Bicycling: Effects on Fasting Blood Glucose

Ok, I’ve been bicycling for 7 days now, attempting to lower my fasting blood glucose (FBG).  Before I get into whether or not this is having the desired effect, let’s look at my history of using this particular exercise to reduce FBG.

In the Spring of 2011, a good 9 months before entering the online world of nutrition gurus, I bicycled every day for a couple weeks.  At this time my blood sugar was in the pre-diabetic range.  I was eating a standard American diet (SAD), probably not much sugar, some starches, some processed food, diet coke every day, still eating gluten.  Here were the effects at that time of bicycling and tracking calories:2011 Blood Sugar

Now, I don’t recall exactly what “tracking calories” meant – I didn’t have a blog back then so I can’t revisit those dates and see what I was doing.  Knowing me though, I was trying to stick to around a 1500 calorie diet.  As you can see from the graph above, bicycling + tracking calories was a good thing – my FBG was in the 90s within a few days and in the 80s within about a week and a half.  I was biking for about 30 minutes at a time on flat terrain, moderate intensity – just enough to sweat and breathe a little harder but not enough to be exhausted. I stopped because I got sick (I don’t remember what with) and the temperatures outside soared to over 110 degrees.  Got out of the habit and didn’t restart.  Maybe because my diet was consistently making me depressed.

Fast forward to September 2013 – my next experiment with biking.  Here’s a graph of my FBG then:

2013 blood sugar

This was a month before I began my Peat-inspired lifestyle.  Fasting blood sugar at the time was mostly in the pre-diabetic range (under 126) with occasional higher spikes.  I began a “lower-cal diet” and bicycling, and continued with that for almost 2 weeks. “Lower-cal” at that time meant shooting for 1500 net calories (after exercise).  I remember being kinda hungry – but I didn’t really spend a lot of time researching low-calorie high-nutrient high-satiety foods at that time.  About 50% of my calories were in the form of fat, 25% protein, 25% carbohydrate.  Other than that, nutrients weren’t really on the radar yet.

During that time my blood sugar stabilized around 100 (a good 15 points lower), with dips into the 90s as early as 6 days into the program.  If I had continued the trend may have continued.  I stopped because my focus at that time was weight loss, and I wasn’t losing.  My temperature and pulse were dropping, and new-found information from Ray Peat world made me think my metabolism might be suffering.  So I stopped.

Ok, so now let’s look at today.  I’ve been bicycling with NO dietary change, for 7 days now.  As in the previous exercise programs I’ve been biking for 30 minutes or so, medium intensity, flat terrain.  Let’s look at the data:

FBG May 2014

Blood sugar is….remarkably stable.  And unchanged in the last week. NO CHANGE.  It may have been unrealistic for me to aim for the 90s within two weeks, considering my baseline level is higher now, but I would hope to see at least SOME movement in the right direction.

So what’s missing?

Well, the previous two times I biked regularly I was also counting calories, shooting for around 1500 calories per day.  Over the past week I haven’t been monitoring what I eat at all.  My weight is down a pound or so and I haven’t been overeating, but I haven’t been counting anything.  I tend to eat around 2200 calories a day when not attempting to reduce, so it’s safe to say I’ve been consuming at least that much.

So it appears that for me, blood sugar management is going to involve not just regular exercise but also a reduced-calorie diet.  I don’t know if it has anything at all to do with eating low-fat….just low-energy (calorie).  I’ll have to research ways to stay full.  Hunger has always been the obstacle to me sticking to a reduced calorie diet.

I’ve started counting calories today.  Will continue on with bicycling.

Score one for conventional wisdom.

CW – Week 1 in Review

Well, I’ve been following Conventional Wisdom – “eat less and exercise more” for 1 week now.  Let’s review my progress.

Weight

  • Starting weight: 203 lbs.
  • Today’s weight:  200.4 lbs.
  • Weight change this week: – 2.6 lbs
  • Overall weight change: – 2.6 lbs

Analysis:  I’m not impressed by this.  The first 3 pounds or so always comes off easily – I think it’s water weight.

I was aiming for 1500 net calories per day (after exercise is factored in).  According to my Lose It app, on which I track calories/nutrients, this week I ate at total of 1425 calories over that.  So even if I would have been perfect in my calorie intake, 1425 calories represents less than half a pound of body fat (if you believe the calories in/calories out theory of fat gain/loss).  So best case scenario I would have been down another half pound.

