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.

New Plan 3.0

I’ve been eating starches for almost 2 week now, and they make me feel like taking a nap. Every time.  Some of the common reasons folks get tired in the middle of the day are sleep deprivation, lowering of stress hormones, and food intolerance.  Hm…There’s no way I’m this sleep deprived.  There’s no way my stress hormones are super-high and the starches are lowering them, thus revealing my “true fatigue” (cuz if that were the case, sugar would have made me sleepy too). There’s no way I’m intolerant of every kind of starch…is there?  Is it possible white potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, oatmeal, and gluten free bread/pasta are all making me tired because my body is completely intolerant to all of those foods?  No.

I don’t know why this is happening, but it sucks.  I can handle about 1/4 cup of potatoes with a meal before I get too tired to function.  And even then I don’t have much energy.

So my conclusion – for now – is that I won’t find the solution to these problems in my diet…because EVERYTHING (with the exception of maybe milk and dill pickles) seems to be killing me or killing my enjoyment of life.  Or both.

So here’s my new plan:

I’m going to focus instead on exercise.  The last time I got in the habit of bicycling every day my blood sugar improved dramatically, dropping to within normal ranges within a week. I stopped because it got cold outside and because I was afraid my slowing pulse meant my thyroid wasn’t happy.  Things are more dire now….because now I have diabetes, for realz. Uncontrolled diabetes.  A couple days ago my fasting blood sugar was 155 – not an all time personal record or anything, but too flippin high.  When I first started eating starches my fasting blood sugar dropped to between 110 and 120 for a few days (don’t know why) – now it’s above 130 every day.

Yesterday I started biking.  I biked today too, and will tomorrow.  And the next day.

So what to eat?  For now, mostly Peat-friendly foods, without much of a plan. Someone on Facebook linked to this interesting study about saturated fats causing greater insulin resistance than monounsaturated fats.  They found that among people who ate less fat than the median (I think it’s less than 37% of calories, but I’m not sure and don’t have the full-text of the study), monounsaturated fats (e.g., olive oil) promoted insulin sensitivity, while saturated fats caused greater insulin resistance.  Can’t say I’ve ever heard that before.  I do eat about 40% of my calories in the form of saturated fats right now, so it may be a good idea to try substituting some olive oil, and reduce fat overall.  So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not going to be crazy about it, but I’ll stop adding fat when its not necessary, and swap out some of the saturated fat for a while.  Olive oil has more PUFA than either butter or coconut oil, but that’s just going to have to be ok.  For now.

I predict my fasting blood sugar will be in the 90s within 2 weeks.

My resistant starch + probiotics experiment continues.  I’m so scared to up my potato starch intake because of the extreme GI distress it caused me before.  But I must.  Maybe tomorrow.

If my blood sugar isn’t under control within 1 month, I’m going to see a doctor and get medication.  I feel like my time to noodle around has run out.

I’m so tired from eating starches – even just 1/2 cup of potatoes or rice – 15g of carbohydrate – that I find myself avoiding them.  Low carb is no good for my thyroid.  High sugar no good for my triglycerides.  Out of time, out of ideas.  If exercise and olive oil don’t fix this very soon I’ll have to give in.

Train Wreck

Fasting blood sugar this morning: 143.  Not awesome.

Weight steady for 6 days straight at exactly 207.5.

Still having hot flashes.  Is it possible it’s completely unrelated to the niacinamide/aspirin regimen I just started?  How could that be when the hot flashes started right after I started taking these supplements 3x a day?  Well, to be accurate they started 3 days after I started taking them, exactly when I increased the niacinamide to 250mg 3x/day from 100mg 3x/day.  They’re annoying now.  I can’t seem to correlate them to anything.  They happen in the middle of the night, right before eating, right after eating protein, right after eating sugar, an hour after eating sugar…If this was a stress response related to not enough sugar I think it would be prevented by eating it, right?

I’m starting to feel discouraged.

