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.

Results and Changes

Had a lipid panel done today, about 2 weeks after my last one.  Over the past week I did the following:

  • Aimed for a 2:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio.  I found this difficult because I don’t particularly like sweet food, so I fell short some days.
  • Aimed for a 1:1 calcium to phosphorus ratio, because Ray Peat says.
  • Ate no starchy foods, getting all of my carbohydrates from sugar (fruit, honey, juice, and white sugar)
  • Maintained a lower-fat diet (averaged 59g fat/day or about 24% of total calories, on average).
  • Took niacinamide and aspirin 3x a day
  • Doubled thyroid supplement (Cynoplus, a combination T3/T4) from a very small dose -1/4 tablet (7.5mcg T3 / 30mcg T4) to two 1/4 tablets per day.

The results of today’s lipid panel:

  • Total Cholesterol: 316 (first time ever above 300).  Shouldn’t increased thyroid supplement decrease cholesterol?
  • Triglycerides: 495 (a 3% improvement. I’m not impressed.)
  • HDL Cholesterol: 30 (lowest ever)
  • LDL Cholesterol: Couldn’t be computed because Trigs were so high (this was the case last time too).

So, not great.

Here’s a handy chart showing my lipid panels over the last 2 years, along with brief notes about my diet during that time:

lipid panels

So you don’t have to turn your monitor on it’s side, here are the notes that correspond with the different testing dates:

3/27/2012 – Low Carb/Leptin Reset

11/14/2012 – Low Carb + Stress (Moved to a new state, started a new and very stressful job, was doing the Wiley Protocol and supplementing estrogen + progesterone).

6/19/2013 – Low Carb, without following any particular plan.  When I ate carbs they were in the form of starches from potatoes and rice, some vegetables, no fruit.

12/30/13 – Ray Peat, low sugar – around a 1:2 carb:protein ratio.  I was fiddling around with eating fruit, juice, and sugar but I was scared by the effect it was having on my blood sugar.  It was about this time I realized I was diabetic and was afraid of eating more carbohydrates.

4/19/14 – Ray Peat, high sugar – 2:1 carb:protein ratio – I decided to jump in with both feet and start eating more carbohydrates. When this test was done I was eating high fat (90-120g/day), high sugar (over 200g/day, some of which were starches), moderate protein (about 110-120g/day).  Pressure under my left ribcage was making me concerned that something might be wrong.

5/2/14 – Ray Peat – high sugar (2:1 carb:protein), low fat (around 25% of calories), taking niacinamide/aspirin/increased thyroid to address scary lab results.

According to this, my body (well, at least my lipid panel) responds best to a low carbohydrate diet, with minimized environmental stress.  I can tell you I didn’t feel great eating low carb after a while – I felt tired all the time, irritable.  But maybe that was because I wasn’t getting enough nutrition – I wasn’t tracking my food back then – vitamins/minerals were pretty much off the radar for me. I wasn’t eating liver or taking progesterone then.

Of course, other things were worse then.  My BUN/Creatinine ratio for example, got worse the longer I was on low carb, and improved since then.

BUN

Maybe eating too much meat is stressful on the kidneys after all?

Let’s look at thyroid:

thyroid

Seems sort of unrelated to sugar intake, actually, and more related to environmental stress. When I had the labs drawn in 12/2013 I was experimenting with resistant starch.  I think that was stressful on my body – I know it was stressful on my emotional state. So that may account for the increase in TSH last December.  I know TSH isn’t the ideal measure for thyroid function, according to many people…but Peat seems to think it’s a decent gross measure, so good enough.

And of great importance to me is my blood sugar.  Let’s see the data:

blood sugar

This is a crazy graph, right?  There was definitely an increase in fasting blood sugar when I started following Peat and adding carbohydrates to my diet, but that’s to be expected.  Anyone can have “well managed diabetes” with a low carb diet.  I wanted to actually FIX my diabetes, so I was experimenting with adding carbs back in to see what it would take to do that.  From the graph it looks like the best things I did for my blood sugar were bicycle for 30 minutes a day and eat a low-fat diet.

Holy crap!  Just like my conventional doctor told me!  Exercise and eat a low fat diet!

hahaha

It does seem my current supplements are confounding things.  The graph shows that eating a low-fat high sugar diet results in lower fasting blood sugar…but not if I add niacinamide, aspirin, and increase thyroid.  Hm…interesting.  If I was a patient person, and if I really loved sweet food, I’d probably just eliminate the supplements I’m taking and go back to high-sugar/low fat for a while to see if that trend continues.

I’m neither patient nor in love with sugar.

And considering that I’m STILL having hot flashes – even while sitting right here, right now, I’m going to stop taking niacinamide, aspirin, and thyroid.  One of them is bothering me.  Later on I may try to add them in one at a time and see what I can tolerate.

