Training Variations & T1D Management

For the last couple of years my training has been very focused on Ironman and 70.3 triathlons with a couple of cycling and marathon events thrown in for something different. In training for these events I have learnt how to manage my diabetes and keep my BGLs very stable. Basal rates, when and what to eat and how my BGLs fluctuate depending on the intensity and duration of the session have all been figured out. My training sessions have generally been specific to a program including swimming, cycling, running, strength and recovery. In most cases the longest of these session was a 3hr cycling session but each different session, duration/intensity requires a specific plan for my diabetes. Although everyone manages their type 1 diabetes differently, I think that it is beneficial to look at the variations we all experience.

Below I have noted the way in which I have to manage me diabetes, nutrition and hydration for various cycling sessions. I have reviewed this recently as my training focus has changed to building endurance for my JDRF One Ride cycling fundraising and 1,000km ride from Melbourne to Adelaide coming up in May 2017.

Recovery (Zone 1)

  • Low heart rate, low power and high cadence
  • Aerobic nature of this exercise has a strong pull down on my BGLs
  • Require a lower basal rate to avoid a hypo (-20% for a morning session and -60% for an afternoon session
  • I use a drink with carbohydrates in it to assist maintaining BGLs and also good hydration, approx 30gr of carb for a 1 hour session

Aerobic (Zone 2-3)

  • Medium heart rate and power (as determined by FTP) and smooth pedal stroke/cadence with medium-long intervals
  • Aerobic nature of this exercise does pull down my BGLs but this does not occur until about 1.5hrs into the session
  • For morning session my basal rate remains the same as normal, but for afternoon sessions I need to reduce this rate by -60%
  • During these session I need to eat at the 1-1.5hr point of the session and then every 30 minutes after that. Depending on the session I need about 25gr of carb each time I eat and I eat a low-GI food for its slow release
  • I use a zero carb hydration formula for these session and try to consume 500ml per hour. I use a zero carb formula so that I can also drink without working about any carb intake.

Anaerobic (Zone 4-5)

  • High heart rate, high power and maintaining smooth pedal stroke with short-medium intervals
  • During these more “effort”session I need to increase my basal rate as the effort forces my body to release glycogen as I am pushing my threshold. I only do these sessions in the morning as I have been unable to maintain stable BGLs in the afternoon with this type of exercise
  • These sessions are usually around 1hr and with the rise in my BGLs I do not consume any carbs during the session. A post session meal is very important for recovery from these efforts.
  • I again use a zero sugar hydration formula and consume closer to 1L of fluid for the hour session

Like with anything to do with type 1 diabetes there are variations within variations which need to be managed as they occur. Always carrying high and low GI carbohydrates is critically important along with being willing to change your session if things don’t go to plan. If thing do run smoothly then my insulin and carb requirements run as per the chart below with insulin requirements dropping linearly and carb requirements increasing more exponentially as the length of the session increases. Being fat adapted I generally require lower carb intake early on in the session and then increase this intake as the time goes on. My basal rate drops to around 50% of normal around the 4hr mark but to maintain stable BGLs I do need to consume about 75gr carbs per hour, at this point through my body needs this to continue training.

graph

Chart shown the decrease in insulin requirements and increase in carbohydrates required over training session duration (note: active basal is 1.5-2hrs post the basal rate setting/time)

So the important things that I now work on (for my diabetes) to get through my cycling training sessions are:

Short Rides (1-3hrs)

  • Set adjusted basal rates 2hrs before starting including switching back to normal rate somewhere in the last 30 minutes of the ride
  • Carry  1 x gel (high GI) and 1-3 x bars (75-100gr of low GI carbs)
  • Adequate hydration and mixed formula (carry sachets to refill bottles)
  • Know the turn-around points where I can assess how I am feeling and turn-around if things aren’t tracking well

Long Rides (3-6hrs)

  • Set adjusted basal rates 2hrs before starting and maintaining a lower basal rate for a couple of hours after the ride to avoid a delayed hypo
  • Carry  2 x gels (high GI) and 3-4 x bars (low GI carbs)
  • Adequate hydration and mixed formula (carry sachets to refill bottles)
  • Have a route planned out and stick to it
  • Know stopping points where food and water will be available including at around 3 hours when some more solid food will be good to consume (bakery is a favourite for this stop)
  • Have a plan in place is things do not go to plan, this can include turn-around points, someone to come pick me up or public transport to get back home
  • These rides are safer to do with other people

Day Rides (6hrs+)

  • Set adjusted basal rates 2hrs before starting; it is very important to understand how long I will be riding for and lowering my basal rate accordingly
  • Carry  4 x gels (high GI) and 4-6 x bars (low GI carbs)
  • Adequate hydration and mixed formula (carry sachets to refill bottles)
  • Depending on the ride I sometimes use a small backpack to carry all of the supplies which may be required for a long day in the saddle
  • Have the route planned out which you’ve checked thoroughly and let someone know where you are going
  • Maintain communication with someone during the day so that they know you are alright
  • Know stopping points where food and water will be available which should include places to get more substantial food (service stations don’t count)
  • Have a plan in place is things do not go to plan, this can include turn-around points, someone to come pick me up or public transport to get back home
  • These rides should be done with other people
jdrf-ride-3

Long days in the saddle are much easier and safer with a group

There are a lot of things noted above and they certainly don’t cover all of the ways that diabetes and BGLs can vary. Overall I find that longer rides are easier for my diabetes management as any fluctuations in my BGLs can be adjusted  more smoothly over the longer time. I also take the opportunity to consume a few extra calories (and treats) which on a normal day I wouldn’t be able to for fear of wild BGL swings. Most importantly, preparation/planning is key, regularly checking your BGLs is critical and then making adjustments (insulin, crabs, route, etc.) well before you get into trouble will ensure the safest and most enjoyable time on the road!

I am cycling to raise money for JDRF and type 1 diabetes research. I am riding 1,000’s of kilometres every month and will be riding from Melbourne to Adelaide in May 2017 to raise awareness of type 1 diabetes and show people that although living with type 1 diabetes is challenging, anything is achievable! Please donate to make a difference Donate Here!

All information provided in this piece is from the authors own experience and does not represent medical advice. See Disclaimer

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2 thoughts on “Training Variations & T1D Management

  1. Hi Alex. I have had T1 for a very long time and led a fairly active life. I am also a triathlete. Thanks for your blog some good advice and n that and some nutrition information I will digest and play with, particularly the low GI foods. Got some examples? I am competing at Geelong 70.3, hopefully the Coles Bay Half and may be Cains in June. It would be good to meet up. Keep up the good work mate.

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    • Hi David. Thank for the great comments. Great to hear from another triathlete! Unfortunately I am not racing at any triathlons until later this year with my focus on cycling and fundraising for JDRF. It would have been great to meet you as I usually race at Geelong. Good luck, I’ll keep an eye out for your results! I am planning on writing a piece on the nutrition that I use and it’s slowly coming together. Cheers

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