Physical activity plays a major role in blood sugar regulation.
Any carbohydrates that you eat, be they rice, pasta, bread, fruit or sugar eventually end up in the blood stream as glucose, a single sugar molecule. Blood glucose levels are controlled by insulin, which lowers blood sugar following a meal, and by other hormones which raise blood sugar when necessary, for example during prolonged exercise or when under stress.
Insulin lowers blood glucose by ‘pushing’ it into the cells of our body, where it is either metabolized for energy or stored as a sugar reserve called glycogen. As long as this happens efficiently, and we don’t overload our body with more carbs than it can process, things are fine. However, when we exceed the intake of carbs beyond what is needed, excess glucose is converted to fat, and stored in our fat cells. If this process happens on a regular basis, our body can become insensitive to the hormone insulin, and blood glucose levels are not lowered efficiently any longer. This phenomenon is referred to as insulin resistance, which can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes.
Endurance athletes are known to be highly insulin sensitive (opposite of resistant), as they turn over a high amount of sugar during their physical activity. Although they eat a high carb diet to fuel their sports activities, they manage to stay lean year-round.
Therefore, if you feel that carbs are making you fat, you probably need to
- control your carb intake and
- increase your physical activity
People who exercise a lot can tolerate more carbs and more sugar.
The recommendations are to exercise at least 2.5 hours per week, but ideally you should perform more exercise than that. Many people will argue that it’s impossible to exercise more than 2.5 hours per week, however they always somehow find the time for TV, Facebook and social events.
However much time you have for exercise, do as much as you can on a regular basis to increase your tolerance for carbohydrates and remain healthy and diabetes-free.
The UK Surgeon General once quoted “If exercise was a pill, it would be regarded as a wonder drug or miracle cure.”
All we have to do is move.