Water, The True Nectar of Life

How much water do you drink in a day? Think you know the answer? I’ll bet you don’t… Most people don’t get enough hydration throughout the day, and this can lead to problems, especially if you exercise frequently or have Diabetes.

In the old days, we were always told that every person should consume eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day (that’s 1.89 litres for you metric folks). That’s not a lot! But this also doesn’t take into account water contained in foods and other beverages. It’s also no longer correct or relevant.

According to the Mayo Clinic (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256) the human body is composed of approximately 60 percent water. Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of different numbers, including as much as 90 percent, but the majority of health professionals all land on 60 percent. But in general, the agreed guideline is to drink roughly one ounce of water for every pound you weigh. So if you weigh 200 pounds like I do (shut up, that’s my actual weight), then you would need to drink roughly 200 ounces a day, which evens out to almost 6 litres of water. That probably seems like quite a bit, but when you account for the water in your fruits, vegetables, food in general and other drinks such as coffee and juice, I can make do at my weight with roughly 3 to 4 litres of water throughout the day. Okay, I’ll be honest, drinking four litres of water in a day still seems excessive!

But this amount is reflected by the National Academies of Science, Engeneering and Medicine who determined that an adequate amount of water is about 3.7 litres for men and 2.7 litres for women. This takes into account fluids from other beverages and food as well. That’s pretty doable, if you sip consistently throughout the day.

The amount of water you need throughout the day will also depend on mass, age, fitness, hot weather, activity level and outlying medical conditions, such as Diabetes. One condition that Diabetics tend to get is what I like to call “The Devil’s Cycle”. When a Diabetic’s blood sugar rises too high, it has a bit of a diuretic effect and causes frequent urination. High blood sugar also causes increased thirst. So you drink more water, which leads to more urination, and so on and so forth. I call it “The Devil’s Cycle” because until the blood sugar comes down, you basically feel like hell.

Drinking water has an immeasurable number of health benefits, including but not limited to maintaining hydration, aiding in digestion and weight loss, energizing muscle tissue and keeping skin looking good. Regular water consumption aids in weight loss because dehydration is often mistaken for hunger, and people will eat when all they really need is to have some fluids. It also helps to alleviate headaches and is the only true cure fro a hangover. Water and time, people. Water and time.

There are a number of signs that indicate whether you are probably hydrated or not. Most prominently, if you’re not thirsty as all hell, it’s a pretty good sign you’re properly hydrated. I’m not going to start describing colour and odour of urine here, but if your conscientious enough to check, there are signs in your urine that will tell if you’re properly hydrated or not and these can verified through your family practitioner or on a reputable medical website.

Bottom line is that if you’re thirsty, drink some water! When you work out, drink some water! When trying to control your blood sugars, drink some water! See where I’m going with this? DRINK SOME WATER!!! Keeping a reusable, disposable water bottle with you around the house will help with this. My wife and I always have plastic, washable water bottles with us. Stay hydrated, folks!

The Unseen Enemy…

General Vegetius, of the Roman empire, once wrote “If you want peace, prepare for war”. (This comes from the book Epitoma Rei Militaris, and was written by General Vegetius) And I can think of no personal struggle that I’ve dealt with in my life that encompasses daily battles like Type 1 Diabetes!

This morning, I woke up in pain. My shoulders were a combination of numb and sharp, stinging pain. I sat up gingerly, as my head was spinning and my arms only seemed to have limited function. I thought maybe I had simply slept wrong and the circulation in my arms was impeded. It was just prior to 8 am. I reached for my phone and checked my blood sugar levels (I use Freestyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitoring System, which runs through my smartphone). Turns out, my blood glucose level was 2.5! Just to provide a frame of reference for my non-Diabetic readers, a normal blood glucose level is anywhere between 5.0 to 7.0.

