Exercise, Insulin and Weight Loss

Exercise helps blood sugar control
Exercise helps blood sugar control

If you exercise to lose weight, it can be annoying for those on insulin as it can mean having to take in as many calories, in the form of carbohydrate to keep your sugar levels up, as you can hope to lose by doing the exercise.

We review two methods that can reduce the need to take in carbohydrate prior to exercise.

Intense sprinting raises blood sugar levels

Taking part in an intense 10 second sprint has been found to raise blood glucose levels in people with type 1 diabetes. When the body takes part in sprinting, it needs a ready source of glucose and the liver is naturally set up to do this by releasing stored glucose into our bloodstream.

This is well worth trying for people who are looking to manage their weight as it means you can raise your blood sugar levels for exercise without needing to take so much carbohydrate on board.

Test your blood glucose levels 15 minutes after the sprint to see if it has raised your sugar levels sufficiently.

The rise in blood sugar levels from a short sprint should sustain your blood sugar levels for the initial part of your exercise.

If you're taking part in exercise for more than 20 or 30 minutes, you may find you need to take in glucose or another form of carbohydrate to prevent your blood glucose levels from going low.

If you are experiencing low blood glucose levels, it is important to take a source of quick acting carbohydrate such as glucose tablets.

Reduce insulin intake for exercise

An effective way of reducing carbohydrate intake for exercise is to reduce your insulin.

This is a relatively easy option for people on insulin pumps. Some people will decide to remove their pump for exercise, allowing the exercise itself to prevent blood glucose levels rising.

Bear in mind that it is not recommended to be disconnected from your pump for more than hour to prevent ketone levels from rising.

If you make changes to your insulin, or disconnect from your pump for a period of time, monitor your blood glucose levels regularly to help prevent high or low blood sugar levels.

For those on injections, reducing insulin intake is more difficult to achieve and the sprinting method above is likely to be a better option.