Starting with your meal plans, eating on time, taking your medication and then for the run ensuring you stabilize your blood sugar levels before, during and after the run.
Vinuth N Puttamallesh, a Research Scientist at Vittala Eye Hospital, Bengaluru has done some extensive research in identifying early diagnosis markers for diabetic retinopathy. He is also a certified diabetes educator who in his spare time, conducts free weekly (every Thursday) diabetes health education programs at his hospital. Vinuth was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes very early on in life but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming an ardent runner.
During our tête-à-tête, we spoke about how he went about reversing his diabetes through running.
Life before diabetes
I was diagnosed with diabetes when I was 29 years old and barely 6 months into my marriage. It was a devastating moment for my wife and me. Before my diagnosis and my marriage, I was working as a senior research fellow and unfortunately, I had a very bad work-life balance. I loved my research work too much and used to work 16- 18 hours a day including Sundays. Long hours at work aside, my personal like was sedentary and being a chronic smoker and a weekend social drinker didn’t help my cause either. With a long family history of diabetes and my unhealthy lifestyle, I ought to have been more careful and unfortunately, I paid the price for it very early on in life.
Due to my diabetes, I had lost some weight but the treatment’s after effect was that I started gaining the weight back. Usually, when taking medication for diabetes, it needs to be complemented by a fair bit of exercises as these medicines do make you put on weight.
Within 6 months of the treatment, I had put on 15kgs and my weight shot up to 85kgs (way too much for someone who is 5’6”). To overcome this weight gain problem, I decided to start a combination of endurance sports and resistance training. Research on diabetes reversal endorses any endurance activity for reducing body fat and resistance exercises for 3 days a week to build muscles. Hence, I tried running along with some weight training. It was quite difficult at the beginning where running 500 meters without stopping seemed challenging. I slowly began to increase the distance and started to enjoy running which eventually helped me in reversing my diabetes.
For a person with diabetes, it is important to know the sugar levels in the blood before taking up any physical activity. Care should be taken to avoid situations where your sugar levels don’t go below normal. Running for diabetics is like medicine, one has to do it consistently and keep it enjoyable. After I picked up running, my daily routine changed and I started waking up early, stopped smoking and drinking as well and started leading a more disciplined life combined with healthy eating.
Before taking up running or any endurance activity, you need to bring the sugar levels under control with the help of medication and diet. I faced all the common challenges most runners face like pain, blisters, muscle soreness along with fever, especially on my long run days. However, gradually increasing the training load over a couple of years gave my body time to adapt and become stronger.
Yes, running 100KM every week does require some special attention to nutrition. Even before running (ever since I was diagnosed with diabetes), I have been eating a balanced meal 3 times a day consisting of equal proportions of raw vegetables, cooked vegetables, protein-rich foods, and carbohydrates. Once I started following a structured training regimen by joining the PaceMakers team and under the guidance of coach Kothandapani, I changed my diet to peanut butter and cracker biscuit sandwiches before my hard workout days like the track sessions, tempo runs, and long runs. I also take one sports gel every 10KM during long runs along with salt capsules every hour which helps me put more effort into training and recover faster for the next session. Post my workouts I take whey protein for recovery and drink water consciously to help the recovery process. Being diabetic means the body is fighting inflammation internally and by doing any endurance activity you’re further causing inflammation of muscles. As a result, to keep my energy levels high without increasing the blood sugar levels, I eat nuts such as almonds, pistachio and roasted chickpeas (chana).
Now diabetes is not only hereditary but also environmental. The number of people diagnosed with diabetes in their 30’s is only on the rise due to their unhealthy lifestyles. One has to undergo yearly health checkup to make sure they are healthy medically. Moreover, people need to lead an active lifestyle. Doing 30 minutes of exercise does not help if people are sedentary for the next 23 and a half hours. Conscious efforts should be made to be active throughout the day by taking walking breaks every one hour, using the restrooms on different floors at the office, taking stairs instead of the elevator, playing with kids, walking to the store to finish up some chores, etc. If you are diagnosed with prediabetes, making lifestyle changes and including regular exercise along with a balanced diet may lead to a reversal of diabetes.
Running has given me a new life and new hope, I started running for weight loss and got addicted to running. Even though I have reversed the symptoms of diabetes and my sugar levels are near normal, I will always be diabetic genetically and at any time if I wander away from the path of fitness, I will be diabetic again. However, it’s fascinating what the human body can achieve irrespective of one’s medical condition.
During the last 2 years, I have run 8 full marathons, 8 half marathons and four 10KM races. My timings are: 10K – 00:37, 21K – 1:24, and 42.2K – 3:03. I am training regularly to further improve my performance as well as health and hope to inspire many to lead a healthy life.
Diabetes is not a disease, it is just a disorder which can be controlled if willing. Defeat diabetes.