Exercise and a healthy lifestyle are beneficial to everyone but cannot be overstated enough for those with diabetes. Exercise helps to control one’s weight, lower blood pressure, strengthen muscles and bones, reduce stress and anxiety, and improves one’s overall well-being. There are even more added benefits for those with diabetes – exercise lowers blood glucose levels and boosts your body’s sensitivity to insulin (countering insulin resistance).
It is crucial for those with diabetes to consult with their doctor before starting a new exercise regime, to ensure that your desired fitness routine is safe and will be beneficial to you. Here are a few tips on training with diabetes and how to stay safe whilst training:
- Check your levels
It is important to test your blood sugar levels before, during and after a workout. For majority of those with diabetes, the safest blood sugar range to start a workout is between 100mg/dl and 250 mg/dl. If your blood sugar levels are below 100 mg/dl try having a snack that contains some carbohydrates and test yourself again in 15 minutes, before you start training,
- Snacks for safety
Be sure to keep a source of fast-acting carbohydrates (e.g., glucose gel/tablets, a juice box, etc.) on hand, in case you start to experience low blood sugar. It is also advised. That you carry an energy/protein bar with you, in your gym bag to refuel after your workout.
- Consult with your doctor about insulin
When you train your muscles, the insulin you inject tends to work faster. This could increase the risk of low blood sugar. To give you peace of mind and ensure your safety, consult with your doctor regarding when the best time would be to take your insulin/medication before you exercise.
- Stay hydrated
This may seem obvious, but it is always important to keep yourself hydrated before, during and after training. Especially if you have diabetes, to reduce the risk of dehydration, which is often associated with erratic blood sugars and heat stroke.
- Warm up and cool down
A 5-to-10 minutes aerobic activity (walking, cycling, etc.) warm-up is ideal to start as well as a low-intensity level and gentle stretching for another 5-10 minutes. For the cool down, you can repeat the warm-up for about 5-10 minutes until your heart rate has returned to pre-exercise levels.
- Start slow
If you are new to exercise or returning to exercise after a long period of time, go easy on yourself. Gradually start to increase the tempo, distance and time as you start to build or stamina back/over time. This will lower your risk of running into any complication during training such as low blood sugar.
There are certain supplements that are more suitable for individuals with diabetes to use. For instance, you will want to avoid supplements that have a high sugar content in order to avoid blood sugar complications. The following supplements are examples suitable for diabetics to use – however it is always advisable to consult with your healthcare practitioner before beginning a new supplement regime.
- Whey Protein Isolate may assist with muscle recovery and growth. This form of protein has a low sugar and cholesterol content and contains a high amount of protein (90%) per serving.
- Pre-workouts such as NPL’s Vaso Pump may provide the ideal energy-boost needed to get through a tough workout. This product is virtually sugar free (0.1g per serving) and is also stimulant (caffeine) free. Some studies have found that caffeine may interfere with the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels.
Remember, supplements are there to support a balanced nutrition regime, and to help you get the most out of your training!