Woman reading food label

Count Carbs To Manage Your Glucose Levels

Celia Rivenbank, author of “Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like A Skank: And Other Words Of Delicate Southern Wisdom, cites the derivation of the word carbohydrates as, “from the Latin, carbo, which means “yummy” and hydrates which means “cinnamon bun.” and allows that they “are not something I can eliminate or even drastically cut back on.” While many of us may echo this sentiment, food science dictates that the term carbohydrates represents any food that is rich in the complex carbohydrate starch, or simple carbohydrates like sugar. Put the two definitions together and you get bad news for someone who is trying to lower his or her glucose level.

When it comes to controlling blood glucose levels, counting carbohydrates works the best of any system, including counting calories and avoiding sugar. This is because carbohydrates are what are responsible for rising glucose levels right after meals. If you take insulin, counting carbs allows you to match the doses of insulin to the foods you eat, providing for greater dietary flexibility and countering post meal lows and highs. A study done by the Texas School of Allied Health sciences found that people who ate regulated amounts of carbohydrates lowered their blood glucose level by 55 ml/dl.

Carb Counting 101

Read Labels
Luckily, the FDA requires manufacturers to list nutritional information and ingredients on food labels, including carbohydrates. Total carbohydrate represents everything in the food that is carbohydrate including starch, fiber, sugar, and sugar alcohol. Look at the number next to the g (grams). The percentage that follows is not relevant to carb counting. For a most accurate reading, subtract the fiber grams from the carb count because fiber does not raise blood glucose and subtract half the grams of sugar alcohol because sugar alcohols affect glucose levels half as much as other carbs. Also, remember to adjust for servings.

Check Listings
If you are buying foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables that do not carry a label, printed and electronic nutrient listings are available in booklet form, as downloads and on the internet. They can also be downloaded to a personal digital assistant, so you can have access to nutritional information in grocery stores and restaurants.

Estimate Portions
Portion conversion is a method involving estimating the serving of food by comparing it to a common object. For example, you know that a cup of cooked pasta has about 40 grams off carbs. You estimate that the portion on your plate in 1 1/2 cup by comparing it to a 12 oz. soft drink can.

Here are some handy measuring devices: The fist of an average adult is equal to one cup, a child’s fist is equal to a half cup, a deck of cards is equal to 1/3 cup, and a 12 ounce soda can is equal to 1 1/2 cups. Of course, it this tool works best when you have the objects in front of you, but with practice, you will find that you can eyeball it down fairly accurately.

If you are monitoring your glucose level, we hope this has been helpful. Let us know how you do it! Good luck and good health! We love to hear from you, as always!

girl doing exercise in gym

Avoiding Muscle Cramps During Exercise

So there’s this really cute guy at your gym. You feel emboldened because you just shed about 15 pounds and your new tank top reveals your newly flat belly. You see him on the treadmill. You give a little wave and smile. He waves and smiles back. Good sign. You maintain eye contact as you straddle the stationary bike. You feel his eyes on you as you start to pedal. And then…it happens! You are seized by a blinding shooting pain causing your leg muscles to spasm uncontrollably. Your face becomes a mask of agony. The cute guy looks away, horrified. You will never live this one down.
The most commonly accepted explanation for muscle cramps is dehydration, so most of us will try to combat a cramp with a glass of water. However, the reason for muscle cramps may be far more extensive and avoiding them may not be a simple as grabbing a glass of H2O.

Fluids
The jury on the effects of hydration on muscle cramps is still out. Some studies find there is no correlation between cramps and liquids, others show that fluids and electrolytes can be an effective way to avoid or delay muscle cramps. If dehydration is a cause of cramping, it would work something like this: When we don’t get enough to drink fluids outside our cells decrease and our nerve endings get crowded together, The result of this is a spontaneous discharge or a muscle twitch, leading to a muscle cramp. Proper hydration will prevent this from happening. So, to drink or not to drink? To drink of course. The benefits of staying hydrated during exercise are virtually never-ending, even if they don’t include the prevention of cramps. Experts agree that you let your thirst be your guide in determining the proper amount of fluid to drink and when to drink it.

Muscle Fatigue
Cramps are most common among beginner athletes and those who exercise too intensely because cramps are more likely to result from muscle fatigue. Exercisers should make sure to warm up muscles and pace their exercises to avoid strain. Adapting to heat may also cause cramps. When warmer weather arrives, take precautions to avoid starting workouts with too much intensity; don’t go from 0-100 too quickly.

Salt
Electrolytes are necessary for shifting fluids into and out of cells. Sodium is an electrolyte found in table salt. When it sweats, the body doesn’t just lose water, it loses sodium. Replacing the water without replacing the sodium can lead to dangerously low sodium levels, otherwise known as hyponatremia. This condition is most likely to occur during high endurance workouts which produce repeated sweating and can lead to painful cramping. Sodium can and should be replaced by snacking on salty foods or drinking sports drinks with high sodium levels.

Carbohydrates
Although some may claim they are the devil incarnate, carbs are still the main source of fuel for exercise. Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in our muscles, and muscle cramps can set in when the store is exhausted. This is because our muscles use carbs to contract and also to relax. While exercise makes muscles contract, without enough fuel, muscle relaxation becomes impaired . If the muscle cannot relax, it can cramp.
Energy from carbs usually lasts through 60 to 90 minutes of exercise. Carbohydrates should be consumed if the workout exceeds that limit. Eat carbs before and during exercise, as needed.

So if you want to avoid those painful cramps, stick to these guidelines:

  1. Make sure to get appropriate training.
  2. Get used to the environment.
  3. Make sure your body gets enough fluids.
  4. Eat salty foods of high sodium sports drinks during, before and following exercise.
  5. Consume carbohydrates before working out and every 60 to 90 minutes thereafter.