Many people with diabetes are afraid to exercise because they fear low blood sugars (hypoglycemia). But, with careful control and by eating properly, you can succeed in sports. In fact, there are many professional athletes who have diabetes.
The most important thing is to be aware of the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia and be prepared. Some-times it’s easy to think you are sweaty or light-headed because you are playing hard. However, this could be a sign of low blood sugar. Other symptoms of hypoglycemia are: weakness/fatigue, shaking, headache, irritability, confusion, dizziness, hunger and impaired vision.
The following are some tips and strategies to help you control your blood sugars and perform your best:
- Blood glucose levels should be closely monitored before exercise.
- Do not start exercise with low blood sugars (below 70). Have a snack first.
- Do not exercise if your blood sugars are 300 or above. Be sure to check for ketones in your urine if blood sugars are 240 or above. Do not exercise if there are ketones.
- A carbohydrate-based meal or snack is recommended one to three hours before exercising.
- Always carry some form of carbohydrates with you, such as hard candy, dried fruits (raisins), fresh fruits, granola bars or crackers.
- Be sure to let your coach and/or other teammates know that you are diabetic and what the signs/symptoms of hypoglycemia are so that they can help you if this should occur.
- If you are on insulin, be sure to talk to your doctor about adjusting your dosage for exercise. Most of the time, having a snack before exercise will suffice.
- Plan to snack during the activity if it lasts longer than one hour.
- For day-long events, eat six small meals containing both carbohydrates and protein. (Avoid high-sugar, high-fat foods.)
- Eat after the event to prevent hypoglycemia and to refuel your glycogen stores. Hypoglycemia can occur four to 48 hours after exercise, so it is important to monitor your blood glucose levels frequently and eat balanced meals and snacks.
- As always, drink lots of water to prevent dehydration.