Working out with Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes is a science. 

Every little thing that you do, eat, drink and feel can and will affect your diabetes. What works one day may or may not work the next. In order to manage your diabetes you need to be smarter than Einstein. If you don’t like math, you will not have any other choice to be a master of math while living with this lovely disease.

Adding. Subtracting. Logging. Monitoring. This is what you do. If you don’t, then you’re asking to trouble. Everything that you do will affect your blood sugar. Let me repeat, EVERYTHING THAT YOU DO WILL AFFECT YOUR BLOOD SUGAR. You can be a master of math and still get stumped.

So, working out is a fun game (sarcasm) that you can easily win. If you’re like me, someone who works in an office that has a somewhat sedentary life, working out may be  a slight shock to your body. As a matter of fact, I think that may be something that affects everyone, but I am not a doctor, so I don’t know this. Anyhow, working out. When you exercise there’s a lot of different factors to consider.

  • your blood glucose level before starting activity,
  • the intensity of the activity,
  • the length of time you are active,
  • and changes you’ve made to insulin doses.

So, short and sweet; Trial and Error will be your friend. I personally log everything that I eat in the app called MyFitnessPal so I am aware of the food I eat (everyday). This is key when you’re working out so you can see what you eat on the days that you exercise. Also, this will help you track trends with your blood sugar and how your body responds to activity.

There are two reactions to working out as a Diabetic.

  • Low Blood Sugar
  • High Blood Sugar

Yes, your sugar can go up when you work out. Does this confuse you? Yeah, it confuses me too. The Joslin Diabetes Center explains it easier than I could:

When you exercise your muscles need more glucose to supply energy. In response, your liver increases the amount of glucose it releases into your bloodstream. Remember, however, that the glucose needs insulin in order to be used by your muscles. So if you do not have enough insulin available, your blood glucose levels can actually increase right after exercise. Basically, stimulated by the demand from your exercising muscles, your body is pouring glucose into your bloodstream. If you do not have enough insulin available to “unlock the door” to your muscles, the glucose cannot get into your muscles to provide needed energy. The end result is that glucose backs-up in your bloodstream, causing higher blood glucose readings.

Does that help? Well, let me confuse you even more! Joslin Diabetes Center also explains this (easier than I could):

One of the most common causes of low blood glucose is too much physical activity. In fact, moderate to intense exercise may cause your blood glucose to drop for the next 24 hours following exercise. This post-exercise hypoglycemia is often referred to as the “lag effect” of exercise.

OK, so take into consideration of the first quote and add in the factor of the one above. Let that sink in for a second. Does that make your brain hurt? Yeah, it makes mine hurt, too. So, whenever I exercise I do the following:

  • Be sure to eat something no later than 1 hour before working out
  • Test your blood sugar when arriving to the gym
    • If my sugar is at a comfortable range (to me that’s anything over 140) I will continue to exercise
    • If my sugar is too low (under 120) I will eat 15 grams of carbohydrates
    • If my sugar is too high (over 230) I will test for Ketones. If I don’t have ketones then I will work out
  • I’ll work out no more than 1 hour before I re-test. Usually by then my blood sugar will be in the low 100’s and sometimes lower
  • I’ll then eat another snack of 15 grams of carbohydrates and either work out some more or call it a day
  • 1 hour after I last tested I will test again

USUALLY, my blood sugar will be in the mid 200’s. I then correct my blood sugar accordingly and then monitor it. SOMETIMES I WILL DROP HOURS LATER WHEN MY SUGAR REGULATES AND LEVELS OUT. Yeah, it makes no sense.

Logging your exercise, the time of day that you work out, the time you last ate, the last time you gave yourself insulin and your mood will be key. If you’re still with me and reading this, I’m sure you’re thinking “that’s just way too much work”. Unfortunately, it can be. However, exercise is a key element of staying healthy and keeping control of your blood sugars (double edge sword, really!). So, if you want to be healthy, lose weight or just stay active you need to work HARD for this.

If you’re curious about my routine, my diet or how I manage my blood sugar when working out, please ask me questions in the comment section. If I get enough I can make a followup post.

 

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