So there it was! First thing in the morning and my battle has already begun. I stumbled out of bed, got to some fast-acting glucose and chased it with some caffeine. It took about ten to fifteen minutes before the spinning stopped and the headache began. The throbbing in my shoulders had passed, so it seems that I exchanged one level of pain for another. This is just a small slice of what I’ve dealt with since my diagnosis of Type 1 in 1982!

Low blood sugar, or Hypoglycemia as it is known in medical terms, is a marked and significant reduction in glucose in the blood stream. Glucose is required by the body, as a fuel source and to help transport oxygen to the brain. This is one of the reasons that people with low blood sugar will often seem dizzy or disoriented. Hypoglycemia in and of itself is not a disease, but merely a symptom of a related health condition, including but not limited to Diabetes.

In fact, several factors can cause non-Diabetics to experience a drop in blood sugar. Believe it or not (and some of my friends will curse my name for mentioning it), excessive alcohol consumption without eating can cause a drop in blood sugar. Your liver becomes so occupied with processing the alcohol that it neglects to release glycol into your system, which replaces glucose when you go too long without eating. But this is just one of the possibilities, including hormone deficiencies, Diabetes and certain medications or other medical conditions.

This is only one half of the brutal balance of high and low that Type 1 Diabetics have to deal with on a daily basis. The worst is when I actually do my homework, check out how many grams of carbs are contained in something I want to eat only to have my blood drop out on me despite the effort!

That’s why it is SO important to maintain a good exercise regiment, solid meal consumption and decent sleep patterns.

Regular exercise keeps the blood oxygenated and the systems functioning in time with one another. It helps with the propagation of hormones and enzymes throughout the body (insulin is a hormone, BTW) and helps to maintain your sleep habits.

Eating proper meals, at decent times, helps to keep your metabolism fired up and helps to maintain proper blood sugar levels. It also gives you the fuel required to exercise regularly. See how they kind of go hand in hand?

Getting between 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night allows your body’s systems to regenerate and refresh themselves, allowing for better blood sugar levels and overall better health.

All these factors go hand in hand with one another. Much like the proverbial yin yang, you can’t have one without the other. If any of my Diabetic readers are interesting in the glucose testing sensor I use, you can check it out on FreeStyle’s website at https://myfreestyle.ca/en/products/libre?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI3bSD-que4QIVVrjACh1HSQazEAAYASAAEgJssPD_BwE. Just be warned, this is a Canada-only website. If you are from outside Canada, you may have to access FreeStyle’s global webpage instead. ☯

Sleep, The Quiet Training Tool

Sleep can sometimes be elusive. We’ve all been there, right? You hit that certain hour of the evening, do your nightly routine and curl up comfortably on your bed of choice (mine happens to be a memory foam mattress I bought a few years ago at Jysk! It’s absolute heaven!). As you close your eyes, slow your breathing and attempt to slip into the land of nod, nothing happens. You lie there with your eyes open, staring at the ceiling, unable to fall asleep. Brutal. But here’s the bad news: whether you can achieve it or not, sleep is necessary!

According to Dr. Eric J. Olson from the Mayo Clinic, the average adult requires 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. There are varying factors to how much sleep one requires, including the quality of sleep you get, sleep deprivation and change of sleep patterns due to things like aging and pregnancy. (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/how-many-hours-of-sleep-are-enough/faq-20057898)

If you’re sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you’ll need to get the following night will likely be increased. However, it is important to acknowledge that most health professionals agree that sleep is not a cumulative function. This means that you can’t get three hours of sleep the first night, followed by thirteen hours of sleep the second night, and expect to have the same results. So it is important (shift work notwithstanding) to set aside that required 7 to 9 hours every night. I’m sure we’ve all met that person who claims to be able to function after only a few hours of sleep, but their performance will be invariably affected even if they don’t realize it. WebMD has a good article that outlines some of the dangers and effects of sleep deprivation and “sleep debt”, which can be read at https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/sleep-requirements#1

Regular naps can be beneficial, if your lifestyle and schedule permit them (I’ve covered this in a previous blog) but they shouldn’t “replace” nor can be counted as, part of your night’s sleep. Neither should meditation! Despite how restful a proper meditation session can feel, it doesn’t replace the rejuvenative properties of a full night’s sleep.

