I have a friend who was just diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. We’ll call him Tom. What is interesting about Tom, is that he does not fit the typical profile of a person who has type 2 diabetes. He is tall, thin and an endurance athlete, who rides his bicycle over 200 miles each week.
How could someone like Tom get type 2 diabetes?
There are several factors at play. Many endurance athletes such as marathoners, swimmers, and cyclists purposely go through what is called “carbohydrate-loading” days before an event. This is why you see many athletes eat big pasta dinners the day before their events.
Carbohydrates break down into glucose (sugar), which is transformed into energy. When glucose enters the blood stream, the pancreas secretes the hormone insulin. Insulin helps to reduce blood sugar by sending excess glucose to be stored in the liver cells, muscle cells, and fat cells. The purpose of carb-loading is to maximize the storage of glucose in the muscle cells for later use.
In addition to the carb-loading, Tom also drinks a full bottle of Gatorade on his rides, which he does for the electrolytes.
Let’s take a moment and look at the Gatorade label. A 12 oz. serving of of Gatorade has 21 grams of sugar. A bottle contains 2.5 servings. Tom would easily drink the entire bottle, which is a whopping 52.5 grams of sugar. This equates to over 13 teaspoons of sugar in just one bottle of Gatorade!
With constant high levels of sugar, the cells will eventually become overwhelmed, and the liver, fat and muscle cells become resistant to insulin. When people become insulin resistant, glucose builds up in the blood, which leads to type 2 diabetes.
There are better ways for athletes to prepare for their events. Dr. Peter Attia is a long distance swimmer and cyclist who has done a lot of experimenting on diet and performance. He found that a low-carb high-fat diet improved his performance and reduced his risk for heart disease. You can read more about his results here: http://eatingacademy.com/how-a-low-carb-diet-affected-my-athletic-performance
And instead of drinking sugar-laden electrolyte drinks, consider making your own electrolyte drink with Himalayan sea salt and citrus fruits. Here are a few good recipes: http://www.mommypotamus.com/homemade-electrolyte-sports-drink