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Insulin is a vital hormone, yet is one that is not often thought about except by diabetics. The fact is that insulin plays a vital role in any physical training program, even for those who do not suffer from diabetes or hypoglycemia.
Insulin is released by the pancreas, and is responsible for lowering blood glucose levels. It does this by allowing glucose to enter cells, where it is stored for future use. Insulin plays a vital role in allowing your body to use glucose or sugars from the carbohydrates you eat, and is also responsible for providing energy. A person who is insulin sensitive needs far less insulin than others, while someone who is insulin-resistant needs a lot more to provide the same effects.
Insulin rates naturally fall whenever you begin exercising. This results in the pancreas releasing glucagon, a hormone that raises the concentration of glucose in the bloodstream. Glucogen also causes the liver to release glycogen or stored energy into the bloodstream. When blood glucose levels rise, this stimulates the body to produce more insulin, and the cycle begins again.
The insulin cycle doesn’t work quite as well among individuals with Type 2 diabetes. That’s because the body cannot naturally lower insulin levels at the beginning of a workout. This in turn can cause the muscles to take glucose from the blood, something that also occurs during muscle contractions. As such, those who inject insulin could see very sudden drops in their blood glucose level both during and after exercise.
Studies show that regular physical exercise improves the body’s ability to metabolize fat. This results in the muscles depleting glycogen at a lower rate than before. After time, there is also a reduced reliance on blood glucose in order to perform certain activities. The more efficient use of fuel benefits everyone, but is not something most people notice. Diabetics on the other hand should notice that they need fewer carbohydrates or are better able to regulate insulin levels once they become physically fit.
The way your body metabolizes fat is “sport specific.” What this means is that if an individual is currently performing one activity such as running, and later switches to bicycling, his or her body may experience a drop in blood sugar in the beginning. That person will need to become fully trained in that sport or activity before noticing a leveling of blood sugar again. This change is likely to be more noticeable among diabetics, who may suffer from extreme drops in blood glucose levels during a workout. Non-diabetics are likely to notice more muscle fatigue or a lack of energy, but are not likely to suffer the same “crash” that a Type 2 diabetic would.
Regulating insulin levels is important all the time, especially during exercising. The good news is that regular exercise is one of the best ways to maintain the proper insulin level, and may even help delay the onset of diabetes in many cases.