Now, we get to the part about how sleep plays an important role in fitness and martial arts. Sleep and exercise go hand in hand. I’m sure that those of you who have ever had a wicked burn of a workout will acknowledge that once the day’s end hits, we crash like a pile of bricks for the night. This is because the physical exertion causes the body to need rest. Makes sense, right? The reality is that you actually tear and destroy muscle tissue during your workouts. (Trust me, ask you doctor next time you speak with them!) Your body’s muscle tissue and essential systems regenerate during your sleep cycle, which is why some professional and hardcore athletes require closer to ten hours of sleep every night. This regeneration causes your muscle tissue to heal and repair itself to be stronger than before. This is why a proper sleep regiment can allow you to be more energized and stronger in the long haul.

Bear in mind that napping, coffee and energy drinks don’t serve as adequate substitutes for proper sleep and will only help to alleviate the grogginess in the SHORT term. becoming dependant on these things can have negative effects in the LONG term. This coming from the guy who starts every morning with an energy drink… I can totally quit if I want to! Who am I kidding; my blood is 90% caffeine.

In all seriousness, the last aspect of sleep I’ll cover is Diabetes. As any of my Diabetic readers can attest to, EVERYTHING affects blood sugar levels. Our eating habits, fitness habits, work habits and sleep habits all play a role on how blood sugar levels are controlled and maintained. So as you can imagine, lack of sleep can certainly contribute to uncontrolled blood sugars.

So no matter what your lifestyle, fitness routines or work habits are, remember to set aside time for a good 8 hours of sleep! Your body will thank you.

Blood, Sweat & Tears…

Being a Type 1 Diabetic means exercising on the reg, even though EVERYONE should be exercising on a regular basis. Consistent exercising, in conjunction with proper diet (although I have a soft spot for nachos) has been proven to improve sleep habits, blood pressure and help to lose weight. It’s important to keep things varied and interesting so that it becomes something fun instead of a chore. One of the big problems with working out is that most people are gung-ho to start getting in shape at the beginning, but that often starts taking the wayside when muscle pain and fatigue kicks in.

I’m a big fan of Men’s Health magazine. There are usually a number of different workouts focusing on different muscle groupings. One I particularly enjoy is a US Marine workout designed for body-weight only, which is used by sailors on submarines when they have no space for workout equipment. When done properly, it is an intense assault on the body and I usually feel like battered bread dough the next morning. What’s nice about it, is you can do this workout anywhere since you don’t need anything but yourself. My wife Laura has done this workout with me on occasion, and she usually curses the day I was born the following day. That’s generally a sign that the workout was intense.

On Wednesday, Laura and I did a bicep and tricep workout that lasted just over half an hour. It was a good burn and I definitely got a sweat on, but I ended the evening thinking I’d done worse. The following evening, I went to karate class, where I practiced a lot of arm techniques and trained with escrima sticks. Apparently, the two workouts, one after another, was apparently enough to send electric bolts of workout pain through my arms and shoulders the following day!

It’s important to, as they say, feel the burn. I know way too many people who go on walks or something of the like but never put any serious effort into their fitness. Now, just to be clear… Anything that gets you moving and gets you out of the house for some fresh air will have some benefits. But in order to reap the proper benefits of exercise, you need to sweat! You need to get that heart rate up! Go join a local gym, take some classes, join Zumba (and yes, I’ve tried Zumba and it is a wicked workout! So is spinning!) You should have at least three or four workouts a week that result in a small puddle beneath your feet (And before any of you get sarcastic about it, I mean a puddle of sweat! If it’s a puddle of anything else, you should probably go see a doctor!)

Boxing drills and shadow sparring are fantastic ways to work up a sweat and help regulate blood sugars.