As far as macronutrient breakdown, I’m really just eating whatever I want (but no gluten/wheat).  I have not been making much of an effort to eat more produce, so that’s something I’ll be working on this week.  Here’s the macronutrient breakdown for the past week:

  • Fat calories – 57% (751g)
  • Carb calories – 28% (827g)
  • Protein calories – 34% (1008g)

Ok, so I guess this isn’t exactly conventional wisdom, which says a low-fat diet is recommended for losing weight.  Maybe I should try a low-fat diet for a week and see how that goes?  For now I’m going to do another week just eating what I want to see if it’s possible to lose weight eating lower-calorie and fairly high fat.

Blood Sugar

Ok, but now here’s some good news.  Check out my fasting blood glucose this week (the far right side of the graph):

bg

Fasting blood glucose (average) during the week prior to starting bicycling/no boozing and then during the past week:

Before (avg): 118

After (avg): 105

Hm…on average, that’s a 13 point drop in fasting blood sugar in 1 week of exercising and not drinking alcohol.  Pretty cool!  Even if it doesn’t result in weight loss it seems important to exercise for blood sugar management.  I don’t know if all types of exercise will have this effect.  Yoga didn’t (see “DDP Yoga” on graph).

And interestingly…eating NO carbs (or only like 2% of calories from carb) didn’t result in this kind of improvement in blood sugar (see period of “Nutritional Ketosis” on graph).  This suggests that something OTHER than macronutrient intake has a dramatic effect on blood sugar and/or insulin levels.

Things I’m learning:

1. Eating carbs prevents hypoglycemia.  I had all but given up drinking coffee (which I love) and turned to caffeine pills because of the hypoglycemia that followed coffee drinking.  I learned from Ray Peat that adding sugar/carbs to coffee (and meals, for that matter) prevents that blood sugar drop (which my mind interprets as hunger).  It works!  If I put sugar in my coffee I don’t get ravenously hungry after drinking coffee.  How nice.  And as you can see (graph, above) my blood sugar is not suffering from this sugar-in-coffee experiment.  Maybe sugar in small amounts isn’t the devil after all.

That being said…

2. I feel better if I DON’T have a lot of carbs for breakfast.  I can eat a 500 calorie breakfast of all protein/fat and I feel satisfied for 4-5 hours. If I eat carbs I get hungry within 2 hours.

2.  Juicing isn’t my problem.  I have been continuing to drink vegetable and fruit juice over the past week and my fasting blood sugar has been dropping.  Either fresh-squeezed juice doesn’t affect blood sugar much or exercise reverses a LOT of problems.

3. I don’t need to kill myself with exercise to get benefit.  I’m riding on flat terrain and not pushing myself very hard at all.  10 mph on a bicycle isn’t very fast.  For 30 minutes or so.

4.  I need to prepare more if I expect to eat more veggies.  Still laziness prevails. If I don’t have vegetables washed and cut and ready to eat I just won’t eat them.  I’ll work on that this week.  I think this is why I’ve been eating more overall calories than planned – I’m not filling up on produce as planned.

5.  Nobody has all the answers for everybody.   Everyone is different.  What works for one person doesn’t work for another.  I was listening to Jimmy Moore‘s podcasts yesterday on a long road trip.  Jimmy insists that people just need to give up the carbs and their blood sugars will drop.  Hm…then how come he takes Glycosolve for his blood sugar?  I actually really love and appreciate Jimmy Moore, and he’s usually the first to say you have to find what works for you. However, among the low-carb community there seems to be this idea that this strategy will work the same way for everyone.  Low-carb clearly wasn’t enough for me.  He interviewed Sarah Fragoso on one of the podcasts I listened to yesterday…and she stated that people with a high CRP (C-Reactive Protein) pretty much always have some massive health problem like rheumatoid arthritis or cancer.  I sure hope she’s wrong.  Anyway, bottom line is you DO have to find what works for you.  Give up looking for a guru.  Experiment.

Ok, that’s enough reflecting for one week.  I’m going to continue this plan for now and see where it gets me.

Conventional Wisdom – Day 4

Progress:

  • Weight today: 200.6
  • Weight loss so far: 2.4 lbs

I’m not expecting a big loss tomorrow because I’ve been eating these AMAZING Double Stuffed Jalapeno and Garlic Olives today.  Salty salty goodness.  It says on the jar that the olives have been inspected twice for quality.  I don’t think I would want to be an olive inspector.  Sounds a bit dull.

Yesterdays diet:

  • Net calorie intake (after exercise): 1544
  • Protein 35% (164g)
  • Carbs 26% (119g)
  • Fat 39% (80g)

Today’s bike ride:  I don’t know how far or exactly how long I rode because since updating my iPhone to iOS 7 my Cyclemeter app doesn’t work if I start the music app.  It’s a first world problem, I know.  I rode around 26 minutes, so we’ll call it 250 calories.  Probably about 4 miles.

Scenes from the ride:

apples

The song I finished with: