One of the most important aspects of diabetes self-management is learning how to coordinate your insulin injections with your exercise schedule. People living with diabetes may not realize how much of an impact the hormones released during exercise have on their blood sugar levels. It’s important to realize that exercise helps effectively manage diabetes, but only when you coordinate it with your insulin injections.
Can You Use Exercise for Blood Sugar Control?
In most cases, exercise will lower your blood glucose levels. This happens because as you exercise, your body burns calories and glycogen, effectively reducing the amount of glucose in your body.
However, there are times when exercise has the opposite effect. It can raise blood glucose levels if your body releases adrenaline or other stress hormones during a particularly tough workout.
Raised levels can happen because adrenaline stimulates your liver and tells it to release extra glucose. This is especially common during competitive sports, competitions, and other forms of exercise where you compete against others. In most cases, however, exercise will lower your glucose levels and help keep your diabetes controlled.
The Best Time to Exercise: Before or After Taking Insulin?
In most cases, the best time to exercise if you have diabetes is before taking insulin. Insulin is administered to keep your blood sugar in check, so taking insulin before a workout could lower your glucose levels too severely. The result is that you’ll end up burning more glucose than your body has to spare, and you’ll crash.
Lowering your blood glucose levels too fast will result in hypoglycemia and what feels like a sugar crash. However, where a healthy pancreas will note the crash and increase glucose accordingly, a person with diabetes won’t have this benefit. Because the insulin injection already reduced your glucose, and the workout consumed any leftovers, your body won’t be able to replace the missing glucose.
Hypoglycemia can be just as dangerous as hyperglycemia. It can result in:
- Confusion and the inability to process thoughts
- Inability to control your arms and legs
- Lack of coordination
- Slurred speech
- Blurred or loss of vision
How Long Should you Wait to Exercise After Taking Insulin?
After taking insulin, you’ll want to wait several hours before attempting to exercise. The recommended wait time to work out after an insulin injection is between three and four hours. The reason you want to wait this long is that exercising too soon could result in using too much glucose too fast resulting in hypoglycemia.
When you exercise, your body is encouraged to consume glucose. When you combine the increased absorption with insulin, it further decreases your blood sugar levels.
How to Properly Regulate Your Blood Sugar with Exercise for Diabetes Lifestyle Management
To find out if exercise is raising or lowering your blood sugar levels, you must measure your glucose levels before and after exercising. Until you know what the exercise is doing to your body, it’s important to closely monitor your glucose levels so you have a clear picture of what your body needs. The effect of the exercise will determine the best time to administer insulin and how to monitor your injections.
How to Adjust Your Insulin Schedule to Exercise
Because different types of exercise have the potential to raise or lower your glucose levels, you need to determine how and when to adjust your insulin absorption. Doing this could take some time and practice, but you must stay safe during exercise and have it do the most good for your body.
- Incorporate a well-balanced and consistent workout program.
- Find a fitness plan where you do both aerobic and anaerobic exercises.
- While you can perform different types of exercises, it’s important to have the same routine and schedule.
- Measure your blood sugar before doing your workout, immediately after your workout, and roughly one hour after your workout.
- You should also measure your blood sugar before eating anything after a workout.
- Determine which exercises raise your glucose and by how much, and which exercises lower your glucose and by how much.
- Using this information, you can determine how exercise affects your blood sugar and adjust your insulin intake accordingly.
Can I Exercise With High Blood Sugar Levels?
If you have diabetes and your blood sugar is high, and you want to exercise, it’s important to correct the high blood sugar before starting the workout. Exercising will lower your blood sugar levels, but only if you exercise correctly. Certain activities such as anaerobic exercises will raise your blood sugar to dangerous levels.
It’s also worth noting that exercising with high blood sugar can cause ketones (chemicals made in your liver), which can be dangerous. Instead, you may need a small dose of insulin to correct your blood sugar before starting the workout, but be careful not to take so much that exercise will cause hypoglycemia.
Planning Your Exercise and Insulin Schedule
As you can see, there are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to exercise, insulin, and managing blood sugar levels. The main thing to keep in mind is that everyone’s bodies are different, and various exercises will impact everyone differently. As such, it’s up to each individual to determine how different exercises affect your blood sugar levels and adjust the time and amount of your insulin absorption accordingly.