Exercise and the Effect on Blood Sugar…

Diabetes is a ridiculous creature. It requires a level of balance and work that most people just don’t seem to understand. The problem is, something that works one day may not work out quite so well the next. One needs to find a delicate balance between food, insulin and exercise to maintain some semblance of good health.

When I was first diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 1982, there were a lot of things lacking from my routine to make it a proper one. Carb counting wasn’t a thing (at least not for me) so insulin dosages were something of a guessing game. My glucometer (blood testing machine) weighed almost three pounds and it took almost two minutes for a blood sugar reading. I won’t get into the process it entailed, but it was way more complicated than the simple, ten-second finger poke I do today. The common belief at the time was that food increased blood sugar and exercise lowered it. Although this is isn’t completely false, it isn’t completely accurate either.

The human body contains some 79 organs (depending on one’s definition of an “organ” and what medical journal you’re reading). Your body has this tendency of trying to make all your internal systems work together in harmony. That being the case, your Endocrine System (the internal system that contains the Pancreas) will work to compensate for some of the things your Pancreas lacks. For more information on these individual systems, check out Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_organs_of_the_human_body)

Although I usually only work for about sixty minutes, on average, sometimes my workouts have gone for as long as two hours. When you perform intense, physically-draining exercise, your body generates adrenaline. Adrenaline is wonderful stuff. It relieves pain and alleviates some of the stressors on the body during critical moments. It also has one other unexpected side effect: in increases blood sugar. So if you’re having a total kick-ass workout and you’re having a blast and you feel that “runner’s high”, chances are that your blood sugar will rise, not drop (despite the physical exertion). If you’re doing something consistent (like running, cycling or elliptical) you’ll burn calories and lower your blood sugar. I don’t want to say that cardio in general is boring, but it doesn’t produce the adrenaline kick that high intensity workouts do.

The primary issue with this is that if one tests blood sugar levels right after a high intensity workout and takes an insulin dosage to adjust for the high, blood sugars will bottom out once the adrenaline dies out and the insulin kicks in.

There’s no magic formula to circumvent all of this. If you have Diabetes, all you can do is plan and adjust! WebMD has a good page relating to this. It can be found at https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/features/exercise-lower-blood-sugar#2

Things have changed considerably for me since 1982. My blood sugar is tested via wireless sensor attached to my bicep. My insulin is delivered through an insulin pump. The benefit of all these gadgets is that I’m down to one needle every three days, at most, as opposed to over a dozen needles, including blood testing and insulin injections. I’ve been taught how to carb count and calculate appropriate insulin dosages based on my specific metabolism.

Be consistent, check with your doctor before starting any major fitness regiment but stick with it. Diabetes often causes a sort of lethargy or feeling of laziness. This doesn’t mean that you can’t push beyond this feeling and experience a solid burn through your workout. Diabetes doesn’t prevent good fitness; it is simply another obstacle for a strong fitness enthusiast to work through.

The Anti-Diabetes Workout Routine…

One of the things that makes me something of a Diabetes success story is my rigorous workout routine. After nearly four decades of being a type 1 Diabetic, I’ve tried a little bit of everything. This includes weightlifting, running, swimming, mountain climbing and of course, the martial arts. Even if you aren’t Diabetic, it’s important to keep things varied and allow yourself to experience a wide variety of exercise routines. Try some different workouts. One of the best sweats I’ve ever gotten was during a spin class (Thanks, Aunt Marjolaine!).

Ever since being diagnosed with Diabetes in 1982, doctors have been baffled by the fact that I have a clean nervous system, clean renal system and the heart of a horse. Most people my age with Diabetes have developed a set of severe complications that make their later life a little difficult. Despite stepping into my forties last year, this didn’t happen without a lot of hard work and effort.

