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Diabetes-Friendly Tips to Fuel Your Fitness Regimen – Part 1

Don’t let the stress of managing your blood sugar levels stop you from engaging in your favorite physical activity or trying new ways to be active. With a little organization, you can reap both the physical and mental benefits of exercise without a hitch! Daily exercise is recommended to enhance your body’s insulin action and improve type 2 diabetes management.1,2 Check out these diabetes-friendly tips to fuel your fitness regimen and get snack ideas for fueling up before or refueling after exercise.

Check your blood sugar before exercise!

First things first, to effectively track blood sugar fluctuations, check your blood sugar levels 15 to 30 minutes before initiating exercise. This is an easy way to prevent sugar levels from falling too low during a workout. But the monitoring effort shouldn’t stop there. Have another check right after your exercise and a few hours after a workout, since the body may utilize sugar stores from the muscle and liver, causing a significant drop. More intense exercise can raise it due to adrenaline. Read more on physical activity and blood glucose to gain insights if you need to take in carbohydrates before, during, or after a workout.1,2

Optimize your meal timing to fuel your fitness regimen

If you’re exercising less than an hour and not intensively, chances are you won’t need a snack. If you’re watching your weight, you may want to skip out on unnecessary calories. However, if you’re working out harder and longer, you may need to fuel up. Based on your pre-exercise blood sugar value, a snack may be necessary to ensure you feel your best from start to finish. This is why monitoring before, during, and after can help you identify trends. If you find your blood glucose drops in the middle of spin class, having a pre-workout snack will be essential. If your pre-spin blood sugar is high, you likely don’t need a snack but should check your levels right after. You may be good until your next meal. Monitoring is crucial, so you can enjoy all of your favorite activities stress-free while increasing your fitness level and tapping into the numerous immediate and life-long benefits of moving more! You may discover a spin class, hiking trail, pilates ritual, or circuit class with new enthusiasm and less worry!

Know your pre-workout blood glucose levels

Pre-Exercise Blood GlucoseCarbohydrate Intake or Other Action
<90 mg/dL (<5.0 mmol/L)
  • Ingest 15–30 g of fast-acting carbohydrate prior to the start of exercise, depending on the size of the individual and intended activity; some activities that are brief in duration (<30 min) or at a very high intensity (weight training, interval training, etc.) may not require any additional carbohydrate intake.
  • For prolonged activities at a moderate intensity, consume additional carbohydrate, as needed (0.5–1.0 g/kg body mass per h of exercise), based on blood glucose testing results.
90–150 mg/dL (5.0–8.3 mmol/L)
  • Start consuming carbohydrate at the onset of most exercise (~0.5–1.0 g/kg body mass per h of exercise), depending on the type of exercise and the amount of active insulin.
150–250 mg/dL (8.3–13.9 mmol/L)
  • Initiate exercise and delay consumption of carbohydrate until blood glucose levels are <150 mg/dL (<8.3 mmol/L).
250–350 mg/dL (13.9–19.4 mmol/L)
  • Test for ketones. Do not perform any exercise if moderate-to-large amounts of ketones are present.
  • Initiate mild-to-moderate intensity exercise. Intense exercise should be delayed until glucose levels are <250 mg/dL because intense exercise may exaggerate the hyperglycemia.
350 mg/dL (19.4 mmol/L)
  • Test for ketones. Do not perform any exercise if moderate-to-large amounts of ketones are present.
  • If ketones are negative (or trace), consider conservative insulin correction (e.g., 50% correction) before exercise, depending on active insulin status.
    Initiate mild-to-moderate exercise and avoid intense exercise until glucose levels decrease.

Taken exactly from: “Physical Activity/Exercise and Diabetes: A Position Statement of the American Diabetes Association.”1

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