Blood Sugar Management During a Race

Any diabetic who has run in a charity or competitive race, swims on a swim team, or even plays pick up basketball on the weekends, can appreciate the struggle of managing blood sugar during competitive conditions. It’s not as simple as “normal exercise” like a trip to the gym or ordinary weekend jog. And, it’s certainly not as easy as starting in a normal range in hopes of ending up in a normal range. There are so many factors to manage. Should you start out a little high, knowing strenuous exercise will bring your blood sugar down quickly? But will starting high make you feel sluggish and affect your ability to compete? How do you account for the stress of a race, knowing the stress may cause a rapid spike in blood sugar at the starting line? How do you keep blood sugar in a normal range, but account for the need for carbs to give you enough energy to do the exercise? How do you balance the carbs burned against the hunger that will kick in immediately after the exercise? It’s no easy challenge!

Our experience shows that routine is your best ally. Rhodes runs in a charity 10K every year (and this run is faster and about twice as long as his typical jog). Not only is he challenging his endurance, but he also runs harder/faster than usual in hopes of finishing in about the same time every year. There have been years when he started out way too high and almost didn’t make it though. There have been years when he dropped low too fast and ended up sucking down liquid sugar the entire race. However, the best years are those when he attempts to recreate the best conditions from the prior years. He eats something similar for dinner the night before and for breakfast the morning of the race. He goes into it hydrated, rested and tries to keep his nerves/excitement in check. He learns from mistakes.

Use your experiences (and trial and error) to figure out approximately what blood sugar works best at the start, what snacks to eat before and how soon before, and what sources of sugar, if any, are needed during the race/game. Once you have a good result, repeat those good practices every time, every race, every game. Routine, routine. Its not boring, its good practice.

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