Besides following a reasonable diet, balanced blood glucose, insulin levels and proper sleep (not always easy in my case), one must stay physically active as often s possible. According to http://www.active.com, the average adult should be putting in at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at least 5 times a week. Although every person is a bit different, this goes a long way towards maintaining good health levels and a healthy lifestyle.

When people ask me what my workout routine includes, I usually tell them that you need two factors in order to be successful: you have to push yourself and you need to have fun! If you don’t have those two things, your success rate drops dramatically.

Expensive gym memberships aren’t necessary. Sometimes all you need is a heavy bag!

I like to do things that challenge me, but allow me to enjoy yourself as well. Even though martial arts was originally a means of improving my health and saving my life, it’s become a part of me and I practice it several times a week. Although my principal style is Okinawan Karate, I study Kempo Karate on Tuesdays and Thursday with a local school in Regina, Saskatchewan.

I also try to include heavy weights twice a week. Heavy weights shouldn’t be a main focus (unless you’re primarily a weight lifter), because the larger you get, mass-wise, the less flexible you become and other activities will get tedious. At the moment, my wife and I are are currently doing the 21-day MetaShred workout on DVD (this can be ordered through Men’s Health at https://www.shopetc.com/menshealth/21-day-metashred-dvd-water-bottle.html). It’s proven to be a wicked challenge. It permits variations of the workout for beginner, intermediate and advanced, allowing my wife and I to work out together and adjust individually as required while doing the work out together.

Find your maximum and try to do a few reps with something heavier; push yourself!

Up until 2016, my Hemoglobin A1C was always above 8.0 (for those of you who don’t understand, and A1C is the cumulative average of someone’s blood sugars over a three month period). The normal range is between 5.0 to 7.0 so I’ve been trying consistently to reduce it where I can. Stepping away from shift work has helped immensely as late night or overnight shifts will greatly affect blood sugars. These days, I’m hovering in the mid to lower 7.0’s, which is a vast improvement on the grand scale of things.

Although it’s a personal preference (and a religious one), meditation is also important. There are several books covering the subject that you can read, but the bottom line is that meditation can help with blood pressure, stress, sleep patterns and healing of the body after workouts.

At the end of the day, as long as your having fun, you can’t go wrong! Get off the couch, get your heart rate up and push yourself. If you go outside and have a snowball fight with your kids for an hour, you’ve already done well. And when you aren’t doing something physical, pick up a book! Read about whatever piques your fancy. Although many people feel they need a piece of paper to prove they’ve studied something, knowledge is knowledge. I used to say “when you aren’t exercising the body, you should be exercising the mind.”

Don’t be afraid to try new workout routines and change it up!

There is no such thing as “good” or “bad” Diabetes…

I was diagnosed with type Diabetes (previously known as “Juvenile Diabetes”) at the age of 4 years old. It was a difficult time, as my older brother had several medical issues that kept us frequenting the local hospitals on a weekly basis, so some of my symptoms went unnoticed for quite some time. And by the time they WERE noticed, things began to escalate.

My weight started to fluctuate, I was having severe mood swings (worse than the typical 4 year old, I guess) and I started wetting the bed. Some of these might have been attributed to nothing, had I not lost consciousness at the breakfast table one morning.

I was rushed to the emergency room, where doctors diagnosed me with Type 1 Diabetes. My life suddenly became a flurry of medical appointments and training. I had to learn how to test my blood glucose and take insulin injections. I started to learn a rigorous dietary regiment and was restricted from eating many of things I saw others eating.

Although many people feel that it would be horrific for a four year old child to be diagnosed with this condition, it’s been 36 years since I was diagnosed and I’ve never known differently. Diabetes has become a part of my daily lifestyle.

Throughout the years, however, I’ve had to deal with a lot of stereotypes surrounding Diabetes. Even with all the literature available on the subject, not least of which includes the Internet, people are still ignorant of what causes Diabetes and what it takes to treat it.

