It was 2014 and I was looking at a lot of red in my most recent blood work results. What’s all this red?” I asked my Doctor. “Well,” she said, “It shows your cholesterol is on the higher side and you have some insulin resistance.” I know high cholesterol was bad, but “what is insulin resistance, exactly?” I wasn’t quite sure. I’m pretty up on all the latest health information. I’m an athlete, I eat whatever I want, but I burn it all off, don’t I? That’s what I thought, anyway. Turns out that’s not the case. Insulin Resistance is also referred to as Pre-Diabetes! What?!! Thankfully my doctor told me I hadn’t progressed to the point of no return and with a few lifestyle changes we could reverse the trend. I took a much deeper dive into my blood work and more importantly, my diet.
As an endurance athlete, I’ve participated in marathons, triathlons, the famed Leadville 100 mountain bike race, multi-day Adventure Races, and more. I always watched what I eat, I don’t drink alcohol, but used to enjoy my chips and dessert. For many years, I bought into the “carbohydrates are your fuel” motto for years and years. My first marathon was in 2000. I planned my intake like a scientist. I knew when I was supposed to take my gels, eat my bars, and drink my drinks.
That first race led to my first triathlon, then to my first Adventure Race. And for the first 5-6 years of that decade I was literally off to the races. I loved it. I would train for hours each day, sometimes I’d go out for a 6 hour bike ride, then a 2 hour run, and maybe even mix in a 3 hour paddle on the ocean. It was so much fun, it unlocked the kid in me. What I didn’t realize, however, is that I was over stimulating my pancreas. It wasn’t until years later, 2014 to be exact, that I found out I’d been fueling all wrong.
Here are the basics:
– You take in food or drink and your glucose, or blood sugar, increases.
– Your pancreas secretes insulin to stabilize that spike in blood sugar, otherwise you get the shakes, become sick to your stomach, possibly faint, or throw up.
– If you continue to over stimulate your pancreas, it eventually decides to quit. This is Type 2 Diabetes. It’s when the pancreas stops secreting insulin and you have to take it yourself. i.e. shoot it into your arm.
– Type 1 diabetics are actually born with a non-secreting pancreas and have to deal with this, usually from the time they are children.
As I began to look deeper into my diet, I saw that I was having way too much in the way of sports drinks, but also too much natural carbohydrates. That was coming in the form of oatmeal, fruits, etc. It turns out that I knew a bit about the Paleo diet and that it was all about low carbs, high fat, moderate protein. It also turns out that I know Mark Sisson, the author of Primal Blueprint and the creator of PrimalKitchen brand. I sent him an email, and he said, welcome to the club!
His plan, which I began to follow, is 0-50 carbs per day = ketosis (when your brain is fueled by ketones); 50-100 carbs per day = weight loss; and 100-150 carbs per day = maintenance. I didn’t need to loose any weight, but did need to shift my body from being carbohydrate reliant to burning fat for fuel. This took a few weeks. In fact, Drs. Phinney & Volek, wrote The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance which was a wonderful resource for me. It took a few weeks, but instead of my oatmeal banana breakfast followed by a post-workout banana fruit protein smoothie. I changed to some green tea before my workout and a low carb protein shake with water and almond milk or simply eggs and a salad.
As I said, it took a few weeks of training, but I definitely began to feel the difference. I no longer had as many spikes in energy, which I’m sure would’ve been reflected in my glucose levels. I gave up just about all breads, pastas, grains, chips, sugary drinks, heavy carb foods like potatoes, and now I have 85% organic dark chocolate for a treat. On occasion I’ll have a few bites of a dessert, but nothing even close to what I had prior to making the shift.
My basic meals:
Breakfast, when I have it (sometimes I’ll fast until lunch), could be eggs with avocado and a small salad. Maybe some spinach and tomatoes and the occasional cheese. (almost 0 carbs)
Lunch is pretty consistently a vegetable salad including avocado, lots of veggies, chia seeds, hemp seeds, maybe some cheese, salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and vinegar. (depending on the veggies, very little carbs)
Dinner can be another salad, or any of the multitude of vegetarian dishes my wife will make. You can check out some of her amazing recipes at DelectableYou.com. My meals are mostly low carb and if they’re heavy on the carbs, I’ll have half of a serving plus a salad. And when I say heavy on the carbs, I mean quinoa based, or sweet potato based, or a lot of beans. These are healthy carbohydrates and all very good for you, but not if you have insulin resistance. They are only good for you in small doses. Sometimes I’ll have fish if I’m training more and feel like I need more protein or if we’re out to dinner. I choose salmon when possible as it has the greatest benefit.
I usually pass on most desserts or maybe I’ll have a bite or 2. I do however, enjoy some organic 85% dark chocolate. I have about half of a serving which winds up being 2.5gms of sugar. That’s very low in the world of desserts.
Last, but definitely not least, I repeated my blood work in 2015 and 2016. When I look at all 3 years, I’ve continued to watch my HDL (good cholesterol) increase, my LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides both decrease. For me, the results have moved 10-15% in the healthier direction. All that red in my chart has become yellow or green. I’ll plan on doing my tests again this year and every year going forward. I cannot stress how important a trending pattern of results can be. One snapshot is not enough evidence to make serious changes. But if you’re in a similar situation and you need to make changes because you might come down with Diabetes, or a heart attack, or Alzheimer’s, you can reverse the issue. I’m here to help if you need. Send me a message @teddymcdonald and I’ll be happy to help. In the meantime watch your sugar intake!
Originally published on the author’s website.