What does it mean to be a diabetic athlete? Or a fit diabetic?
Well to me it means taking your sport or fitness level to where you want to take it, without having to compromise your diabetes care and without having to compromise your lifestyle. If you have read any of my other diabetes posts, you know that I’m a strong advocate of not letting diabetes run your life, but not neglecting your diabetes care either.
I always say that a diabetic can do anything a non-diabetic can, but there are a few things we need to think off before jumping into to the deep end:
- Before engaging in any form for exercise, test your blood sugar – if it is too low, too high, falling or climbing, then you need to deal with it appropriately before getting started.
- Get to know your body. Learn how you react to different kinds of exercise, both during your workout and for the next 12-24 hours. My blood sugars always drop drastically while walking, but stay stable during high-intensity cardio and strength training. They also drop a few hours after my workout.
- When changing your diet, be aware that your insulin needs may change. The cleaner carbs I eat (low glycemic index), the less insulin I need.
The ways I deal with these three things are not necessarily unique to me, but we are all different, so you need to find what works for you. As general guidelines, the following three points apply to all insulin dependent diabetics:
- Testing: I always test my sugars before leaving home, and again when I’m at the gym, to see how I’m trending (one test is usually enough when I’m wearing my CGM). If I think my sugars are on the low side for the activity I’m planning, I usually grab a rice cake or two. If they are too high, I obviously take a shot of insulin, but for the most part only 25-50% of my normal adjustment dose, to ensure I don’t go low during my workout.
- Trends: As mentioned, I have learned how my body reacts to different kinds of exercise. It’s been a long learning process, mainly because I tend to vary my training a lot. My CGM has been really valuable in giving me the information I need, but I know not everybody has access to that tool. So it’s a good thing we all have our blood glucose meters. Just increase you testing frequency and either download the information into whatever software is available, or go completely low tech and write it down. Data like that is the only way you’ll learn what works for you.
- Diet: It’s been really interesting to see how my insulin needs have changed when I’ve cleaned up my diet completely. What I mean by that is simply that I’ll switch my carbs to only be brown rice, oats, sweet potato and quinoa, cutting out the carbs that makes blood sugars skyrocket quickly (like most breads, cereal, fruit and even carrots). Not only do I see less blood sugar fluctuations, I also just need less insulin, so I usually reduce my basal insulin to avoid low blood sugars.
These are not the only things you have to consider, but if you get these three things down, you are well on your way to living the fit diabetic life.
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