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Type 1 Diabetes Workout Tips: Preventing Low Blood Sugars with Expert Advice from a Dietitian

Apr 18, 2023

There are VERY few things on this planet as frustrating as finding yourself feeling shaky, feeling terrible, and collapsed in a chair in the middle of your workout. 

Why are you here? 

Because you live with diabetes and your blood sugar is low.

Low blood sugar is the sworn enemy of any power walk, CrossFit workout, yoga class, bike ride, or even half-marathon.

O, let's dive into three ways to prevent your blood sugars from going low during a workout.

#1 - Consider the type of workout and the duration of that workout.

Different types of exercise can have different effects on blood sugar levels. Strength-based activities, such as weightlifting, can cause blood sugar levels to remain stable or even increase slightly. On the other hand, cardio-based activities, such as running or biking, can cause blood sugar levels to decrease. Always remember that the duration of the exercise can play a role in blood sugar levels. The longer the exercise session, especially if it's cardio-based, the more likely blood sugar levels are to drop.

#2 - It's important to eliminate active insulin. 

If you're on insulin, you need to make sure you have eliminated as much insulin on board as possible. Rapid-acting insulin has a lifespan of roughly four hours for most people, and during the first two hours, 90% of the insulin clears from your body. Minimizing the active insulin on board is going to help you prevent low blood sugar during exercise. If you're able to time it where your insulin is taken in that window prior to the two-hour mark from your workout or maybe even working out prior to eating anything, there's less active insulin in your system, and your chance of a low blood sugar is going to drop tremendously.

#3 - Adjust your carbohydrate intake. 

Consuming carbohydrates during extended cardio-based exercises can help maintain blood sugar levels and prevent low blood sugar. During exercise, your body uses glucose as fuel, which can cause a drop in blood sugar levels. Consuming carbohydrates can help provide your body with the necessary glucose to maintain blood sugar levels and prevent hypoglycemia. Typically, you want to aim for 15-30 grams of carbohydrates every 30-45 minutes of activity. If you're doing strength-based exercises, you may not need to adjust your carbohydrate intake as much.

Your blood sugar levels can significantly impact how your body feels and functions. That’s why stable blood glucose levels can be an important factor in supporting overall wellbeing. By being prepared and knowing how to follow your diabetes management plan, you'll be able to prevent diabetes problems during exercise. Just think of your diabetes management plan as your own personal roadmap to exercise success. 

Now, you’ve got three ways to prevent your blood sugars from going low during a workout. Remember to consider the type and duration of your workout, eliminate active insulin, and adjust your carbohydrate intake.

These tips can help you maintain your blood sugar levels and enjoy your workout without the frustration of a low blood sugar.


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