I started the niacinamide to address my ridiculously high triglyceride level.  However, various sources around the web say that niacin (NOT the non-flushing niacinamide) is more effective for this.  And apparently both niacin and niacinamide can cause higher blood sugar in diabetics (yup, got that too).  I feel like I’m completely fucked!  I mean, I’m trying to fix one thing and it’s making the other thing worse…and I’m not even sure it can possibly help the first thing, plus weird hot flashes.  WTF IS GOING ON WITH ME?

I haven’t even told you the best part yet.  For the last few months I’ve been feeling a sort of pressure under my left ribcage.  It had recently been turning into discomfort, and a little bit of pain throughout my upper torso. Research on the web suggested in might be an enlarged spleen, which can signal that other organs (like the liver) are having some kind of problem. That’s why I got labs done a couple weeks ago, including a complete blood count (CBC) – to look for elevated liver enzymes or other indicators that some organ might be struggling or fighting an infection or something.  After seeing those triglyceride numbers I was motivated to stop with the starches (again) and started eating a low fat diet – because hell, I’ve tried everything else, right?  (Well, and also because Ray Peat suggested it might be a key to lowering my blood sugar.)  Well, since I’ve been eating lower fat the pressure under my ribcage has gotten better – it’s not gone, but I’d say 75% improved, and the pain is gone.

I consulted Dr. Google again today, and it turns out high triglycerides can cause inflammation of the pancreas.  Definitely when trigs are SUPER high, like over 1000 mg/dL, but who knows – maybe when lower but still high (like me)?  Symptoms of pancreatitis: pain/pressure in upper abdomen, radiating to the back, as well as other things like nausea (which I didn’t have).  Holy crap – so now my pancreas is about to explode?  Recovery from mild pancreatitis involves a low-fat diet (maybe that’s why mine is helping?) and medication to reduce triglycerides.  Oh, and stop eating sugar and fat.

I’ve decided to get another fasting lipid panel done tomorrow, to see if I’m on the right track.  Our local health department will do it for $20, and you get the results right away….so I’ll be following up on this tomorrow.  If things are NOT even a tiny bit improved after abstaining from starches, eating lower fat, and taking niacinamide and aspirin 3x a day, I’ll be seriously reconsidering the path I’m on.  I FEEL better with a Ray Peat inspired diet, but if my labs continue to suck I’m going to have to change directions.

Here’s my diet breakdown today:

crono

Carb/Protein ratio and Calcium/phosphorus ratios were short of ideal today, and fat was a little too high.

And did I mention it really pisses me off that niacinamide raises blood sugar!?

Crap.

High Carb Low Fat – Day 8

Fasting blood sugar this morning: 117.  Nice to be below 120 again.  I’m not sure why but I have assigned 120 some sort of significance in my mind…I guess I was “prediabetic” for years and my blood sugars fluctuated between 100 and 120 – so when my fasting blood sugar is under 120 now it feels like I undid some damage.  I’m sure this is magical thinking.

Weight has been stable for the last 5 days at exactly 207.5.  I don’t know why, but since I started following the recommendations of Ray Peat my weight is exactly the same every day unless I eat starches…no ups and downs because of fluid retention.  Maybe it’s because I eat gobs of salt now and my body feels no need to retain water anymore.

Thermoregulation is still off.  Not as many hot flashes today, but still having them.  I wonder if it’s completely unrelated to niacinamide.  Maybe I’m in menopause!  All of a sudden!

Here are my macros today:

crono

Too much protein, but I just felt like eating meat today.  So I did…but it messed up my carb:protein ratio.  Fat % was good today at 21%, calcium-phosphorus ratio was shy of 1:1 by about 200mg calcium.  Overall, pretty good day.

So now, to avoid unwanted additives, I’m using bulk aspirin powder and niacinamide powder 3x a day.  I’m not sure how other people do this without feeling burdened by it…I mean, do they bring their little milligram scale to work with them and measure out their teeny tiny quantities of bulk supplements on their lunch break?  Definitely not as convenient as tablets.  Well, I came up with my own method so I only have to measure and dose once, first thing in the morning, and I can pair it with other nutritious food.  First, I get coffee brewing.  While I’m doing that I get out my little milligram scale and 3 pint-sized jars.  My coffee maker makes 24 ounces of coffee (it’s little). (Note: I make weak coffee so in my nutritional breakdown, above, I only record 12 ounces, even though I drink 24 ounces of coffee). 

