Heavy Or Fast, Exercise Has An Effect…

I’m a huge believer in the fact that a person should be training and/or working out several times a week, if not daily. I’ve had many of my counterparts (both Diabetic and martial artist) point out that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing and that daily training isn’t ideal. But when you factor in sessions of meditation, low-impact yoga and walks, it can be pretty easy to log something different seven days a week.

And before all the yoga practitioners jump on here and tear me a new one, I’m not saying that yoga isn’t a fantastic workout, because it can bring the sweat like anything else. But the point I’m trying to make today, especially for my fellow Type-1 Diabetic readers, is that different TYPES of workouts will have a different effect on your body and blood sugar. And it can be confusing and difficult to make heads or tails of it. After all, one would be inclined to think, “burn glucose to lower, eat carbs to increase,” right?

Last week, I had the privilege of enjoying two workouts. The first one was a circuit-style workout, with some speed and intervals thrown in. I performed this workout with my 6-year old son and we ended the workout with about fifteen minutes of punching the mitts. All in all, it lasted about forty minutes. During this period, my CGM was taking care of monitoring my blood sugar levels and I sat in the range of 5.3 to 5.7 throughout the entire workout and for a while afterwards. Okay, not bad.

The second workout was a period of doing karate forms, or kata. I practiced these alone for about a half hour, doing two or three of each of my forms required for my next belt certification. Doing them alone didn’t stop my son from sitting on the steps and watching quietly while occasionally mimicking some of the techniques he saw. But during that brief half hour, my blood sugar dropped from the mid 6’s to about 3.8 mmol/L.

The fact is, different workouts will have different effects on your body whether you have Diabetes or not. But it’s because of that Diabetes that you need to be wary of said effects. There’s no magic formula to figuring this out. Most of it will be trial and error and will require you to try different things to see what works for you. But I’m going to throw out some basic concepts as they relate to Diabetes. If you want some in-depth information, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation has a great article that covers what I’ll be saying in greater detail.

Let’s start with cardio. I’m not a huge fan of running but as some of you know, I LOVE cycling. Cardio (or aerobic) exercises tend to last longer than say, weightlifting or other types of exercise. Although exhausting, biking for 70 kilometres will typically be less intense than say, doing repetitive sets of heavy weights for 30 minutes. Under normal circumstances, you’ll burn glucose consistently throughout the majority of your workout, meaning you’ll experience a low at some point during your workout. Pretty straightforward, right?

Next is anaerobic exercise, or your weightlifting, karate, boxing… Most of the workouts that are higher in intensity and will build muscle as opposed to cardio. Because of the higher intensity, the release of adrenaline will trigger the breakdown of glycogen in your system which is then turned into glucose, resulting in a spike in blood sugars. This is usually a real pain in the ass for me, especially since I usually suspend my insulin pump and leave it in my gym bag to avoid damage during karate classes.

Still with me? Good. The JDRF link I provided above will also offer some insight into combination aerobic/anaerobic workouts like team sports, but that shit gives me a headache to think about. So check out the link. The bottom line is you may have to suffer through some trial and error in order to figure out what works best for you. Removing my pump is normally a good idea during karate to keep from damaging it. But if I do as my doctor suggests and bolus a unit or two to compensate for the pump’s absence, I usually suffer a low quite quickly. I’m usually better off letting the spike happen and correcting it after class is done. Although not the best choice, that works for me. It may not work for someone else.

Having Diabetes shouldn’t stop someone from enjoying the full range of health and fitness that their bodies can allow. Although it may take a bit more planning and tweaking than the average person, there isn’t anything I can’t do. The important thing is to plan ahead. Always keep some fast-acting glucose with you, in case you suffer a low. Keep a blood glucose meter close by s that you can confirm your blood sugar levels, whether you wear a CGM or not. And of course, be sure to stay hydrated. ☯


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I am a practitioner of the martial arts and student of the Buddhist faith. I have been a Type 1 Diabetic since I was 4 years old and have been fighting the uphill battle it includes ever since. I enjoy fitness and health and looking for new ways to improve both, as well as examining the many questions of life. Although I have no formal medical training, I have amassed a wealth of knowledge regarding health, Diabetes, martial arts as well as Buddhism and philosophy. My goal is to share this information with the world, and perhaps provide some sarcastic humour along the way. Welcome!

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