Quarterback Jay Cutler and relief pitcher Mark Lowe certainly do not pop into your mind when you think of Type 1 diabetes mellitus. But, with the improvements made in the effort to manage diabetes, top athletes ranging from football to baseball are able to compete at a professional level.
Every year, November marks National Diabetes Month. According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 25 million children and adults in the United States are diagnosed with diabetes and more than 79 million have prediabetes. For those diagnosed with this disease, the idea of competing in sports or any physical activity may seem unrealistic. You most certainly do not need to give up on your future sport or athletic endeavors. Whether you want to play professional sports or simply go on a hike, diabetes should not hold you back!
What can physical activity do for my diabetes treatment plan?
· Improves your blood circulation
· Can raise you “good cholesterol” – HDL
· Physical activity promotes weight loss while reducing stress
· Your body can utilize insulin better
Surly because I have diabetes my nutritional guidelines are different. Right?
Not true! The nutritional guidelines for athletes with diabetes are no different than those athletes who do not have diabetes. However, it is important for athletes with diabetes to consider: Insulin dosage, frequent monitoring of blood glucose loves, and the type and timing of meals.
I am not involved in a competitive sport, how long and how often should I exercise?
The American Diabetes Association recommends that you aim for 30 minute periods of moderate to intense aerobic—with oxygen—exercise at least five days a week. Great aerobic activities to get your blood flowing may include hiking, dancing, jogging, or even a brisk walk with a friend or family member. Like aerobic exercise, anaerobic—without oxygen—offers worthwhile benefits! Strength training such as: weight machines, resistant bands, or bodyweight exercises i.e. pushups are recommended two to three days in combination with aerobic activity.
I am involved in football and baseball are there any tricks in managing my blood sugar levels?
Hypoglycemia – low blood sugar – is the most important factor to be prepared for. Common signs of hypoglycemia include: dizziness, irritability, shaking, or impaired vision. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms associated with low blood sugar. Here are some helpful strategies to keep you blood sugars in check for optimal performance.
· Three hours before your competition or physical activity, a carbohydrate-based meal is recommended. Simple favorites include: yoghurt, milk, bagels, granola bars, or fruit.
· For practicality and safety, always carry a form of carbohydrates. Easy and convenient choices can include sports drinks, hard candy, or fruit juices.
· If your exercise activity exceeds an hour, make sure to have snacks at your disposal.
· Lastly, it is important to frequently monitor you blood glucose levels before, during, and after the performed exercise or competition.
How do I determine my carbohydrate need based on my blood glucose levels?
Caroline Sullivan, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, provides proper protocol for carbohydrate intake based on your blood glucose levels.
*** Noted by Caroline Sullivan, you should never avoid taking your insulin, as your body will utilize fat for energy – decreasing your performance.
Blood glucose is < 70 mg/dLà Stop exercise activity and consume 15 g of carbohydrates. Wait 15-20 minutes to test your blood glucose again. If it is ≥ 80-120 mg/dL jump back in! If your levels are < 80 mg/dL consume another 15 g of carbohydrates. Check your levels once more, and if they are ≥ 80-120 mg/dL you are in good shape to begin your exercise activity!
Blood glucose is 70-100 mg/dL à Consume 15 g of carbohydrates and continue with your exercise!
Blood glucose is > 100 mg/dL à You are doing good! Continue to monitor your levels and your normal carbohydrate of choice.
· Diabetic athletes are perfectly able to compete in all sports. However hypoglycemia may provide few exceptions, so always plan and prepare!
· Be familiar and educate others on the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia.
· Although exercise generally lowers blood glucose levels, they may rise following training. Always monitor you blood glucose levels before, during, and after your exercise regimen or competition.
· Insulin may need adjusting before and after exercise.
· Pre plan you carbohydrate intake and timing based on the duration and activity.
· Always talk to your Sports Dietitian to help you maximize sports performance and manage your diabetes.
Gavin Van De Walle is an ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer, a NANBF Natural Competitive bodybuilder, and a dietetic student at South Dakota State University. Following graduation, Gavin will pursue his Ph.D. in nutritional sciences while aiming to make a positive impact on the over well-being and nutritional status of the American people along the way.
American Diabetes Association. What We Recommend. Accessed November 5, 2013.
American Diabetes Association. Fitness. Accessed November 5, 2013.
American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Statistics. Accessed November 5, 2013.
Sports Nutrition: A Practice Manual for Professionals, 4th Edition 2006.
Caroline Sullivan, MS, RD, CSSD, LD