A pharmacist's perspective on health and metabolic disease
Is diet more important than exercise?
It has been said that “you cannot out-run a poor diet”. Some personal trainers say that 80-90% of results are based on diet – not exercise. However, no matter how perfect the diet, in order to flourish, activity is important. That has really been brought home to me over the last few months. While I was based up at the Millennium Institute I had access to a fantastic gym with some really good lunchtime classes and no excuses not to make them, especially since there were a few of us who always went and supported each other.
But over the last few months, both from frantically finishing my thesis, and not needing to go up to Millennium, I stopped going to the gym. I haven’t gained weight or changed my diet (in fact, I am fasting more and eating less) and thought I was doing well with activity, but my blood sugars started creeping up. Yes, they stayed “normal”, both fasting and 2-hours after meals, usually between 5.5 – 6.0 mmol/L (99-108 mg/dL) but this much higher than desirable and definitely higher than six months ago (average 4.5 mmol/L (81 mg/dL)). I was chalking this up to poor sleep in the high humidity and test strips that had been kept a bit too warm and were about to expire.
Having bought some new test strips, I got a wake-up call. The new test strips didn’t lower the levels much – maybe 0.5 mmol/L (9 mg/dL). So I have found a new gym closer to home and got a one week trial. One boxing fitness class later and my fasting blood glucose is back to what I consider normal at 4.6 mmol/L (82 mg/dL).
Physical activity up-regulates GLUT4 glucose transporters for up to 72 hours, burns off glycogen and builds muscle (which will use more fuel in the resting state). A combination of resistance training (to build muscle) and high intensity activity (burns glycogen and improves muscle efficiency) is probably the best combination for lowering plasma insulin and glucose levels. You cannot achieve these benefits from diet alone.
Just don’t make the workouts too hard, or go for too long as this can also cause an increase in cortisol, and paradoxically, insulin, to reverse some of the stresses and micro-damage in the muscles.
So thanks Jerome and Hannah, of Unitec Sports. You guys will be seeing me twice a week from now on.