My friend Paul was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes a few years ago. He was also obese and experienced other common symptoms associated with diabetes, such as blurry vision, fatigue, and an increased thirst and appetite.
Paul decided it was time to change his lifestyle and eating habits—he understood that type 2 diabetes can eventually lead to kidney disease, nerve disorders, vision loss, hypertension, stroke, and heart disease.
Today, Paul is 30 pounds lighter and has successfully managed to regulate his blood sugar levels.
Key Ingredients for Diabetes Control: Diet and Exercise
Paul credits his success to two simple things:
• First, he eliminated all processed and refined foods from his diet and focused mostly on foods with a low glycemic index of 55 or less. His meals generally include leafy green vegetables, such as broccoli, Swiss chard, cabbage, kale, spinach, and romaine lettuce. He also consumes other low glycemic foods, such as blueberries, onions, mushrooms, quinoa, and walnuts.• The second recommendation for diabetes control is regular exercise. Paul exercises and lifts weights at least five times a week. As a result, he is now able to regulate his fat and blood sugar levels—without the side effects of glucose-lowering drugs.
When Should Diabetics Exercise?
Paul asked me if there was anything else he could do to lower his risk of developing cardiovascular issues associated with type 2 diabetes (such as heart attack or stroke).
I informed Paul of exciting new research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology. Researchers from the University of Missouri-Columbia found that people with type 2 diabetes can more effectively reduce their risk of developing a cardiovascular disease when they exercise after a meal.
The study found that resistance exercise is more effective with lowering blood sugar and fat levels after a meal. The researchers observed 13 type 2 diabetics. One day, the participants would perform resistance exercises before dinner. On another occasion they would exercise for about 45 minutes after dinner. The resistance exercises included abdominal crunches, leg curls, and seated calf raises.
The results? Participants who exercised after dinner saw a reduction in their blood fat and sugar levels, while those who exercised before dinner only saw a reduction in blood sugar levels. All of the participants consumed dinners that had a moderate carbohydrate intake.
Exercise Tips and Tricks for Type 2 Diabetics
1. Ease into your exercise: While resistance training is best for diabetics, it is best to start slow if you are currently inactive. You can start doing any type of exercise, including walking, yoga, qigong, tai chi, or swimming. Start with 10-minute sessions each day and then move up to 30 minutes daily.
2. Follow a regular routine: To prevent diabetes complications, like low blood sugar, it is best to exercise at similar times every day.
3. Strength train a minimum of twice weekly: Once you are comfortable with exercising, add resistance training to your routine, such as weightlifting, crunches, squats, lunges, or resistance band exercises. Strength training twice weekly can go a long way in improving blood sugar and fat levels.
4. Prepare for any activity: Before conducting any form of physical activity, it is best to stretch five minutes before and after your workout.
5. Know when not to exercise: Diabetics should avoid exercising when they experience leg pain or numbness, shortness of breath, blood sugar levels over 300 mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter), tingling, or if there are ketones in the urine.
Bonus: What Should Diabetics Eat for Dinner?
What is an ideal dinner to treat or prevent diabetes? Nutrient-dense vegetables, wild seafood, organic grass-fed meats, and chicken are great choices. These simple meal choices will help balance blood sugar and lipid levels to better manage diabetes:
- Enjoy a delicious cup of steamed cauliflower and a grilled chicken breast with a small spinach salad on the side.
- For lunch or dinner, try a sald with mixed greens and a piece of salmon.
- Non-gluten grains (i.e. quinoa) with vegetables, such as zucchini or broccoli, are always great meal options.
Heden, T.D., et al., “Postdinner resistance exercise improves postprandial risk factors more effectively than predinner resistance exercise in patients with type 2 diabetes,” Journal of Applied Physiology, March 1, 2015; 118(5): 624-634.
“Individuals with type 2 diabetes should exercise after dinner,” Science Daily web site, February 18, 2015; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150218123849.htm.
“Glucose Control – Exercise,” Sentry Health Monitors web site; https://www.lifeclinic.com/focus/diabetes/exercise.asp, last accessed July 8, 2015.
Murray, M., M.D., et al, The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (New York: Atria Paperback, 2012), 503-547.
“11 Exercise Tips for Type 2 Diabetes,” WebMD web site; http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/guide/exercise-guidelines, last accessed July 8, 2015.