Lifting More Heavy Things

So my gym is finally opening this week. It’s made me think about where I’m going in this part of the paleo-lifestyle. Long-time readers know I slapped together a Covid workout months ago. I’ll continue with the planking and press-ups, but it will be great to do pull-ups again and use some heavy weights.

That said, I think I’ll be increasing the frequency and the intensity of my heavy lifting. This goes against the advice of some paleo/keto advocates like Mark Sisson. He argues one should lift once or maybe twice a week. His argument is sound for most people: our hunter-gatherer ancestors were probably not lifting heavy things seven days a week. In addition, who has the time to do that in today’s busy world? I also think there was an element of salesmanship here. Mark is trying to make the primal lifestyle as easy as possible. Lifting once a week is much more palatable than lifting five days a week. Most people can’t maintain the latter.

So why am I breaking with this recommendation? Vanity? My thirty-year quest for a six-pack? No. It’s due to another one of my vaunted “brain worms” that’s been slithering through my cerebral cortex every since I read Dr Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution several months ago. He devotes a chapter to exercise and spends a lot of the chapter discussing anaerobic exercise, specifically the benefits of weightlifting. A lot of the information is generic in that he explains how intense anaerobic exercise can benefit everyone. However, he discussed many of the benefits for Type-2s like me:

  • Increased muscle mass reduces insulin resistance.
  • Regular, strenuous exercise increases insulin sensitivity independently of its effect on muscle mass. Put another way, the act of lifting heavy things increases insulin sensitivity even if one does not put on more muscle.
  • Anaerobic exercise tires muscles out quickly requiring more glucose. This will result in lower blood glucose over time.
  • The blood sugar drop from continuous anaerobic exercise will be much greater than after a similar period of aerobic exercise because of the requirement of large amounts of glucose.
  • The more one stresses the body through lifting, the more efficient the body becomes in transporting glucose into muscle cells.
  • As muscle strength and increased muscle mass develop, glucose transporters in the cells will multiply. This will improve the efficiency of one’s own insulin in transporting glucose and in suppressing glucose output in the liver (the latter is a big problem for me).

Simple right? Well, yes in theory, but it requires more commitment than lifting heavy things once or twice a week. In order to lower blood glucose over time, Bernstein argues that the exertion must be adequately prolonged. In practice, that means more time lifting in the gym. So instead of my typical twenty minute session, that means something more like forty-five minutes. Furthermore, it means more sessions in the gym. I’m going to have to go for five sessions per week.

It’s a Monday, so I’ll start today. I’ll begin writing a weekly roundup on the benefits, drawbacks and effects on blood glucose each Monday.

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