As a Type 1 diabetic for the last seven years, and a lifelong athlete, trial and error with exercise and insulin/eating patterns has been my best friend. No two people are the same, and neither are two workouts. The most important things to remember are to be adaptable, don’t beat yourself up, and get out and move!
While being a highly competitive athlete and T1D can be challenging, being a D1 athlete makes me a more regimented diabetic, and being a diabetic makes me a more disciplined athlete. Here are a few quick that help me be successful on and off the court. Keep in mind that everyone is different though, and I am not a medical professional, just an experienced D1 T1D athlete.
- Don’t take insulin before cardio if possible. Before a long tennis match, running, or practice, I try to eat a lower carb meal and avoid taking insulin. Bodies process insulin more efficiently when working out (especially for a long workout), and if I take insulin, I will inevitably go low.
- Fats are your friend! I love nut butters, avocados, and coconut oils, especially pre-workout. Because fats are metabolized slower than carbs and protein, they help sustain blood glucose levels pre and post-workout.
- Find a low snack that works for you. For me, I love drinking coconut water while playing tennis to keep my blood sugar up while avoiding spikes (which I usually get from Gatorade). I also love apple sauce, and larabars (due to fat content, which helps stabilize) for gradual lows. I always keep energy chews in my bag, too.
- Morning workouts>>> I cannot stress the incredible impact morning workouts have on my blood glucose control enough. Late night workouts usually result in 3 a.m. lows. Morning weight lifting helps me maintain BG levels throughout the day.
- Make sure your basal levels are adjusting according to your activity level. When I’m in season, I always cut my basal insulin by at least a few units. Talk to your doctor if you find you are running low/high more than usual! Getting my basal insulin in check has been the biggest help in my athletic performance.
- Switch it upppp! I love interchanging cardio, HITT, weight lifting, yoga, etc. throughout the week to maintain BG levels and challenge my body. Find workouts that you enjoy! Finding a workout buddy is vital to success.
- Be prepared! Never leave for an outdoor run without fruit snacks tucked in a pocket. Whether I’m running, playing tennis, or at the gym, I always have a debit card and low snacks (and insulin and a meter, of course).
- Keep track! Keep a log of workout type, duration, and the BG effect it had. I also use an app to track my meals and help me figure out what is the best fuel for active days.
- Adrenaline is a factor! My blood levels during practice and a match can be drastically different due to the stressors of competing. Because of this, I have to make sure to keep my emotions in check, and be aware of adrenaline spikes.
- Give yourself some credit! Being a T1D is a full time job. That being said, do not let anyone tell you it is impossible for you to be a highly competitive athlete– because that’s far from the truth! #diabadass