Monday, April 21

Sugar Management

There's just two weeks left until the Portsmouth Tour de Cure, the hundred-mile ride I'm doing to raise money for diabetes research, education, and information & services. I'm about halfway to my fund-raising goal of $500. It's not too hard to scrounge up a little money--I even sponsored myself by rolling up my loose change for about $25.

The crux of diabetes is management of blood sugar, because the body has difficulty with insulin production--that's how the body metabolizes sugar and turns it in to energy. Consequently, blood sugar has to be managed very carefully, by eating the right things at the right times.

For someone that doesn't have diabetes, blood sugar management is important because you do produce insulin. Insulin has other effects than just metabolizing sugar in the blood. It also prevents the body from utilizing stored fat, converts carbs and protein in to fat, and moves fat in the blood to stored fat. It can also cause cravings for more sugar--which only exacerbates the situation.

Some foods deliver their carbs to the blood quicker than others, raising blood sugar, and increasing insulin, causing these negative effects. The glycemic index, which tells which foods deliver their carbs to the bloodstream fastest, was created for diabetics, but is of great use to everyone. Foods that are very highly glycemic include rice, baked potatoes, french bread, and who would have guessed: tofu frozen yogurt. Some very low-glycemic foods include peaches, plums, grapefruits and milk. What a food has in it affects its place on the index--fat and fiber slow down the digestion processes, lowering its glycemic factor.

Anyone, and especially athletes, can take a cue from the glycemic index. In order to balance your carbohydratic budget, generally try to avoid high-glycermic-index foods. The exception is during or just after a serious workout--in my case, a ride or a race. Restoring the body's carbohydrate stores is important, so getting carbs/sugar in to the blood quickly is a good idea after hard efforts, or you'll feel depleted for much longer.

Of course, it's not that simple--that was just a broad generalization. There are a lot of factors that can affect glycemic index, and the jury is still out on a lot of things. The American Diabetes Association weighs in on the glycemic index and its subtleties, which is worth a read if you're looking for more [precise] information.

In the mean time, I'll be continuing my training for the Tour. So far the longest ride I've done this year is 50 miles, and I've only got two weeks left, so . . . this should be interesting.

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