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Solution On Nutrition: Diabetes 101 – Why This Disease is Spreading and How You Can Help Members Fight Back


diabIt used to seem like the only folks who joined health clubs were the ones who were already in shape. But we have seen the demographics change dramatically since then, and today more and more members are joining the gym because they have a degenerative disease and need to improve their health. And in America, that disease is all too often diabetes.

More than 23.6 million Americans currently have diabetes, while another 57 million are pre-diabetic. That’s one in four people in America, yet only 75 years ago this disease was practically non-existent! For health club owners, it is imperative to recognize this trend. People are becoming concerned about their health and are reaching out to clubs for answers, and the answer is simple—exercise and diet!

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition in which the body is unable to properly metabolize sugar. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the disease, in which the body either does not produce enough insulin or the cells ignore the insulin. Insulin is necessary for the body to be able to process glucose for energy. When a healthy person eats food, the body breaks down all of the sugars and starches into glucose, which is the basic fuel for the cells in the body. Next, insulin takes the sugar from the blood into the cells. When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, it can starve your cells of energy, eventually storing those extra calories as fat or worse. Other conditions can also develop over time, including blindness, heart disease, kidney failure and circulation problems in the extremities.

Why Now?

Glazed doughnuts, cakes, candies, cookies, pies, ice cream…. many of us have grown up with these marvelous treats. In the old days, and I mean the really old days, these sweet treats were truly that—treats. It took time to churn a freezer of ice cream by hand or make a cake from scratch. Sweet treats were not a way of life, they were consumed infrequently, few and far between, and they were often made from pure maple syrup right from the tree or honey pulled from the beehive. So we indulged infrequently and we savored the moment.

Our digestive systems have evolved over millions of years to digest “whole foods” from vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts and proteins. Soon after the turn of the 20th century, however, we began eating foods that barely resembled that from whence they came. Machineries were invented to mass-produce food products. We began over-processing wholesome foods, adding sugar and fat to everything from catsup to crackers, and our digestive systems have been trying to play “catch-up” ever since. This has ultimately changed the Glycemic Index (the rate of digestion) of the foods we eat. Carbohydrates now break down so quickly in our bodies that they turn into glucose or sugar faster than we can process them.

What It Means for Your Members

Because people have become so concerned about their bulging waistlines, diabetes, or other disorders, many have become almost sugar-phobic. Some members have even become so scared of that little monosaccharide that it has thwarted their efforts in the gym. For example, when it comes to juice bars members will often ask, “How much sugar does that shake have in it?” But the truth is, not all sugar is bad, and when timed correctly, it can even be exactly what they need to help them achieve their personal fitness goals.

Here’s how it works: Immediately following a workout, glycogen stores are partly or fully exhausted. Carbohydrates and simple sugars that are ingested at this point – usually in the first 30 minutes – will quickly restore glycogen to pre-workout levels, stopping the body from being thrown into a catabolic (muscle wasting) state. Sugars and high-glycemic foods that are ingested during this narrow window can actually be quite beneficial, and in some cases can even maximize the workout. Juice bars provide a perfect place for members to access nutrition after working out, and can also be a great way for your club to help members reach a higher level of fitness.

Dan Young is President of Performance Food Centers. He is accomplished in juice bar concept and design, and he is certified in personal training and sports nutrition. He can be contacted at 888.PFC.9151, or by e-mail at dyoung@performancefoodcenters.com, or visit them online at www.performancefoodcenters.com.

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