Many of us grew up with the conventional wisdom that said loading up on carbs before a long run (for example) is good for energy and endurance. And most of us are accustomed to tasting, if not devouring, some kind of “appetizer” bread when dining out. However, so long as we have enough nutrients in our system to sustain a workout, we are better off consuming the bulk of our carbs after working out, not before. And we’re also much better off eating those delicious carbs at the end of our meal (might you re-warm that, please?)
On the working out side, exercise lowers blood sugar levels by helping your cells use/become sensitive to the insulin that’s available to absorb your sugar such that blood sugar declines after exercise, remains lower for 1-2 days hours following a work out, and also lowers over time if you work out regularly. While most us are aware of how important exercise it’s only with a prediabetes diagnosis do we pay as much attention to its sequencing. In fact, I’m a few years into my diet change and I’ve only begun to operationalize this information now: although I no longer jog, the runner’s mentality of carb pre-loading has been ingrained in my brain.
It’s different if you already have type 2, however, and there are more precise formulas for exercise and carbs that can be tailored to your individual reactions such that you don’t consume too many carbs before the workout and raise your sugar, or consume too few and risk hypoglycemia during a workout.
Further, research shows that unlike the long runs I used to take (and maybe you still do? If so, I envy you!), today’s boot camp style classes are much better for lowering blood sugar. In studies, people with Type 2 showed much better results in their sugar as well as a drop in bad cholesterol from intense short bursts of exercise such as interval training— and especially when spread out across a day— than from more sustained, moderate exercise. Strength training with weights twice a week has also been shown to be particularly effective. For those of you who have desk jobs, there are even major blood sugar benefits from just getting up every 20 minutes from the desk than sitting for 5 hours (no wonder they say sitting is the new smoking).
On the bread platter/basket/bucket side of things, if you can put that stuff off until you’ve got some protein, fat, and fiber in your system, you can significantly reduce post-meal sugar spikes (by 50%)—either because you eat less bread overall once you’re full, because protein, fat, and fiber digest slowly and put the breaks on the sugar rush or because you may have enough glucagon-like peptide-1 (amino acid) to help your insulin function. Whatever the reason, eating carbs last seems intuitively right. Of course when steaming, fragrant, crusty bread arrives at the table, common sense often goes out the window. But if you are up to the task, it doesn’t hurt to ask: might you bring that back for last?