If you have diabetes, exercising along with the right medication and diet is the key to lead a healthy life. However, for diabetic patients it is really important to take due care about exercising, as heavy physical activities can alter blood glucose levels quite rapidly. So, if you have blood sugar, it is important for you to exercise while maintaining some particular rules and cautions. Heavy working out can increase the insulin levels in your blood immediately or afterwards, causing a quick fall in the blood glucose levels. For diabetic patients it is really important to keep an eye at their blood sugar levels before, during and after long workout sessions.
How exercising affects blood sugar levels?
In order to control blood sugar during workouts, first you need to know how exactly exercising alters your blood sugar levels. Now the point is that, there are no one size fits all theory in this aspect. The span as well as intensity of the workout affects every person with diabetes differently and hence if you have diabetes it is most expected that your blood glucose levels will be uniquely affected due to exercising.
Heavy and long workouts trigger secretion of adrenalin in the body, which increases the amount of glucose in the blood immediately. So, if you have diabetes taking up a heavy and long exercise regimen is not something best suited for your body. The interesting thing in the relation between exercising and blood glucose level is that, while heavy exercising can increase blood glucose levels immediately, due to secretion of adrenaline, in the long run, exercising reduces the blood glucose levels by increasing the secretion of insulin or sensitivity of the body cells towards insulin. Glucose levels in the blood can drop down within minutes to 72 hours after exercising and it varies extensively from person to person.
So, for every diabetic patient, taking up or planning to take up a serious exercising regimen, it is really important to be first aware about how exercising affects their blood glucose levels. While increased blood glucose levels is certainly harmful for the body, particularly in the long run, hypoglycemia or quick fall of blood glucose level can be life threatening.
How to plan workouts for blood sugar patients
The key to control blood sugar during workouts is to plan the regimen carefully. If you are planning to take a heavy exercise regimen to achieve some particular goal within a fixed time frame, it is really important that you first talk with your health specialist and get the workout plan from someone who has experience about preparing workout plans for diabetics. If you are diabetic, opting for heavy exercising for more than 15 minutes every day without consulting your doctor, will only invite serious health issues instead of giving health benefits.
The first step to control blood sugar during workout
In order to control your blood glucose levels during workouts, first you need to know how exercise affects the blood glucose levels particularly in your case. If you are new to exercising, always start with a very light exercise regimen that does not continue for more than 10 minutes at a stretch. Before you start the exercising, check out your blood glucose levels and then check right after you have completed exercising. Stay vigilant and check the blood glucose at intervals for the next 24-72 hours to find out how exactly the exercising is affecting the blood glucose levels in your body.
As a thumb rule, do never start exercising unless your blood glucose level is at least 100mg/dL. If your blood glucose levels are lower than this and you want to start exercising, first devour a glucose bar, give 15-20 minutes gap and then check the glucose levels again to ensure that it is above 100mg/dL. Once the blood glucose levels are satisfactory you can start with light exercise for 10-15 minutes.
Is it necessary to check blood sugar in between workouts?
Unless you are opting for a two hour long work out session, which you should never do without informing your doctor and having a clear idea about how your blood glucose levels fluctuate due to exercise, you need not to check the blood glucose levels in between your workout regimen. However, in case you are engaged in medium to high intensity work out for 2 continuous hours, you should check the glucose levels after an hour of starting the regimen.
Checking the blood glucose levels in between workout can be inconvenient but it is essential to ensure that your blood glucose levels has not started to fall considerably, which can go further down rapidly due to continuing exercise, leading to serious hypoglycemia. If you find that your blood glucose level is lower than 100mg/dL, take a light snack, give a short break and then continue with the exercise.
Always check blood sugar after workouts
Once you are done exercising, you should not forget to check your blood sugar levels once again. This will clearly show how exactly your blood sugar levels are affected due to your exercise regimen. From this data you can easily find out the most optimal workout pattern and duration that will suit your body as well as your exercising goals.
After exercising, if you find that your blood glucose levels are lower than 100mg/dL take a snack right away, without waiting for your meal time. After exercising, blood glucose levels can go down anytime between 72 hours, but the chances of rapid blood glucose level fluctuation is more within the first 24 hours. So, even after you have checked your blood glucose levels right after completing your exercise regime, continue checking it at frequent intervals, particularly if you are still not very sure about how exercising affects your blood glucose levels.
Symptoms of dropping blood glucose level
Dropping of blood glucose levels quickly produces one or many symptoms as described below. If you observe any of these symptoms during or after exercising eat 15-20 grams of pure glucose in an easy absorbable form immediately. You can also opt for regular soda, sports drinks, sweetened juice or a tablespoon of sugar to raise your blood glucose levels immediately in case you feel any of the symptoms of low blood glucose as mentioned below,
- Sudden feeling of extreme weakness
- Ringing in the ear
- Blurry vision
- Sudden severe headache
- Tingling or numbness in the tongue or lips
- Delusion or confusion
- Inability to coordinate actions properly
Tips to control blood sugar during workout
- If you take insulin, you should avoid exercising when it reaches the peak. Every type of insulin do not reach the peak immediately after taken, and planning your workouts when the insulin action is not at its peak can make it much easier to control blood sugar during workouts.
- In case of diabetic medications as well it is important to be aware about the time when the medicine kicks start the action. There are many diabetic medications that have long duration of action and are often one of the primary causes of incidents of hypoglycemia. So, know your medication properly and how it affects the blood glucose levels, to avoid lows during workouts.
- Make it a point to complete your workout sessions at least 2 hours before bedtime. Blood glucose levels naturally reduce during sleep, and completing your exercise just before bedtime can lower the blood glucose levels even more. Morning workouts, within 1 hour of waking up, are often suggested to most of the diabetic.
- Instead of working out for long at one stretch, it is best for the diabetic patients to divide their daily workout into two, smaller sections. It helps in balancing the blood glucose levels throughout the day, instead of sudden peaks and lows.
- Avoiding hot shower, steam rooms and saunas right after a workout session is best suggested for the diabetic patients to avoid sudden lows.
- Skipping alcohol right before or after a workout is another suggested precaution that can be helpful for the diabetic patients to control sudden low in blood sugar levels after workouts.
How to deal with regular exercise lows
Eating glucose bars immediately as soon as you find that your blood glucose level has taken a dip or is around 65mg/dL or you can observe any or more of the symptoms of low blood glucose as mentioned above, can solve the problem for the time; but if you continue getting such lows regularly during or after exercise, you need to implement all or some of the next changes to control blood sugar during workout.
- Increased physical activity can reduce the need of artificial insulin in your body. So, if you are taking up a regular exercising regimen, you might actually need to reduce your blood sugar medications or insulin dosage. If you continue getting low blood sugar right after or within 24 hours of exercising regularly, talk with your doctor to re-arrange your medication given your increased physical activity level.
- Changing the type of work out as well as the duration of workout can also be most effective to control blood sugar during workouts. To avoid regular lows, it is best if you opt for more low impact exercises instead of high impact ones. You can also introduce short breaks in between your exercise regimen to make sure that your blood glucose levels are not dropping. Dividing your exercise time throughout the day, instead of exercising for long at a stretch can also help.
Eating more of carbohydrate or glucose just before starting with exercise can be another way to make sure that you do not hit a low during workout.