Ok, so I get a bowl out.  I pour all 24 oz of coffee into the bowl, and add 3 tablespoons of honey and a heaping 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the coffee, and stir until dissolved.  Then I fill each of the jars half way with the coffee mixture. Then I measure out my aspirin and niacinamide and add them to each of the 3 jars, as well as a drop of Vitamin K2.  So now each jar contains 8oz of coffee, 1T honey, 1/6 t. salt, 100mg aspirin powder, 100mg niacinamide powder and 1mg K2.  Then I fill each jar up with skim milk.  Finally I put lids on each jar and shake them up.  Done!  Then I drink one in the morning, one at noon, and one around dinner time.  I do shake them again before drinking because the supplements don’t dissolve fully. They taste like sweet-salty coffee flavored milk.  It’s really good if you like sweet/salty combination foods.

So that’s my solution to the pain-in-the-ass bulk supplement situation!  I’m going to be bummed if it turns out I shouldn’t be pairing aspirin or niacinamide with coffee or milk for some reason.  I’d get over it though, so definitely tell me if that’s the case.

High Carb Low Fat – Day 6

Fasting blood sugar this morning: 135.

Well, hm…

This morning I had a message waiting for me from a friend who read yesterdays blog post, in which I commented that I was having hot flashes since increasing my thrice-daily dose of niacinamide from 100mg to 250mg.  She informed me that niacinamide shouldn’t cause a “flushing” response and that what I was experiencing was likely a stress response.  Niacinamide inhibits the release of free fatty acids from the cells, allowing the body to gradually detoxify itself of stored polyunsaturated fats. Ray Peat says this is a good thing.  Well, if there are fewer fatty acids released into the bloodstream, you need enough fuel in the form of food (specifically, sugar) or the body turns on stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) to break down proteins/muscle for fuel.  In other words, if you’re going to take large doses of niacinamide, you better be eating a lot of sugar – and you probably need to be able to store it well to be used throughout the day.  I guess my 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein wasn’t enough.

This explains my still-high fasting blood sugar, despite eating low fat for 5 days now.  Stress hormones are turning on and staying high overnight because my body is out of fuel.

Well, I got this information this morning, and set about to eat lots and lots of sugar today to see if I could turn off the hot-flash stress response.  But today, despite eating 100 grams of sugar more than usual, I continued to have the hot flashes.  So maybe my body isn’t storing glucose effectively yet.  Maybe my current physiological state can’t handle that much niacinamide without invoking a stress response.  So tomorrow it’s back to 100mg 3x a day.  I felt fine on that dose.  I predict my fasting blood sugar will be under 120 again within 2 days.

Here were my macros today:

crono

And my nutrient breakdown:

nutrients

The nutrients look a whole lot like they did yesterday.  Actually, that’s how they look just about every day.  Almost enough folate and potassium, short on manganese, and everything else looking good.  I checked into sources of manganese – looks like spinach is a good source.  Other than that, there’s nuts, fish, and a bunch of other things that are high in PUFAs.  I’ll make spinach tomorrow.

High Carb Low Fat – Day 4

Well, it took a few days, but my fasting blood sugar was again down below 120 this morning.  The scale is down a few pounds too, but too soon to tell if that’s a trend – those pounds come back every time I eat starches and go away every time I stop.

You know, it’s really hard to eat low fat. I was so darn happy to be able to eat gobs of fat when following a Paleo diet, and then when following a Kruse diet, and then when following a Nutritional Ketosis diet, and then when just eating whatever the hell I wanted.  No wonder everyone hates that stupid food pyramid, with that teeny tiny box at the top with a teeny tiny stick of butter sitting in it.  Well, that and the fact that it doesn’t work because of all the poisons taking up the biggest section.  But I digress.

Here’s my stuff for today:

crono

Carb to protein ratio – 2:1

Calcium to Phosphorus ratio: almost 1:1 (1964mg cal to 2195mg phos)

Fat: 21.7% of calories today.

