Most people at some point in their life have worked out at the gym. For the average person the experience of working out is just a matter of going to the gym, doing some workouts, drinking a protein shake and then leaving to go home.
For a Type 1 Diabetic working out is much different, the idea of activity and exercise brings on another level of preparation and caution. Exercise, depending on what you are doing, has the ability to push your blood sugar down and can send you into hypoglycemia- which no one wants.
I have been working out for 3 years now and for the last 2 years workouts have become more intense as it is now more important than ever to be physical fit in order to stay competitive in the University league.
Weight lifting can be considered either aerobic or anaerobic exercise, and anaerobic exercise, in contrast to the aerobic one, tends to raise your blood sugar (here is a good summary of this http://diabeteshealth.com/read/2010/10/31/6751/exercise-often-raises-blood-glucose-in-type-1-diabetes-/ ) depending on the speed and intensity, but in my case, I find that it usually lowers it so I prepare accordingly.
- I try and eat some simple carbohydrates like pasta 2 hours before and cut back on my insulin with that meal by about 25% (my bolus to carb ratio is 1:20, so I take between 2 and 6 units for majority of my meals). I am not cutting more because, in case of weight lifting, I know that it may also happen that the exercise may end up being more “anaerobic” – like with everything that is not black and white, you need to strike a compromise that keeps you safe while not allowing your BG to raise too much.
But weightlifting still isn’t extremely laborious for me so I don’t tend to go too low during or after the workout- which also explains only the partial cut back of insulin. If I were going for a long run, I would have cut back a whole lot more. In this case I still want some uncounted for carbohydrates that will cause my blood sugar to be a little higher as I still expect a little bit of a drop (maybe 2-3 points).
2. I try to get my blood sugar between 7-9 before the workout
This level is perfect for me – it is not too high to make me sluggish and not low enough to cause me to worry if I start going down during the exercise. I can workout and still have enough energy.
3. I drink a VEGA sugar-free Sports Energizer drink before I workout.
Everyone is crazy about pre-workout and seems to swear by them, the only problem is that many of them carry enough caffeine to keep you up for years and have enough sugars to put us diabetics in not such a great place. VEGA makes a pre-workout that is completely organic and plant based, its sugar free and I find it perfect for me to give me that extra bit of energy before a workout.
4. I eat a protein bar after my workout.
I like to have bars because they have some carbohydrates in them, this replenishes the glucose that was used up to power my workout and helps ensure that I do not go low hours after the workout. I usually have a CLIFF protein bar. Sometimes if for some reason my blood sugar is crazy high after the workout (and these maddening irregularities do happen) then I will skip this step, in that case I will make a simple sugar-free protein shake.
As you can see my routine isn’t that crazy or complicated. I have been fine tuning what works for me and allows me to get a good workout. The biggest concern I hear about from other T1D’s regarding working out is the fear of lows. The concept that all exercise drives your blood sugar down is outdated and incorrect. But to start with, like I did, and get more comfortable with the whole idea of exercising, it is better to go in a bit higher by cutting back on pre-exercise insulin and/or taking extra carbs before, during and after exercise (of course checking often). When I first started and lived in a serious fear of going low during exercise, I would usually drink a bottle of Gatorade (40 carbs) over the course of a couple of hours of moderate exercise. Later, as I learned more about what was happening and why, and through frequent testing and careful experimentation, I started changing and customizing to what works for me.
Please let me know how you manage your T1D while at the gym and what adjustments you make to ensure that you have a good workout.