Managing Blood Sugar and your Exercise
High Blood Sugar and Exercise:
Exercise is often prescribed for anyone who is overweight and has diabetes or high blood sugar, to help the body produce proper amounts of insulin and break down glucose (sugar) in our blood stream.
A very quick and simplified intro about your blood sugar and insulin: Insulin is very important because it plays the role of “gate-keeper” for glucose in your blood. Without it, the energy from glucose cannot enter the cells and will stay in the blood stream. The more glucose in the bloodstream, the less fat will be burned for energy and long term will lead to weight gain and insulin resistance (aka diabetes). Think of your blood stream as a hallway and the insulin as the mop needed to clean up all the extra sugar and push it where it needs to go. If it doesn’t get “mopped” up, it “clogs” the hallway.
How do we overdo glucose? Here are some foods that can cause an excess of sugar to circulate through our bloodstream: white sugar, bagels, white breads, pasta, muffins, cereal, rice…basically highly processed whole grains.
How do we monitor our blood sugar?
The simplified equation is as easy as this:
Proper amount of nutrition (particularly glucose) + the proper amount and right type of exercise = Blood Sugar Level equalized.
This might mean decreasing or increasing the intake on certain types of food or how much food and also decreasing and increasing the amount and type of exercise you do.
Moderate to intense exercise in short bursts has been shown to drop your blood sugar for up to the next 24 hours, following exercise.
In opposition of High Blood Sugar one can also experience Low Blood Sugar with Exercise:
The “proper amount” in our equation above is important because just as we can overdo glucose in our diet and underdo exercise, we can also underdo glucose and overdo exercise.
Exercise induced low blood sugar (or hypoglycemia) occurs when your body’s blood sugar is used up too quickly (You can think back to the mop pushing too much glucose, too fast out of the system). Glucose (or sugar) comes from the food that you eat. So, what happens to your body if you don’t have the energy source available?
A simplified version is this: when you exercising, the body uses two sources of fuel, sugar and fat to give you energy. Sugar comes from the blood, liver and your muscles (glycogen) that store it. During light to moderate exercise, in the first 15 minutes, you are using up mostly your glycogen from your blood or muscles and thereafter starts pulling from the liver. After about 30 minutes of this lighter exercise, the body starts using its free fatty acids, which seriously depletes your sugar and glycogen stores. If you are revving up your workout in a high level of intensity, this process is sped up. The simple fact is you need FUEL to be able to sustain this level of exercise.
One of the biggest mistakes many people make leading to low blood sugar induced exercise is completely ridding the body of carbohydrates while trying to lose weight. “Carbs” has such a negative connotation these days, BUT there are only THREE MACRO-NUTRIENTS needed in our foods; Protein, Fat & Carbohydrates, so a long-term depletion of carbs will lead to low blood sugar and one will experience effects such as fatigue, trembling, hunger, nausea, rapid heart rate, cold sweats and pale skin, to mention a few.
Quick Tips with your Exercise Regimen to prevent Low Blood Sugar:
Eat a well-balanced diet of at least 3 bigger meals or 5 smaller meals per day, including Carbohydrates.
Monitor where you are before you start training. If you’re feeling depleted and tired before you train, it’s likely this will not improve, so take it down a notch or tell your trainer.
Experiment with different times of eating before you train.
Monitor yourself during the training. If you are feeling light headed or dizzy, that’s your cue to stop right away, sip some water and take a seat.
Have something available if it happens and take a bite of something “higher” in a sugar component.
Also, if this has been a regular occurrence, tell your trainer and analyze your food intake and regimen.
Don’t DIET! FOOD is LIFE, FOOD is ENERGY, FOOD is how your body rebuilds itself.
As I always say, only you can listen and learn from your body. The body will ALWAYS be giving us messages, it’s just whether or not we’re listening.
Coach Hart often writes her monthly articles based on client questions. If you’ve got a health & fitness question, email [email protected]