 

Low Fat – 2 Week Review

A couple weeks ago I decided I was going to change one thing at a time and stop confounding all of my variables, so I have a shot at actually knowing what is and what is not helping me.  I decided to start with eating low-fat, which Ray Peat says should help with weight reduction. But more importantly, I wanted to test to see if fat intake would have an effect on my blood sugar.  Most people (and doctors) believe diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar.  Peat says otherwise – that the cells’ uptake of glucose is impaired by fat intake.

The antagonism between fat and sugar that Randle described can involve the suppression of sugar oxidation when the concentration of fats in the bloodstream is increased by eating fatty food, or by releasing fats from the tissues by lipolysis, but it can also involve the suppression of fat oxidation by inhibiting the release of fatty acids from the tissues, when a sufficient amount of sugar is eaten.

I have previously interpreted this as being primarily polyunsaturated fat being the problem, and reduced my PUFA intake…but my blood sugar stayed disappointingly high.  A re-read indicates he doesn’t actually doesn’t say PUFAs alone are the culprit – he says that dietary fat (doesn’t specify which kind) competes with sugar to get into the cells and provide energy.  High fat = poor glucose metabolism.  Well, I’ve had a high fat diet for the last 2-3 years, and also have had increasingly poor glucose metabolism.  So I thought I’d try to reduce fat in my food and track my fasting blood sugar to evaluate for effect.

So I started eating low-fat on 3/18/14 – not quite 2 weeks ago.  I stopped for 5 days in the middle of my experiment because I was tired of eating sugar all day long.  I don’t even like sugar.  When you don’t eat starches (I don’t…makes me depressed) and you’re limiting meat and fat, you end up eating a lot of sugar (fruit/juice/honey) for fuel.  I think Peat would say that’s ideal, but I was getting tired of eating so much sweet stuff.  So I gave up in the middle. When I did that, though, I noticed an interesting blood-sugar trend.  So I again went low-fat for a few more days to see what would happen.  Here are the results:

Blood Sugar vs Fat Intake

My blood sugar is high.  I’m pretty much diabetic.  This is a given.  But look at what happens when I reduce the fat in my diet, increase it again, and then reduce it again.  By starting and stopping I managed to create a reversal experiment.  The graph shows a decent correlation between fat intake and fasting blood sugar.  When I eat more fat my blood sugar goes up – less fat, and it goes down.

Now take a look at what happens when I add my carbohydrates intake to the graph – remember this is all simple sugars.  I’ve eaten no starches over the past 2 weeks.

add carb

Because I have to eat something, generally less fat = more carbohydrate intake.  Overall though, carb intake was pretty stable – and it appears to be completely unrelated to my up-and-down fasting blood sugar.

What do I conclude from this?  Well, it’s hard to draw firm conclusions given the short duration of the experiment, but it sure looks like high blood sugar (and possibly type-II diabetes) are related to fat intake much more so than to sugar intake.

RAY PEAT – RIGHT AGAIN!

So what am I going to do about this?  Actually, it’s almost nice enough outside to get out on my bike again, and I intend to do that.  Biking for 30 minutes a day on flat terrain at moderate intensity has reliably lowered my blood sugar in the past, and I really like it.  So that’s what I’ll be doing about my blood sugar.  Low-fat just isn’t working for me.  I quit it twice in 2 weeks because it was making me feel all eating-disordy.  Like, feeling resentful and deprived and fantasizing about bread.  I think it could be done if someone (unlike me) could tolerate starches well, but this just wasn’t working for me.

So diet-wise I’m back to eating a regular Peat-y diet – I’ll try to find a balance with fat where I’m eating less than I have in the past but not so little that I’m afraid of a teaspoon of coconut oil.  Probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 70-80g per day.  I’m also done tracking what I eat for a little while.  It’s easy to get obsessed with this stuff.  In a bad way.  I don’t want what I eat to be so damn important.

So what experiment am I going to try next?  I really want to add 10mg of B6 to my supplement regimen, to better help with estrogen management, reduce serotonin, and help with libido.  Will start that today and will report back in 2 weeks.