can come with several unpleasant side effects. As discussed before, the brain runs solely on glucose so drastically reducing glucose stores can lead to headaches, dizzy spells and feeling fuzzy headed. As well, many people find they are often tired on a low carbohydrate diet, no matter how much they eat. Such symptoms may pass in a few days as the body adapts to using fat for fuel and creates more of the enzymes which convert fats to glucose.

For athletes, the problem with low carbohydrate and fasting diets is that they need glucose to fuel their workouts. Even after several weeks on such a diet, when they have adapted to use fats more efficiently, converting fats to glucose simply doesn’t happen fast enough to support high intensity exercise. Most find the quality of their workouts suffer and their competition performances decline.

Once again, there is another way to reduce your insulin levels: exercise. Levels of insulin decrease during exercise, while glucose stores are used to fuel the activity. This in turn stimulates fat burning, both during and after the workout. And the longer or more intense the effort, the greater this effect. So a quick HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) session can have similar effects to an hour long run.

So while you can’t out train a bad diet, you can use exercise to give fat loss a helping hand!

The Score for 8 February:

Calories: Protein: Carbs: Sugars: Fat: Sat Fat: Fibre:  
2014 110.72g 252.54g 117.43g 57.99g 20.30g 29.27g
23% 51% 26%
Calories burned through exercise: 404

What I ate:

Time Item Amount
08:30 Centrum Multivitamin,  Vitamin E 400IU, Vitamin D 25 µg
Tap water 250mL
Scrambled eggs, 2 large 115g
with smoked salmon 50g
and spinach 15g
Genius brown sliced gluten free bread, 2 slices toasted 58g
with butter 5g
and St Dalfour Raspberry fruit spread 23g
Black Tea 450mL
10:30 Fresh ginger tea with a splash of lemon juice and 1 tsp honey 250mL
12:.30 Homemade Veggie Tagine 380g
Merchant Gourmet red and white quinoa 65g
Lactofree skimmed milk 250mL
Green tea 350mL
14:45 25 min recovery run + stretching session
16:00 MaxiNutrition Lean protein powder, chocolate 40g
in water 275mL
Golden delicious apple 101g
17:30 Nairns gluten free wholegrain crackers 28g
Tesco extra mature cheddar 38g
Tesco finest red onion chutney 21g
19:30 Teriyaki Salmon stir fry with broccoli, carrots and peppers 340g
Wai Wai brown rice vermicelli 50g
Kiwi, 2 medium peeled 110g
20:30 Yoomoo yoghurt ice lolly, tropical fruit 1 lolly

What does insulin actually do?

Either the pancreas is not producing enough insulin or the cells of the body are not responding to it

My diet has been pretty good over the past few days. I’ve avoided the junk food, kept the calories below 2000 and the fat below 70g, and had enough fruit and vegetables. Despite this, my total sugars remain above 90g per day. Even though most of these sugars are from fruit, too much sugar can still be a problem, because of its effect on insulin levels.

All carbohydrates, whether simple or complex, are broken down by the digestive system into the simple sugar glucose. Glucose provides the energy for most body processes; in fact, the brain runs entirely on glucose. In order to ensure the brain has a constant supply of glucose, several hormones work together to store glucose after a meal and release it into the bloodstream when needed.

Insulin is made by the pancreas and released when there are high concentrations of glucose in the blood (after a meal). Insulin tells cells, particularly muscle cells, to absorb glucose from the blood. Glucose is then stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen. When glucose levels fall, as happens between meals, glycogen can be released back into the bloodstream.

The problem with too much sugar is it can lead to insulin resistance. Our lifestyles mean most of us get very little exercise, so don’t use up the stored glucose between meals. We then eat plenty of sugar so the pancreas has to make more and more insulin to force the already full cells to store more glucose. In type II diabetes, the cells have stopped reacting to insulin and are not absorbing the circulating glucose the way they should. If muscle cells don’t absorb the glucose it stays in the blood, causing high blood sugar. Very high blood sugar levels are dangerous, and can damage the eyes, nerves, kidneys and blood vessels, and even result in a diabetic coma.

The good news is that exercise can prevent insulin resistance both by reducing the amount of insulin produced and by making cells more sensitive to its action. In other words, more glucose is absorbed by the cells for a smaller amount of insulin. This makes exercise one of the best ways to manage blood sugar levels and prevent type II diabetes. Yet another good reason to hit the gym!

The Score for 7 February:

Calories: Protein: Carbs: Sugars: Fat: Sat Fat: Fibre:  
1822 122.78g 206.05g 99.09g 49.13g 14.16g 42.11g  
28% 46%   25%    
     
Calories burned through exercise: 515      

 

What I ate:

Time Item Amount
08:30 Centrum Multivitamin,  Vitamin E 400IU, Vitamin D 25 µg
Tap water 250mL
Soft boiled eggs, 2 large 115g
Free From pure oats 50g
made with boiling water 250mL
Tesco mixed frozen fruits 100g
Ground flaxseeds 10g
Black tea 450mL
10:15 Fresh ginger tea with a splash of lemon juice and 1 tsp honey 250mL
12:00 Homemade Pea and ham soup 350g
Nairns gluten free wholegrain crackers 28g
Yakult light 65mL
Fresh mango 135g
Green tea 250mL
15:45 Homemade turkey cottage pie topped with potato and parsnip mash 253g
with Ketchup 15g
17:00 Medicine ball session
18:45 Pulsin Protein snack bar, maple and peanut 50g
Golden delicious apple 110g
21:00 Hot chocolate made with Lactofree skimmed milk, 300mL
The Raw Chocolate co fairtrade organic cacao powder 10g
and brown sugar 10g

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