What You Eat After Exercise Key to Managing Blood Sugar

Filed Under: Diabetes, Blood Sugar
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

A recent study in the Journal of Applied Physiology highlights an important point for those living with diabetes or simply trying to maintain healthy blood sugar -- what you eat immediately after exercise can have a dramatic impact on your ability to control your blood sugar and maintain insulin sensitivity.

While it's no surprise that exercise can enhance insulin sensitivity, what we're learning is how to best maintain that benefit for a longer period of time, so you get a more lasting impact from your efforts. When study participants were given post-exercise meals containing relatively low levels of carbohydrates, the benefits for insulin sensitivity were greatest.

When you improve your insulin sensitivity, it's easier for your body to absorb the sugar in your blood stream into your tissues, where it can be stored or used as fuel. One of the main signs of type 2 diabetes is insulin resistance, which is also a significant risk factor for other chronic diseases, like heart disease.

The good news is that efforts to eat modestly after exercise, with low-calorie meals, did not improve insulin sensitivity any more than when study participants ate enough calories to match what they burned off. As anyone who's hopped on a treadmill knows, exercise often increases hunger, and it's good to know you don't have to fight the urge to eat after a workout to still take advantage of the important blood sugar benefits.

Exercise Acts Like A Natural Shot of Insulin

As Dr. Whitaker has pointed out in Health & Healing, exercise dramatically improves your ability to fight diabetes and insulin resistance. That's because exercise actually acts like insulin in the body — the exercising muscle takes up glucose, even when no insulin is present. And if you exercise regularly, the benefits can be long-lasting.

Given the soaring rate of obesity in this country and the connection between diabetes and weight, exercise is more important than ever to stem the epidemic of type 2 diabetes, and keep those with metabolic syndrome from progressing toward full-blown disease. 

As studies have shown, regular exercise (just 30 minutes, five days a week) and a low-fat diet can deliver average sustained weight loss of 10-15 pounds. This alone can help prevent diabetes or reverse the disease if you already have it.

Brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming — it's not what you do but your commitment to actually do it that matters. Shoot for 30 minutes 3-5 times a week. Once you start, and you start reaping the rewards, it's that much easier to stick with it!

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