The incidence of diabetes keeps increasing in the population as more and more people are diagnosed with the disease. There are two types: Type 1, in which the body cannot produce the hormone insulin and the person must inject it; and Type 2, in which the body is resistant to insulin, or fails to absorb it properly, and the person can treat the disease with diet and exercise to an extent where insulin injections may not be necessary.
Type 1 diabetes can be debilitating and even life threatening. However, this doesn't always have to be the case. With proper nutrition, athletes with diabetes can manage their symptoms, control the disease and have the energy they need for hard workouts and intense competition.
People with diabetes regularly test their blood to measure their glucose level. If their blood glucose is high, they take insulin via injections or an insulin pump. They must calculate their insulin dosage based on several factors, including the amount of carbohydrate they have consumed and their level of physical activity. If the calculation is incorrect, the person will experience hyperglycemia (high blood glucose) or hypoglycemia (low blood glucose). Either extreme can cause performance to suffer dramatically, and affected athletes are usually unable to continue their workout until they bring their blood glucose level into the normal range (generally 70 to 120 mg, but can vary from person to person)—either with insulin (to counter hyperglycemia) or with a fast acting sugar, like cranberry juice (to counter hypoglycemia).
The good news is that you can avoid the highs and lows with a few quick steps before exercise. To safely get the most out of your workouts, make them part of your routine 30 to 60 minutes before activity.
1. Check your blood glucose levels one hour before exercise
2. Choose one of these healthy pre-workout snacks :
- Coconut water with one ounce of raw nuts (vegan)
- Two-percent organic milk or yogurt with a piece of fruit (vegetarian)
- All natural whey protein with chia or flax seeds and frozen broccoli and/or vegetable powder (primal)
- Peppers, carrots and humus wrapped in two ounces of sliced turkey (low carb)
3. Calculate the amount of insulin you need to cover your snack so your blood glucose levels will reach your target (most likely 100 to 110 mg).
4. With advice from your physician, you might subtract two or three units of insulin from your calculated amount to get your insulin dosage.
Check out a full meal plan for athletes with diabetes.
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