THE CLINIC: Diabetes and Race Day

Thu, 6 June 2013 - 2:06 a.m. MT
Credit: ARA Staff - American Running Association

QUESTION:

I’m diabetic and would like to know some guidelines for consumption of sports drinks and energy gels and bars during races. For short races like 5Ks I drink only water and eat afterward to balance my glucose level. But I have a 10-mile race coming up and it affects my confidence thinking about how I could collapse due to low blood sugar or the opposite: soaring glucose levels due to over-consuming a drink or gel. If there is info out there I haven’t had luck finding it. Any guidelines would be much appreciated.

Susan Necrichetti

Orlando, FL

 

ANSWER:

I advise patients to set up a training course that simulates the race. This includes not just course topography but fluid stations. Most runners have stations every 2.5 miles, while cyclists tend to have stations every 15 miles. You can set up laps that are this distance and weigh yourself after each.  It’s not too difficult to place a regular bathroom scale next to your lap point. In long events, remember that hydrating is important to keep diabetics out of trouble. The lap system will help you with this and also optimizing protein and carbohydrate consumption.

Mitch Goldflies, MD

Chicago, IL

 

ANSWER:

When we exercise, hormonal adjustments take place that help maintain our blood sugar levels at the same time muscles pull sugar out for fuel. As you well know, diabetics cannot rely on this system for steadfast results. It’s therefore critical that you check your blood sugar not only before and after exercise, but also during if exercise exceeds one hour. You will learn your own body’s response to exercise in this way.

The magic number for purposes of establishing a rule of thumb is 100. That is, if your blood sugar is at or below 100 mg/dL prior to exercise, you should take a carbohydrate supplement before and during, every 20 minutes, starting with 15 grams of carbohydrate. This would equate to 8 oz of drink or one half packet of gel. During training for your upcoming 10-miler, stop after 50 minutes and check your blood sugar level. If your blood sugar is below between 100 and 150, increase the frequency of your carbohydrate intake to every 15 minutes.

Keep a diary and do look it over regularly to examine how exercise at varying lengths of time, intensity, and temperature affect your sugar levels. Once you have this information you’ll achieve great comfort knowing you’re not only safe to compete, but that you are optimizing your performance. Keep track of your medication regimen as well, because that of course plays a huge role and will probably need to be adjusted too.  Also consider consulting a registered dietician/sports nutritionist to help you develop pre- and post-workout meals.

Karen Reznik Dolins, RD, CDN

Rye, NY

 

DISCLAIMER: The medical information on this site is provided as an information resource only and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Please consult your health care provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition. Clinic pieces are edited and details are changed. In some cases pieces represent composites from several queries to, and answers from, the Clinic Advisory Board.

 

The American Running Association (ARA) and its Clinic Advisory Board disclaims responsibility and shall have no liability for any consequences suffered as a result of your reliance on the information contained in this site. ARA does not endorse specifically any test, treatment, or procedure mentioned on this site.



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