So to sum up: It looks like the best thing for my lipids is low-carb.  The best thing for my BUN/Creatinine is low meat.  The best thing for my thyroid is low-stress.  The best thing for my blood sugar is low fat and bicycling 30min a day on flat terrain.  The best thing for my enjoyment of life – to not have to eat so much sugar.  I really don’t look forward to it.

So what kind of diet is low-carb, low-meat, low-fat, and lower-sugar?  Maybe one with dairy (mostly low-fat), some lean meat, lots of vegetables, some fruit (when I feel like it).  Plus avoid stress and get exercise.

I still love Ray Peat – he gave me progesterone, Vitamin E, red lights, liver, vitamin K, dairy, raw carrots, and taught me that estrogen, PUFAs and serotonin are bad guys.  I’m continuing on with much of what he has to say.  Just less sugar.  More vegetables.  More exercise.

I might as well retire the blog.  I have nothing original to say anymore.

So there it is.  That’s my new plan.

Conclusion: CW Doesn’t Work For Me

Well, after about 11 days of exercising every day and maintaining what should be a calorie deficit I have essentially lost no weight.  I did get as low as 200.4 (a net loss of 2.6 pounds) on October 1st, but then I regained a pound and I’ve been stuck at 201.5 for the last 4 days. My calorie intake over that time averaged 1769 calories per day, and I recorded EVERYTHING.  If I was unsure about the calorie count of a food I rounded up.  I did 30 minutes of cardio (biking) on 10 out of these 11 days.  My heart rate (measured via monitor with a chest strap) during those sessions stayed between 130 and 140, which is 73%-79% of my maximum heart rate (60%-80% is generally considered an appropriate zone for aerobic fitness conditioning and health).

The only positive effect seems to have been on my blood sugar, and for that reason I may end up keeping up the biking.  I’m going to stop counting calories though.

New plan.  Based on my Thyroid labs a few months back I decided to experiment with thyroid hormone, and I ordered some T3.  My T3 and T4 were both within range but on the low end.  I could have either tried T3 or Natural Dessicated Thyroid (NDT), but decided to go the T3 route to start.  I received the T3 yesterday, and am going to start this today.  Just took my first very small fraction of a pill – about 4 mcg. I’m going to see how it affects me on this dose for now and increase very gradually to avoid hyperthyroid symptoms.

The timing of this is interesting.  Within 11 days of diet and exercise my resting heart rate dropped 12 points (from the low 80s to the high 60s).  I know that a lower heart rate is generally associated with good physical condition, but it is also a sign of low thyroid.  It’s hard for me to believe my cardiovascular health improved that much in 11 days…the more obvious reason for the drop is a change in thyroid function. See this article for some of the ways hypothyroidism can affect heart function.

Yesterday I felt depressed and lethargic and craved sugar all day (very unusual for me…I can generally take or leave sugar).  And this morning for the first time I checked my basal body temperature.  It was 96.9 – pretty low.  These things too can indicate hypothyroidism, which can be exacerbated by diet, exercise, or other forms of stress the body endures.  I’ve been reading Ray Peat’s blog (with translation into practical steps thanks to Danny Roddy).  Peat focuses extensively on thyroid health, from what I gather so far.  I have a lot to learn and a lot to read but it’s a direction that may prove helpful.

I do know this: when I lived in California almost no one around me was fat.  No one I knew there exercised or ate a particularly healthful diet – but no one was fat.  Here in Wisconsin everyone is fat.  There’s something different about the environment – maybe a lack of iodine in the local soil? – that has a massive effect on the health of the population.

And I can’t forget…my own sister had her thyroid removed after being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s.

So for now I’m busy learning.  And trying T3.

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 7

Progress:

Weight change since yesterday: +0.5
Weight loss so far: 1.9 lbs

Yesterdays diet:

  • Net calorie intake (after exercise): 1553
  • Protein 31% (149g)
  • Carbs 23% (108g)
  • Fat 46% (97g)

Today’s bike ride:

  • Time: 24:53 minutes
  • Distance: 3.95 miles
  • Avg speed: 9.53 mph
  • Calories burned: 254

The song I finished with:

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:

Conventional Wisdom – Day 3

Progress:

  • Weight today: 200.8
  • Weight loss so far: 2.2 lbs

Yesterdays diet:

  • Net calorie intake (after exercise): 1774
  • Protein 29% (150g)
  • Carbs 25% (132g)
  • Fat 46% (107g)

Today’s bike ride:

  • Time: 35:39 minutes
  • Distance: 5.37 miles
  • Avg speed: 9.03 mph
  • Calories burned: 345

Scene from the ride:

IMG_3433

I’m going to keep sharing these pictures from my ride, even if they’re a little dull some (ok, most) days.  Looking for something interesting to share keeps me busy on my ride…and it keeps me looking for the beautiful and unusual in things.

The song I ended on today: