Haims: Feeling fit and ready for a bathing suit?
Not too long ago while having some drinks with friends after a mountain bike ride in Fruita, a couple sitting nearby struck up a conversation with the group of people I was with. Seems that the wife, Lisa, is a dietician at National Jewish and her husband Jim is an endocrinologist specializing in diabetes at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical.
“If you’re really looking forward to putting on a bathing suit and sitting poolside with your wife in Mexico, you may want to switch from those Long Island iced teas to something with less sugar.” This way Lisa’s opening line to my friend John as he headed to the bar for a refill.
Hearing this comment, the rest of us busted out laughing at John’s expense. John being one of the funniest and most affable people I know returned from the bar with his Long Island, a couple of beers for Lisa and Jim, and an invite to come sit with us.
Over the ensuing couple of hours we all laughed, shared biking stories, and for my friends and me, got educated on many of our misconceptions of exercise, diet, and alcohol consumption.
Our first misconceptions was that while we were all aware that alcohol is full of “empty calories,” we assumed that our workouts for the most part offset a lot of our alcohol consumption. Figuring that we rode fairly vigorously for about two hours, Lisa guesstimated that at best we may have burned between 1,500 and 2,000 calories.
Considering John’s three Long Islands have about 600-1,000 calories in each, he was very upside down. Me on the other hand, drinking double vodka sodas at about 250-300 calories each, almost completely negated my workout.
Lisa explained that alcohol:
- Decreases the rate of protein synthesis, a process that assists muscle growth, healing, and repair
- Slows down metabolism.
- Dramatically reduces endurance for a number of days after an intense bike ride/workout
At some point during our conversation, Jim left and came back with a little black pouch and rested it on the table. Once we all finished our lunches, Jim asked who among us knew if they had higher than normal blood sugar level (prediabetes) or had been diagnosed with diabetes.
Only my buddy Joe fessed up that his doctor had told him his levels were “on the higher side” and suggested he keep an eye on it. However, his doctor never went into detail about how to monitor his levels, so he never bothered checking.
Jim opened the black pouch and asked if Joe wanted him to check his A1C glucose levels. After we all teased Joe and goaded him on, he let Jim test his levels. As Jim tested Joe, he explained he himself had adult onset of diabetes and has monitored it for years. He explained that he checks his levels regularly and that was why he had the test kit in his truck.
A minute or two later Joe’s score came up. We all got quiet. Jim’s facial expression as he looked at the reading said it all. “Joe, your levels are really high.” Joe’s reading was 207 which Jim explained corresponded to an A1C level of 8. We stared incredulously at Jim not knowing what that meant. Jim explained that a “somewhat safe” level should under 160. Joe’s result was obviously not great.
My friends and I are all in our early to mid-50s. While we all know alcohol is not great for our health and our diet is not optimal, we all kinda figured our year-round level of exercise compensated somewhat. Not so much.
After returning from our weekend ride, Joe made an appointment to see his doctor. After discussing the weekend’s events, his doctor had Joe tested and confirmed Joe was at risk. They discussed options and Joe has since made changes to his lifestyle.
I share this story because I saw Joe recently while watching my son’s hockey in Denver. Joe explained that since our ride he has made changes to his lifestyle and the results have been noticeable. He has lost 7 pounds and his estimated average glucose levels are now about 10-13 points better.
I asked him what some of the changes were that lowered his levels. Joe said it wasn’t much and it wasn’t too hard. He avoids sodas, eats fewer turkey subs (processed meat and bread), switched from fruit yogurts to plain or vanilla, and skips the Starbucks flavored coffees.
Joe and his wife take off soon for Mexico. While he didn’t say anything to me about it, I know he’s feeling better and looking forward to putting on his bathing suit.
I’ve written about diabetes and having your blood work checked. If you have not read the articles, search my archive on VailDaily.com. Or, if you want more professional information, make time to go online and educate yourself on the valuable insight a blood test can provide about your health.
If you believe that changing the oil in your car or truck is a good idea, then it shouldn’t be a far stretch to understand your blood may provide a reading for the health of your body.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. He can be contacted at visitingangels.com/comtns or by calling 970-328-5526.