For people living with diabetes, staying active is a crucial element of maintaining physical health. But managing type 1 or type 2 diabetes as an endurance athlete can be challenging. Creating a plan to keep your blood sugar levels in check before, during, and after exercise can allow you to safely participate in the activities you enjoy.
Managing Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes as an Endurance Athlete
Endurance sports can be thrilling and deeply fulfilling, but they present unique challenges for people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The high intensity and long duration of your workouts can lower your blood sugar levels and leave little time for monitoring. This can increase your risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), hyperinsulinemia (higher-than-normal insulin in your blood), and cardiac events in those with underlying disease. Athletes with type 2 diabetes could have altered circulation in their legs and decreased sensation in their feet, which could lead to injuries if not identified and monitored.
According to a 2017 review, “the most important goal [for athletes with diabetes] is to keep blood glucose levels at or as close to normal levels as possible without experiencing hypoglycemia.” Without proper planning, this can be difficult for endurance athletes to achieve due to the heavy demands of their sport, but there are ways to protect yourself.
Steps to Take Before Exercising
Before starting any exercise plan, talk to your doctor. If they agree that your plan is appropriate, here are some great ways to get ready:
- Check your blood sugar to make sure it is within the range recommended by your doctor.
- Drink plenty of water before your workout to prevent dehydration.
- Be sure to pack a blood glucose monitor to check levels periodically throughout your endurance training or event.
How to Manage Your Diabetes During Exercise
During exercise, your blood sugar is affected by various factors, including the intensity of the exercise, its duration, environmental conditions, and absorption of insulin. The following steps can help you manage your blood sugar levels even during strenuous activity:
- Check your blood sugar levels at regular intervals during your workout. The all-in-one, one-step POGO Automatic® Monitor is ideal for testing on the go because you don’t have to keep track of separate lancets and testing strips. The lancets and test strips are built into the cartridge, and each cartridge contains 10 tests. All you have to do is press a button.
- Have a mid-workout snack to keep your blood sugar in a healthy range.
- Stay hydrated.
- Exercise with a partner, or check in with someone to let them know where you’ll be if you’re exercising alone. Carry your phone with you at all times.
As a seasoned athlete, you may think you know how much your body can handle, but even the most experienced athletes need to be prepared for the unexpected. Phil Southerland, a professional cyclist with type 1 diabetes, knows this.
In the early stages, I’d have to check my blood sugar 4–5 times an hour before we went out on rides to make sure my glucose was high enough. I was always prepared.
Endurance athletes with type 1 or type 2 diabetes need to be prepared for unexpected challenges to safely exercise.
Don’t Forget Aftercare
Check your blood sugar level after a workout to ensure it has not gone below 100 mg/dL. If your levels are low, eat a snack rich in carbohydrates. If you use insulin, you may need to adjust your regimen to account for your physical activity.
Most exercise-related hypoglycemic events happen within 6-15 hours of exercise, but the risk can persist for up to 48 hours. Continue to monitor your blood sugar throughout this time. In some cases, it may be wise to check overnight to reduce the risk of exercise-induced nocturnal hypoglycemia.
POGO Automatic for Endurance Athletes
POGO Automatic allows endurance athletes with type 1 or type 2 diabetes to easily test blood sugar levels before, during, and after a workout. This innovative all-in-one device gives you reliable results at the touch of a button and is small enough to take with you anywhere. Your results can be automatically synced to the Patterns® for POGO Automatic app, and you can easily share your data with your healthcare provider.
If your blood sugar levels fall out of your normal range, Patterns will send you alerts with recommendations for how to avoid more serious events, and it can even notify your emergency contacts if you don’t respond. The notification includes your location and blood glucose number. When managing type 1 or 2 diabetes as an endurance athlete, this feature can be invaluable, especially if you train alone or your sport takes you to remote locations.
Sports like running, biking, and swimming are excellent ways to improve your physical fitness and support better overall health. With a few extra steps, endurance athletes with type 1 or type 2 diabetes can experience these benefits while proactively managing blood sugar levels.
Robert Miller is a customer experience specialist committed to helping people navigate the world of diabetes. He focuses on finding innovative tools and strategies that make diabetes management easier to support long-term wellness.
All content on this website is for educational purposes only and does not replace the guidance of your healthcare practitioner. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new healthcare regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.