A critical part of managing exercise and blood glucose levels (BGLs) is understand how your body and more specifically your BGLs react to exercise. This is a very complicated interaction as there are many physiological variables which impact our response and BGLs to exercise. Type of exercise, duration, intensity, time of day, insulin on-board, meals, previous activities and more all contribute. There is no magic formula and every persons BGLs will respond differently, however if you are going to exercise you need to understand how you BGLs are going to react so that you can maintain stable BGLs and exercise safely.
In my case I have learnt through trial and error what my BGLs need to be prior to exercise, what insulin I should have on board (basal and bolus) and who much carbohydrate (CHO) I need to consume before and/or during the session. My CGM unit has been a fantastic resource in this regard to monitor my levels during sessions and also review them later one. Keeping track of insulin and also CHO intake then always me to determine my insulin and CHO requirements for said session.
Unfortunately it is not that simple in reality and I have ended up with several different insulin and CHO requirements for different sessions which include:
- Different basal insulin rates for AM and PM training sessions
- Different basal insulin rates for different types sessions; swimming, running, cycling and gym sessions
- Different basal insulin rates for different intensities; recovery (Zone 1), moderate (Zone 2 & 3) and high intensity (Zone 4 & 5)
- CHO requirements also vary dependent on starting BGLs and the intensity of the session
This may seem like a lot of effort but over time as you continue to exercise you will learn how your BGLs react and what you need to to do to maintain stable BGLs during and after your training sessions. My key messages are:
- Learn from every session that you do and build your understanding of how your BGLs react to exercising
- Always train in a safe environment where you can get home, get back to your car or get assistance if you need it
- Always carry a blood glucose monitor with you and know where your sugars are at; testing every 15-30 minutes
- Always carry food with you as you need CHO to maintain your BGLs and in case you experience low BGLs/Hypo
I like to train like an athlete but I’ve got to think like a diabetic. My diabetes control is the most import element to my training and if I have any issues then I will stop, get control and then continue. Safety first always!
** This post is from the author own personal experience and should not be taken as medical advice. It is important to seek advice from your doctor about exercising with diabetes.