Ask Coach G
I have read a lot of DSMA chat transcripts-there are a lot of questions about diabetes and exercise. I began thinking, “How can I help the community obtain the answers to the questions that I sometimes struggle with?” I called my good friend, Ginger Vieira and asked her if she would be interested in helping out the diabetes community by having a monthly Q&A session focused on diabetes health. I’m glad Coach G agreed.
Dear Coach G,
I’ve heard that the best times to eat carbohydrates is at breakfast, and before/after you workout…if you’re trying to lose weight. Why?
Okay, so you’ve definitely heard right! This is actually true for anyone, whether or not they have diabetes, but it’s especially helpful for a person with diabetes to understand.
In our bodies, we have “glycogen stores.” In a nutshell, this is where your body stores glucose so your brain and body has backup glucose in-between the meals you eat. Those stores are located first in your liver, and secondly, in your muscles. Most of the glycogen is found in your liver. When you eat carbohydrates, your body converts those carbohydrates to glucose, and then: 1. Uses the glucose immediately for energy. 2. If it doesn’t need it immediately for energy, it will store that glucose in your liver and muscles as glycogen. 3. If those stores are full, it will store that glucose as body fat.
Your brain needs a second-by-second delivery of glucose all day, every day. During times like when you’re asleep all night, your brain uses that glycogen as fuel. By the time you wake up in the morning, the majority of your glycogen stores are empty. When you eat carbohydrates at breakfast, you know that very little of it, or any, could be stored as fat, because you will definitely need some of it immediately for energy (since you haven’t eaten in hours), and you then you will store the remainder as glycogen to refill those stores.
Now, if you were to eat 60 grams of carbohydrates at breakfast, and then another 60 grams of lunch, chances are that some of the glucose created from those carbohydrates at lunch are going to be stored as body fat, because you didn’t just wake up and you didn’t just exercise.
Speaking of exercise, this is the other time of day when you deplete (or use up) the stores of glycogen in your body. During exercise, your body releases that glycogen, converts it into glucose, and uses it for fuel. Depending on the intensity of your exercise, you can deplete that glycogen storage with your workout; therefore the carbohydrates you eat after you exercise will mostly be converted to glucose, used immediately for energy, and the remainder will be stored as glycogen. Very little, if any, will be left over to be stored as body fat.
Moral of the story? If you’re trying to lose weight or maintain your weight, focus the carbohydrates you eat during the day at breakfast and before/after you exercise. The amount of carbohydrates that will fill your stores vary from person to person, depending on your weight, ratio of muscle to body fat, etc. but a good start for the average person is 30 grams for a woman and 50 to 60 grams for a man, at a time.
For more guidance on balancing your blood sugar around exercise, check out my book: Your Diabetes Science Experiment.
**Interested in submitting a question for Coach G to answer? you can email them to firstname.lastname@example.org
About Coach G: Ginger Vieira has lived with Type 1 diabetes and Celiac disease since 1999. Today she is a cognitive diabetes coach at Livingin-Progress, personal trainer, author, and freelance writer and video blogger. In 2011, Ginger published “Your DiabetesScience Experiment.” In 2009 and 2010, Ginger set 15 records in drug-free powerlifting with personal best lifts including a 308 lb. deadlift, 190 lb. bench press, and 265 lb. squat. She is the Mental Skills Coach for TeamWILD.org. Find her YouTube Channel for diabetes video blogs at YouTube.com/user/GingerVieira.