Why Your Sugars Are Rising During Exercise & What To Do About It

Have you ever wondered why your glucose levels rise when you exercise? In this article I’m going to share a few reasons why that could be happening, what you can do about it, and how you can use this information to create your very own transformation. 

High blood sugar or hyperglycemia is one of the most obstructive factors in optimizing YOUR wellbeing, & building muscle with diabetes. If you want to know more about muscle gain or fat loss with diabetes, you’ve come to the right place!

As a type 1 diabetic for 3 decades myself, and a strength coach for 15 of those years, I think we as T1D’s can all agree that we’ve all had a taste of those frustrating and surprising glucose spikes after exercising at some point. Today, I’m talking from a type 1 fitness trainers perspective specific to those exercising with type 1 diabetes.  Other than the points I’ll be speaking about today, our medication, activity levels, muscle mass, training frequency, recovery, and other ailments are also contributors to why your sugars are spiking when exercising

#1 – ANAEROBIC EXERCISE

Because insulin levels fail to rise for the increased production of glucose-raising hormones in someone with diabetes, high-intensity exercise has the potential to raise blood glucose levels because of the stress it puts on the body. 

It’s known that diabetics who engage in powerlifting, Crossfit, strong man, and bodybuilding as their chosen disciplines or hobbies, produce more glucose-raising hormones, which increases glucose production in the liver, making it difficult to get the glucose out of our bloodstream. Our body is designed to use glucose for energy, provide glucose when energy is needy is needed and store energy when needed. As diabetics, we often have to manually take care of and adjust a lot of these factors. 

So here’s what you can do:

If hyperglycemia develops, closely monitor your blood glucose and correct with the right amount of insulin needed. This is where understanding your own specific insulin correction factors come into play. If we don’t correct the high blood glucose levels it causes us to lose muscle mass, increases the chance of diabetic complications and affects our decreased daily energy levels & performance.

#2 – HIGH PACED AEROBIC EXERCISE

Mountain climbing, tennis, basketball, boxing, and jiu-jitsu are examples of very difficult aerobic exercises that incorporate occasional bouts of anaerobic activity.

Elevations in glucose-raising hormones, including the activities ive just mentioned, cause blood glucose levels to rise. Without the proper dose of insulin, we as diabetics aren’t able to keep glucose levels in range.

So here’s what you can do:

It’s all about testing the activities you enjoy and making notes of what each activity does to your diabetes specifically. From here, you would look to see the ranges the activity pushes your levels too. Once you notice a trend (which generally takes an average of 3 events or tests),  then you can start to anticipate outcomes before they happen instead of reacting to them when they happen.

#3 – STRESS

Stress, be it physical, emotional or mental, has the tendency to raise blood glucose levels in people with diabetes. 

Let me give you a small example of the outcome stress can have on us and our sugar levels. We all know that sleep is the time when we recover from the day we’ve had. If we don’t get enough sleep, our body doesn’t recover. 

As a type 1 diabetic, you’ll immediately notice that on days you get less than 5 hours of sleep, you’ll need up to 20% more insulin the next day to maintain stable levels. This is a small example of how the lack of recovery can have negative impacts on us. 

The best way to find out if and how stress is affecting you and your diabetes, it helps to make a note of your current stress levels in relation to your glucose levels. This can be done by using a scoring system as simple as 1-10.  When you’re feeling stressed, use this scoring system to measure and note HOW stressed you are. 1 being very mild and 10 being a panic attack. 

When enough data is presented you’ll be able to visibly see which level of stress your sugars start to rise at and if or when mental, physical and emotional stress is taking its toll on your diabetes. 

You’ll get a good indication of how sensitive you are to stress if you keep linking high-stress scores with blood glucose levels that are higher than they should be, and can start to focus on stress recovery instead of more and more medication. This is all assuming your background insulin is dosed correctly and your bolus insulin for the food you eat.

It is very common for diabetic bodybuilders, powerlifters, and competitive athletes to be concerned about this. Competition stress can raise blood glucose levels to the point that performance and appearance (in bodybuilding) are harmed. As a diabetic who used to compete for a living in fitness competitions, I can say first-hand how stress and even excitement affects our sugars.

Battling hyperglycemia is a daily task when we exercise under high-stress situations. 

Here’s what you can do:

 It’s crucial to consider how you react to stress. Because most of the tension you face is caused by self-inflicted daily habits or lack of habits, so learning to process stress rather than react to stress is a useful skill to have.

Exercise is stress, being in danger is stress, losing something or someone you care about is stress, lack of sleep leads to stress etc. 

Whether you’re being chased by a shark or perhaps you thought you lost your wedding ring, stress all has the same outcome on us as diabetics and needs to be managed proactively 

On any given day, if you put too much stress on yourself and dont make a point to match it with recovery, you put yourself at a high risk of injury ( mental injury, physical injury or emotional injury) as well as illness and something we all know very well – diabetic burnout. 

