As someone who has been in the fitness industry for most of my career, I have met a lot of women over the years who love their group fitness classes or who live for cycling or running. They schedule their weeks around their cardiovascular training, almost to the point you’d think they were addicted to it.
In addition to their strong affinity towards chronic cardio, many also admit an overwhelming addiction to sugar.
Some love candy, others love cereal. Still others snack on bagels, crackers, cookies, or their kids’ snack food.
I’m not saying all women who love group fitness overdo it, nor, that they all constantly crave carbohydrates. However, in my experience, most women who hit it pretty hard with high-intensity cardio also deal with an insatiable appetite for sugar. It's a natural response in the body — when you burn sugar, you crave sugar and that's exactly what happens when you consistently exercise at intensity levels near, at or above what's called anaerobic threshold.
I don’t want to alienate the men who do the same thing. Though there aren’t nearly as many guys who live for group fitness classes, there are plenty who live for running and cycling, and have a similar yearning for sugary foods throughout the day.
Physically, most of these men and women appear healthy. Often they’re even quite lean. Friends and fellow gym-goers may look at them and wish they could attain a similar level of leanness. The way someone looks on the outside is not a good indicator of what’s going on inside.
A new study, titled Glucose Levels and Risk of Dementia, in The New England Journal of Medicine, strongly made this point.
- In the study, 839 men and 1,228 women had their glucose and glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) levels measured.
- Of the 2,067 participants, 232 had diabetes and 1,835 didn’t.
- After an average of almost seven years, 25% people developed dementia.
- 86% of those who developed dementia DID NOT have diabetes.
- A blood glucose level of 115 mg/dl was a significant risk factor for the future development of dementia.
High blood sugar levels are a risk factor for dementia even among persons without diabetes.
Most people today who have a blood glucose level between 100-130 mg/dl are told that they’re still healthy by their healthcare practitioners. They might get a half-hearted warning to “keep an eye on their blood sugar” but get little direction beyond that.
This study suggests that those with a blood sugar over 100 mg/dl are not healthy.
Diabetes is diagnosed at blood sugar levels over 130 mg/dl. Dementia can be caused by much lower blood sugar levels. Slightly elevated blood sugar can cause significant problems.
Why does blood sugar rise? From eating sugar. All carbohydrates are converted to sugar, whether they come from brown rice or jelly beans and every individual has a varying ability to both metabolize and tolerate carbohydrates.
The best way to know what your tolerance looks like is to regularly measure your blood sugar levels.
Fasting blood sugar and glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) are the two most common ways of testing how your body handles carbohydrates.
Never make an assumption about how your body handles blood sugar. Get tested on a regular basis, regardless of how you look or feel.
Please, please don’t make the mistake of thinking chronic cardio offsets the impact of overeating carbohydrate rich foods. Also, don’t make the mistake of thinking that being lean on the outside suggests you’re healthy on the inside. Elevated blood sugar could ruin your brain cells long before it affects your fat and muscle tissue.
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