Experiencing low blood sugar during or after exercise is not just annoying, it is potentially dangerous. To manage low blood sugar associated with physical activity, check your blood sugar before, during (if necessary) and after you exercise and always be prepared to correct it.
Regular exercise is important to overall health and wellness, making it well worthwhile. However, exercise presents challenges for people with diabetes because any increase in activity may lead to developing hypoglycemia.
The more you understand about what affects your blood sugar levels during exercise, the easier it may become to manage, leading to more confidence in being physically active and staying in control of your diabetes.
If you or your child participates in sports, others (including the team coach and maybe even team mates) should be aware of diabetes and hypoglycemia basics and being prepared to assist you with correcting low blood sugar.
You can manage blood sugar while making exercise a regular part of your life.
Here are some tips:
How to Correct Exercise Related Low Blood Sugar
Once you begin to notice symptoms of hypoglycemia:
Step 1. Stop exercising immediately and eat 15-20 grams of pure glucose or another food containing fast-acting carbohydrate.
Pure glucose is the preferred carbohydrate to correct low blood sugar. If you do not have a pure glucose product, such as Dex4 tablets, liquids or gels, consume another fast-acting carbohydrate such as fruit juice, regular soda, low or non-fat milk or hard candies.
Step 2. Wait 15 minutes and check your blood sugar again.
If your blood sugar is still below your target range, repeat step 1. Do not resume exercise until your blood sugar is above 100 mg/dL or in your target range.
After a session of intense exercise, there is a chance you may experience high blood sugar (hyperglycemia). This is due to an increase in stress hormone (glucose-raising hormone) levels. In one study, a group of people with type 1 diabetes using insulin pumps experienced elevated blood glucose levels for up to two hours after cycling to near-exhaustion.
Like hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), hyperglycemia is a dangerous condition. It is important to consult with your healthcare professional before beginning an intense exercise regimen or if you are planning any change in physical activity.
American Diabetes Association. Foundations of care: education, nutrition, physical activity, smoking cessation, psychosocial care, and immunization. Sec. 4. In Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes—2015. Diabetes Care 2015;38(Suppl. 1):S20–S30.
Chiang JL, Kirkman MS, Laffel LMB, Peters AL, on behalf of the Type 1 Diabetes Sourcebook authors. Type 1 diabetes through the life span: a position statement of the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care 2014;37:2034–2054. DOI: 10.2337/dc14-1140