Stress isn’t something I try and avoid as it’s a part of life. As far as exercise goes – it’s the point, so personally, my golden rule is to work hard and recover harder. 

#4 – TOO MANY CARBS

Food and drink carbohydrate has the highest impact on blood glucose levels of all the macronutrients. All carbs are broken down into glucose, which is absorbed into the bloodstream and used as fuel or stored for later use *Fibre is a carb but is largely excluded from this as its ability to be absorbed are less than usual for a carb. 

Glucose is a vital source of energy for the body and the brain. To become a diabetic and to think that it means to never need carbs or glucose again is wildly incorrect. 

Diabetes is restoring a delicate balance that was once automatic. To favour any side is to break that delicate balance. 

The very definition of diabetes is the inability to process carbs. Lower carbohydrate intake is frequently recommended as a way to improve control – but restricting something only gives the illusion of control. 

While this dietary approach may be a valid way to improve blood glucose management in sedentary people, those who exercise on a daily basis will require more carbohydrate to sustain their training volume. 

Hyperglycemia is more likely with a higher carbohydrate diet, especially if insulin is reduced.

Here’s what you can do:

 Learn how to be diabetic and dose correctly. A diabetic that doesn’t know how to do the job their pancreas once had is where all the danger comes into play. 

Carbs eaten by a diabetic who understands this, mean glucose levels remain stable. A diabetic who doesn’t understand this will be riding those rollercoasters every time carbs are eaten (or even thought about), and thus turning to zero carb diets as the “fix”. 

This quick-fix approach treats the symptom but not the cause. 

Diabetes is a language we didn’t ask to learn, I get it, but not trying to be fluent means we can never move from a surviving mentality and reality towards a thriving mentality and reality. 

#5 – HYPERINSULINEMIA

Simply put, this is when there isn’t enough insulin in your bloodstream to allow glucose to transfer into the tissues that need it… As a result, your blood glucose levels stay high, putting you at risk for DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis), which intensifies high glucose levels. This happens if you forget to take your insulin, are highly stressed, it can happen when you have a glucose dump from your liver or eat too much glucose (carbs) without the correct dose of insulin. 

Here’s what you can do:

Get really good at becoming a master where your medication is concerned. Hyperinsulinemia is overcome by the guidance of your health professional together with the correct dose of your specific diabetic medications. 

#6 – YOUR PUMP BEING DISCONNECTED

For a diabetic – when insulin is not present, the glucose levels rise! A non-diabetics body (or pancreas) will secrete insulin all day long, almost every few minutes. This goes to reason, if your primary source of insulin has been disconnected it means only one thing: High sugar levels in the bloodstream. 

Here’s what you can do:

 Always check your pump tube, your infusion set for kinks and be mindful of activities that could cause your pump it to disconnect.

#7 – BLOCKED NEEDLES AND BROKEN PENS

If you’re a typical T1D, it’s not uncommon to keep the same needle on the pen and to change it once in a blue moon. For the record, needles should ideally be changed for every injection. Sometimes they come out of the box blocked or, they become blunt and blocked after use and if you have a blocked needle or a malfunctioning insulin pen you won’t be able to give yourself your insulin. 

Here’s what you can do:

Test your pen before use by pressing the plunger and looking for a drop or by squirting out a unit or 2. 

Always carry spare needles in your diabetic go-bag. Before I started using a pump – I used MDI (multiple daily injections) for 24 years. trust me, it’s not good when you need insulin and you can’t give it.  

#8 – DENATURED INSULIN

Insulin is a protein dissolved in water. Like any other protein, it can spoil. Keeping it cold helps to keep it from spoiling. When temperatures go to high or too low this can cause bacteria to grow in it and will break down the protein. The insulin won’t poison you or make you sick. It just won’t work very well – if at all. 

Here’s what you can do:

Keep your insulin in a cool dry place. The standard recommendation from all the insulin manufacturers is that a vial of insulin you are using can be kept at room temperature for up to 28 days. Room temperature is defined as between 59 degrees and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (15-26 degrees Celcius). 

Exercise and diabetes can be a bit confusing at first – I know! 

As a lifelong diabetic and ex competitive athlete, I can say first-hand how difficult it can be. Being well informed is the first hurdle, and the second is to be able to apply the information so you can successfully enjoy the transformation. 

That’s what I do for T1D’s all over the globe. Diabetic Athletic helps you live, look, feel and perform better.  If you made it this far through the video, Im sure you’re going to make the most of the information and are clearly serious about progressing. Feel free to contact me anytime, and in the meantime, you can visit diabeticathletic.com and enjoy the exercise & diabetes web class where I’ll make sense of almost everything you need to succeed when exercising with diabetes.  

If you want to start your very own 30-Day muscle-building journey that I’ve made especially for type 1 diabetics, this is the link for you www.30daygainz.com, and if you’d like a FREE TRIAL for access to some amazing home workouts, training plans, insulin to carb calculators and so much more… just click HERE and go the to the FREE trial (free means free – as in 100% free forever!)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s