By Kevin Kolodziejski
Let’s say our paths cross three days from now, and you tell me you skipped reading my RoadBikeRider article this week.
That you recently took a fasting blood sugar test and the doctor found your number to be optimal. Nowhere near the range that indicates you’re among the one in three Americans who are prediabetic, let alone one of the more than 35 million who, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate, have type 2 diabetes.
Would that mean you somehow misread the full title? Maybe. Or maybe you think Marcus Aurelius was absolutely full of it when, late one night in the midst of 10 years of warfare, the Roman emperor took out his journal and jotted this down: “Keep reminding yourself of the ways things are connected, of their relatedness.” He’s not, you know; what he is, though, is one of the great Stoic philosophers. But you may not be the philosophizing type, so here’s his credo in cycling lingo.
Never Done a Time Trial? It Doesn’t Matter
Even if you’ve never pinned a number to a skinsuit and felt adrenalized butterflies bouncing off the walls of your gut as a race official says, “Five, four, three, two, one.” Even if you always sit on a thickly padded saddle, fully upright, holding flared handlebars with streamers attached, and turning balloon tires whenever you pedal.
The simple fact of the matter is all bicycle riding is like competing in a TT. All riding is a race of truth. All riding is against the clock.
The strategy behind this race, however, really differs from a TT. Now you do not want to cross the line that stops the clock as quickly as possible. You want the clock to tick on because you want to live on, so you ride on and on and on. It really doesn’t matter how fast. It really doesn’t matter how far.
What matters is riding with regularity. Turning over the pedals four or five times a week for at least an hour or so (and every now and then with a little taste of intensity). And that an observation made by an astute mind more than 1,900 years ago provides the logic for you to seek the connections between a study about low-carb dieting leading to type 2 diabetes remission and your cycling and overall health — even if you’re highly unlikely to ever develop the disease.
‘Incredible’ Success, Drugs No Longer Needed
The article, “What predicts drug-free type 2 diabetes remission?”, is found in the January 2023 issue of BMJ: Nutrition, Prevention & Health and is driven by what its author Dr. David Unwin of Norwood Surgery, a primary care clinic in the United Kingdom, calls “real-world data.” Over an 8-year period, the clinic treated 473 overweight or obese type 2 diabetics, offering them a few forms of treatment. One was to follow a low-carb diet with the goal of reaching a body weight and blood sugar level where prescription drugs were no longer needed to negate their affliction. In total, 183 patients opted for that.
After one year of receiving low-carb diet advice and adhering to the diet, bloodwork showed 93 of the 183 had achieved remission. When Medical News Today asked Unwin about that, he cited a statistic that was even more impressive. For those who started the program within a year of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, the remission rate was 77 percent. Unwin called that incredible and for good reason. Back when the disease was still known as adult-onset diabetes, remission without the use of drugs was considered impossible.
Time to Feature the Study’s Failures
So why now focus on the 90 patients on whom the politically correct might say met with incomplete success? It relates to the imagined introduction where you skip reading this article because you fail to see how it applies to you. Those “incomplete successes,” though, show how it does.
We both know it’s far easier to pop pills than alter poor eating habits. And that’s what 290 of the 473 type 2 diabetics who came to Norwood Surgery during the study chose to do. Since they were offered an easier alternative and rejected it, we can only assume all 183 patients who decided to follow the low-carb diet gave an honest effort, including those who didn’t achieve remission.
Now I’m not a doctor, just an observer, and there are a few obvious one to be made here. If you’re a type 2 diabetic who’s either overweight or obese, following a low-carb diet can lead to significant of weight loss. In this study, the average loss after one year for all was a bit more than 22 pounds. It can also lead to such improvement in your blood sugar levels that medication is no longer required, and your type 2 diabetes is declared to be in remission.
But that occurs only slightly more than half the time — which means it’s once again time for my favorite catchphrase.
Experiment, Experiment, Experiment
That a year’s worth of the low-carb dieting produced no better than a 51 to 49 success-to-failure ratio provides more grist for the mill where I grind out article after article that reminds you of the most important thing to do to improve your cycling or your health in general. To thoroughly and intelligently consider the research at hand (both old and new), apply it to your goals and current situation, and then experiment, experiment, experiment.
Because what I’ve found in 30-plus years of helping people lose weight and get healthier — as well as doing the experimenting I just advised on myself for about 40 — is that we’re all as metabolically and physiologically as unique as our fingerprints. So what works for someone else in a laboratory or real-world setting may not work for you.
Kevin Kolodziejski began his writing career in earnest in 1989. Since then he’s written a weekly health and fitness column and his articles have appeared in magazines such as “MuscleMag,” “Ironman,” “Vegetarian Times,” and “Bicycle Guide.” He has Bachelor and Masters degrees in English from DeSales and Kutztown Universities.
A competitive cyclist for more than 30 years, Kevin won two Pennsylvania State Time Trial championships in his 30’s, the aptly named Pain Mountain Time Trial 4 out of 5 times in his 40s, two more state TT’s in his 50’s, and the season-long Pennsylvania 40+ BAR championship at 43.