One of the more challenging sides of type 1 diabetes is working out. Not because we can’t, but because it’s a lot harder.
As type 1 diabetics, we can’t just walk into the gym and start pumping iron or hit the treadmill. There’s a good deal of preparation and thought required.
In this article, I’m going to provide three awesome tips for effectively managing your blood sugar before working out so that you’re not bogged down by hypoglycemia or lose out on your hard-earned gains with hyperglycemia.
Tip #1: Time Your Workouts Consistently
A fundamental truth in the fitness industry, regardless of whether we’re diabetic or not, is that you should always time your workouts consistently.
This means every week, you should know what days you’re going to work out, at what time, and what you’re going to do when you’re there.
Then, you keep doing that every week until you decide to switch things up.
As a type 1 diabetic, this is absolutely crucial to maintaining a better blood sugar level before, during, and after your workouts.
Working out on a strict routine will keep your body ready for action. This will reduce soreness, make your recovery time more efficient, and provide other benefits in the long run.
Furthermore, the mental aspect of knowing when you’re going to work out is just as valuable. Knowing that it’s chest day on Monday at 5 PM is going to keep you mentally prepped for the workout.
One of the secrets to maintaining optimal blood sugar levels is to stay on a consistent schedule for just about everything you do, whether it be sleep, eating, exercise, or even work.
Placing your workouts on a schedule and sticking to it will allow you to maintain a better diet regimen. You never want to go into a workout after taking an insulin bolus, which leads us into the next tip.
Tip #2: Avoid Taking An Insulin Bolus 2-3 Hours Before A Workout
It might sound counterintuitive to managing your blood sugar, but taking an insulin bolus before working out is a one-way trip to bottoming out midway through the session.
A side story: When I first received an insulin pump, I was 17 years old. Obviously, I had a lot of questions, and being a 17-year-old kid who liked to play basketball and be active, I wanted to know what I should do with my pump while being active.
To my surprise, I was told to keep it on, unless I was playing a sport with physical contact (such as basketball).
Now I want you to imagine for a moment what would happen to you if you were going on a jog with an insulin pump attached, filling your body with insulin, on top of the calories you’re already burning.
It sounds like a recipe for disaster.
Basic science tells us that when our body burns calories, we’re using the immediate glucose in our bloodstream to power through the workout. This occurs for about 15 minutes. After that, we switch to burning through our glycogen reserves and then finally, fat reserves.
If you were to bolus just before a workout, you would effectively be absorbing the immediate glucose in your bloodstream, which means by the time you start working out, you’ll no longer have glucose to give away. You’ll wind up with too much insulin floating around, causing your sugar to crash, which is not only bad for your workout but dangerous too.
Simply put, don’t take insulin 2-3 hours before your workout. Instead, fast and check your blood sugar 15-30 minutes before your workout to know if you’ll need to make any fixes.
Tip #3: Bananas Are Your Friend (If You’re Not Allergic)
Bananas are not my favorite fruit (tangerines are the best), but I eat more bananas than anything else.
They power me through every workout.
The typical banana has roughly 27 carbohydrates. The way a banana breaks down in our system makes it seem like a big mean snack for diabetics and anyone on keto diets. But here’s the reality. When you need to get a strenuous workout in, quick carbs are your best friend.
Bananas break down relatively quickly due to their low-fat content and decent amount of fiber. If you check your blood sugar 20 minutes before going to the gym and you’re sitting at 130 mg/dl, eat a banana and go work out as hard as you can.
By the time you get back from the gym, you’ll either be around the same blood sugar level or on your way down. Most of the time you wouldn’t even know you ate high-carb food and didn’t take insulin for it.
Just this past training session, I went to the gym at 105 mg/dl. I promptly ate a banana and put in 45 minutes for my strength session. When I came home, I was sitting at 133 mg/dl.
It makes me question if I even ate a banana.
Now, of course, everyone is different. A banana might not work for you, but there are tons of alternatives like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, peanut butter crackers, and more. I tend to stick with bananas since they digest the lightest and provide quick energy if timed correctly.
Working out is challenging for type 1 diabetics, but with these easy tips, managing our blood sugar levels should be easier.
If you’re having trouble managing your type 1 diabetes, I encourage you to join the 12-Week A1C Crusher Program designed to lower your A1C level by at least 1% over the course of three months.