Here’s the reality: Type 1 Diabetes happens when your own body’s immune system destroys cells in one’s pancreas known as beta cells. These cells are the ones responsible for the production of insulin within the body. Since these cells are destroyed and no insulin is produced, artificial insulin injections are required to maintain proper glucose levels within the body.

Now that the medical jargon is out of the way, allow me to share some of the worst lines I’ve heard from people (most of which are not, nor do they care for, someone with Diabetes):

“That has sugar in it. Should you really be eating that?” (The amount of sugar or glucose in food doesn’t matter, so long as you can balance the amount of insulin you take)

“I thought only fat or obese people caught Diabetes?” (This is an aggravating factor for Type 2 Diabetes, which is something totally different from Type 1.  One’s body weight CAN affect blood sugar levels once you become Type 1, but is most definitely not a cause)

Back in the day, when I used to take insulin injections with a bottle and syringe, I had one of my professors walk in on me in the washroom. “Young man, are you taking drugs? And are you doing it while on campus?” (I actually got dragged out and brought to the college administrator’s office for that one until the matter was explained and cleared up.)

There are a lot of stigmas surrounding Diabetes and it continues to amaze me how most people don’t know the most basic facts about a condition that affects over 4 million Canadians.

I recently found an interesting website (www.getdiabetesright.org) that provided a list of Diabetes etiquette, which I find hits the nail on the head. It provides the information for people who DON’T have Diabetes. Here’s what it says:

  1. DON’T offer unsolicited advice about my eating or other aspects of Diabetes.  You may mean well, but giving advice about someone’s personal habits, especially when it’s not requested isn’t very nice. Besides, many of the popular beliefs about Diabetes (“You should stop eating sugar”) are out of date or don’t apply to Type 1 Diabetes.
  2. DON’T tell me horror stories about your grandmother or other people with Diabetes you’ve heard about.  Diabetes is scary enough, and stories like these are not reassuring! Besides, we now know that with good management, odds are good that you can live a long, healthy and happy life with Type 1 Diabetes.
  3. DON’T look so horrified when I check my blood glucose levels or give myself an injection.  It’s not a lot of fun for me either. Checking blood glucose and taking medications are things I must do to manage Diabetes well. If I have to hide while I do so, it makes it much harder for me.
  4. DON’T offer thoughtless reassurances.  When you first learn about my Diabetes, you may want to assure me with things like, “Hey, it could be worse; you could have cancer!” This won’t make me feel better. And the implicit message seems to be that Diabetes is not a big deal. However, Type 1 Diabetes (like cancer) IS a big deal.
  5. DON’T ask me “how my Diabetes is coming along.”  The management of Type 1 Diabetes involves more than taking shots and watching what you eat. It is a complex balance of three things: insulin dosage, exercise and food. Growth, illness, stress, changes in activity level, changes in where shots are given and other factors can effect this balance. On-going adjustment is needed and my numbers will fluctuate (sometimes in extremes) every day.
  6. DO realize and appreciate that Diabetes is hard work.  Type 1 Diabetes management is a full-time job I didn’t apply for, didn’t want and can’t quit. It involves thinking about what, when and how much i eat, while also factoring in exercise, medication, stress, blood glucose monitoring and so much more – each and every single day.
  7. DON’T try to find a “reason” that I have this disease.  Type 1 is not caused by being overweight. It is not caused by eating too much sugar. It is not contagious. Children do not outgrow Diabetes or their need for insulin. Nothing that my parents did or did not do could have prevented the onset . Insulin does not cure Diabetes, it controls it.
  8. DO offer your love and encouragement.  As I work hard to manage my Diabetes successfully, sometimes just knowing that you care can be very helpful and motivating.

They say that every person is going through a journey no one knows about. I’m certainly not sharing this to make anyone feel sorry for me or to complain. But like with every other serious medical condition, education is the key towards understanding this one. For more information, feel free to visit http://www.diabetes.ca, http://www.getdiabetesright.org or visit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation at http://www.jdrf.ca