Exercise for Type 2 diabetesI have written extensively on this blog about the different muscle types and how they help ictate what a person with Type 2 diabetes should do for exercise. Rather than hash out all of the research again, you can find the article that cite all of the references here and here. Now, let's just get the crib notes version of all of that.
You have two major types of muscle fibers, Type I and Type II. Type II fibers can be further broken down in to Type IIa and Type IIx fibers. See the chart below of the characteristics of each fiber type. Please note that IIx and IIb are used interchangeably to denote the fastest twitch muscle fibers so on this chart the IIx fibers are referred to as IIb fibers.
Taken from http://general.utpb.edu/fac/eldridge_j/kine3350/chapte19n.jpg
The important thing to realize about these muscle fiber types is that the IIa and IIx fibers can more or less convert to one another depending on training status. When a person begins exercising, over time the IIx fibers convert to IIa fibers while Type I fibers just increase their fat storing ability. When a person stops exercising, eventually the IIa fibers convert back to IIx fibers. This is important for Type 2 diabetes because people prone to Type 2 diabetes have a higher proportion of Type II muscle fibers. People with Type 2 diabetes have a very high percentage of IIx fibers. It is easy to see that the higher proportion of IIx fibers is obviously a result of not partaking in regular exercise.
As a long term adaptation to exercise, muscle fibers begin to store more energy in the form of glucose and fat. Type I fibers use primarily fat to recharge their energy stores while the Type II fiber types tend to store more glucose, or glycogen. Type IIx fibers store less glycogen than IIa fibers and as an adaptation to continued exercise, they begin to increase glycogen stores and convert to IIa fibers. This has a couple of positive benefits with regard to blood glucose control. First, by actively using the glycogen stored within the muscle, the muscle is able to take in more glucose when you eat carbohydrates and store it as glycogen. In addition, this increases the amount of glycogen the muscle fiber can store, giving you more leeway when you decide to consume excessive carbohydrates before they begin turning to fat or accumulating in your bloodstream.
In order to get the Type IIx fibers to convert to IIa fibers, you need to activate them. Type II fiber types are activated during high force movements such as lifting weights or performing the explosive movements common in most sports. They are not typically activated by activities that are long and slow in duration, these activities recruit primarily Type I muscle fibers. In addition, you want to use a full range of motion in whatever activity you are doing or you won't activate all of the muscle fibers from the muscle group you are using. Unfortunately, most people begin jogging or biking in an attempt to help combat Type 2 diabetes. This is a mistake because most people do not do them at an intensity sufficient to activate the Type II muscle fiber types, few people use a full range of motion when they run, and running and biking do little for the upper body.
The best bang for your buck to beat Type 2 diabetes exercise-wise is to either play a sport or strength train. Any sport will do provided it is not an endurance event such as high mileage running or biking, You could even do short sprints which I highly recommend provided you are doing something for your upper body as well. My personal preference is strength training because you can do it in 30 minutes and you can get away with only doing it twice a week if you lift heavy enough weights. You will want to work mostly compound movements such as lunges, pull ups, push ups/bench press, shoulder press, rows, and deadlifts. Technique is important so using an experienced strength coach or personal trainer is a good idea. In my experience, sticking to 3 sets of 12 reps for the first month to break yourself in and gradually working towards 3 sets or 4-8 reps per exercise is the best exercise option for fighting Type 2 diabetes.
Supplements for Type 2 diabetesThere are a few supplements that are beneficial for people with Type 2 diabetes. These include:
MagnesiumMagnesium is critically important for proper blood glucose control. Not only is it necessary for insulin secretion, it's also necessary for glucose to move from your blood in to cells once insulin has attached to the cell to let glucose in. For a thorough discussion on magnesium, click here. The problem with supplementing magnesium is that you want a type of magnesium that is time released so that it doesn't cause loose stool. Magnesium oxide, the form of magnesium most typically found in supplements is poorly absorbed and normally causes loose stool. I personally use Jigsaw Magnesium w/SRT but you can also use any brand of magnesium glycinate or citrate.
You want approximately 420mg or elemental magnesium a day as a maintenance dose. If you are deficient in magnesium, as most people are(Especially people with Type 2 diabetes), you may need much more to become sufficient in magnesium. You can request an RBC magnesium test from an integrative medicine doctor to determine if you have adequate magnesium levels. In addition, if you have low stomach acid, gut dysbiosis, or leaky gut you may want to try transdermal magnesium in the form of magnesium oil or epsom salt baths as you will have problems absorbing it. Since magnesium is water soluble, excess magnesium is simply excreted in the urine. If you have kidney issues you should speak with your doctor before beginning magnesium supplementation. I do not have kidney problems and have gone as high as 1500mg per day between oral (800mg) and transdermal(700mg) for a month with no issue. However, the oil burns and you may need to dilute it with distilled water before applying. If you have problems sleeping, this is your go to supplement.