An Update on Sailing Journey and Using Your Soleus to Control Blood Sugar?

Hamilton, MT. et al. (2022) iScience. A potent physiological method to magnify and sustain soleus oxidative metabolism improves glucose and lipid regulation

It’s been 10 days since I’ve blogged! That’s an eternity in the world of Centeno blogging! However, this is literally the first chunk of free time I’ve had where a blog would fit. Today I’ll update you on my journey and we’ll review a super interesting study on the soleus calf muscle that may change the nature of blood sugar and metabolic management. Let’s dig in!

My Journey

Our journey began in Paris and the next day we began driving down to La Rochelle, which normally takes about 4 1/2 hours. All was going great until a large metal object appeared on the road (probably fell off a truck) and shredded two of the tires on our small rented SUV. Given that there was also a huge hole in the rim and we had so much stuff that we couldn’t downsize to the normal Euro mini-car, that meant losing a day getting an identical replacement vehicle. We finally did make it to La Rochelle and took about 5 days to set up the boat (called “commissioning”– people now tell us that this usually takes weeks). We had also hired a guy to take it across the Bay of Biscay (which is also called the bay of death for its notoriously rough weather), but storms off the Azores delayed his departure. Hence, we have yet to begin our journey in the Med!

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The Soleus Metabolism Hack

The soleus is a funny postural muscle that lives under the calf (gastrocnemius). It helps in walking and running, but also reduces the amount of energy needed to stand by keeping the body from falling forward at the ankle. Researchers recently at the University of Houston Metabolism Lab found out that the fact that it doesn’t use glycogen, is a big deal (1).

Glycogen Powers your Muscles

When you eat carbs and sugars, your body makes glycogen that your muscles use as fuel. This is why a low-carb diet works, as it forces your glycogen levels lower, which forces your body to use fat as fuel.

The fact that the soleus muscle didn’t use glycogen made some sense, as even when your muscles are exhausted and you’re too tired to walk, you still need to be able to stand. Hence the researchers wondered what would happen to metabolism if they taught patients to contract the soleus muscle. Much to their surprise, they noted significant reductions in blood sugar levels and increased fat burning that lasted for hours, as the muscle was able to use these fuels directly.

To get this effect, they had patients seated with their knees at 90 degrees or greater. Meaning the big toe joint was directly placed under the knee. This shortens the calf muscle and forces the soleus to work. The heel was then lifted to about 30 degrees and lowered in what the researchers called an “SPU” or Soleus Push Up. How many times do you need to do this? The paper isn’t clear. My sense from reading it is that you should probably do this while seated at around once per second.

The upshot? I’m back to blogging, which I’ll do about once a week while I’m out for this trip, returning to several times a week when I get back in the office at the end of October. In the meantime, I will be performing my soleus push-ups while seated driving the boat!



(1) Hamilton MT, Hamilton DG, Zderic TW. A potent physiological method to magnify and sustain soleus oxidative metabolism improves glucose and lipid regulation. iScience. 2022 Aug 5;25(9):104869. doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2022.104869. PMID: 36034224; PMCID: PMC9404652.

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Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications. View Profile

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NOTE: This blog post provides general information to help the reader better understand regenerative medicine, musculoskeletal health, and related subjects. All content provided in this blog, website, or any linked materials, including text, graphics, images, patient profiles, outcomes, and information, are not intended and should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please always consult with a professional and certified healthcare provider to discuss if a treatment is right for you.

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