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Low Blood Sugar After Exercise

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Does Exercise Impact Your Glucose Levels

The American Diabetes Association advises that exercise can lower your blood sugar levels for up to 24 hours because:

  • Your muscle cells use available insulin more efficiently, meaning you increase your insulin sensitivity .
  • Your muscles use more glucose during exercise than when theyâre resting. This greater uptake of blood sugar into your muscle cells naturally lowers blood sugar levels.

But, your blood sugar levels will respond differently while youâre exercising than they will over the long term. Letâs unpack the differences by looking at each.

Food Timing And Exercise With Hypoglycemia

Throughout the day, your blood sugar levels fluctuate. Usually, you will not notice these changes unless they drop below the normal range. Then, you may start to feel a bit shaky, dizzy, and sweaty. This is known as hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.

Although, hypoglycemia can occur at any time, it is sometimes brought on by exercise. When this occurs, it is due to lack of balance between your training volume, nutrition, temperature, altitude, and other external influences. Because hypoglycemia can be a rather common occurrence in people who exercise regularly, it is better to prevent hypoglycemia rather than treat it, and there are steps you can take to exercise safely.

What you eat and drinkand the timing of itcan help manage your blood sugar during exercise. Here we explain what to eat before and after a workout to help prevent hypoglycemia, whether you have diabetes or not.

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Good And Bad Exercises For Diabetes

One of the first things you might ask is if there are good and bad exercises for people with diabetes as in maybe I should just avoid the bad ones.

Christel Oerum, certified personal trainer and founder of Diabetes Strong and Diabetic Foodie, offered an alternative way to look at this question. Think about it like this: Your body just wants to help you out, it wants you to be successful. So, when you do certain types of workouts, predominantly anaerobic exercises, your body tries to ensure that you have the energy to be successful. It does this by releasing hormones that allow energy, in the form of glucose, to be released into your bloodstream. And that can raise blood sugars.

This response is not unique to people with diabetes. Vieira confirmed that In a nondiabetic body, the exact same process is happening, but their bodies produce extra insulin to deal with the extra glucose.

Just because blood sugar levels rise during certain types of exercise doesnt mean they are bad exercises or that the rise is happening for a bad reason, Vieira added. This is the bodys normal reaction to several factors that can occur mostly during anaerobic exercise like weight lifting, sprinting, spinning classes, competitive moments, etc.

Since its anaerobic exercise that causes BG spikes during activity, you might think that just avoiding sprints, resistance training, or other anaerobic activities could be the answer.

Statistics And Data Analysis

is blood sugar higher or lower after exercise ~ Jani Blood Sugar

For this study, we have defined low blood glucose as 70 mg/dL according to the American Diabetes Association , but also examined the data below 50 and 60 mg/dL. Calculations were made for the Insulinogenic Index and Matsuda Index . Baseline characteristics were analyzed by one-way ANOVA for statistical differences between groups. Repeated measure ANOVA tested interactions between study days , with a between-subject factor group and sex . Responses to the meal over time were tested with RMANOVA with study day by time with a between-subject factors of group and sex. Post-hoc analysis were performed with a one-way ANOVA and Tukey comparison to explore group differences within dependent variables. Significance set at P< 0.05, and data are presented as mean ± SEM.

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The Importance Of Exercise When You Have Diabetes

For people who have diabetesor almost any other disease, for that matterthe benefits of exercise can’t be overstated. Exercise helps control weight, lower blood pressure, lower harmful LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, raise healthy HDL cholesterol, strengthen muscles and bones, reduce anxiety, and improve your general well-being. There are added benefits for people with diabetes: exercise lowers blood glucose levels and boosts your body’s sensitivity to insulin, countering insulin resistance.

Many studies underscore these and other benefits from exercise. Following are some highlights of those results:

In general, the best time to exercise is one to three hours after eating, when your blood sugar level is likely to be higher. If you use insulin, it’s important to test your blood sugar before exercising. If the level before exercise is below 100 mg/dL, eating a piece of fruit or having a small snack will boost it and help you avoid hypoglycemia. Testing again 30 minutes later will show whether your blood sugar level is stable. It’s also a good idea to check your blood sugar after any particularly grueling workout or activity. If you’re taking insulin, your risk of developing hypoglycemia may be highest six to 12 hours after exercising. Experts also caution against exercising if your blood sugar is too high , because exercise can sometimes raise blood sugar even higher.

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C Biking More Than 90 Minutes

Expected BG Change for Biking, 90+ mins

Drop of 1-2 mg/dl per minute.

Time of Day


Before: 60 g carbs and 20 g protein .

During: 16 ounces of Gatorade per hour glucose tabs when trending low occasionally I eat a Clif Bar or sandwich .

After: Large meal with 30-60 g high-fiber carbs, protein, fat.


Bolus: 75% reduction in food and correction insulin before and during activity. 20% food bolus reduction after activity.

Basal: 70% reduction starting when exercise begins and ending one hour before its over .

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Prevention In People Without Diabetes

People without diabetes can usually prevent EIH by:

  • gradually building up to new exercise routines to give the body time to adapt
  • eating regular meals throughout the day
  • avoiding drinking alcohol before a workout

Individuals who feel shaky or dizzy during a workout should stop and take a break. They should try drinking 4 oz of juice or eating a piece of toast, then resuming their workout later.

Hypoglycemia can be life threatening if blood glucose levels drop too low. A person who experiences one or more of the following symptoms requires emergency medical attention:

  • loss of consciousness
  • symptoms that persist despite resting or consuming more food

People should consult a doctor if they frequently experience EIH or hypoglycemia at other times. If the person has diabetes, this could be a sign that their diabetes medication dosage is incorrect or that they are taking too much insulin.

How Can I Prevent Low Blood Glucose

Diabetes & Exercise How to Reduce High/Low Blood Sugars

All people with diabetes:

  • If you experience low blood glucose often, ask your doctor if setting a higher goal for your A1C level may be appropriate.
  • Ask your doctor to look at the test results from your home blood glucose monitor. These results reveal how often you have low blood glucose and when these episodes occur. Your doctor will look for patterns to see if low glucose happens after exercise or at certain times of day, for example.
  • If you’ve had low blood glucose in the past, consider wearing a medical alert bracelet so that others will know that you have diabetes in the event of an emergency.
  • Keep a fast-acting carbohydrate in your bag, desk drawer, car and other places for easy access. Good options include hard candy, fruit juice or glucose paste or tablets, which can be purchased at most pharmacies.
  • Ask your doctor for an emergency glucagon kit. This kit contains a fast- acting medication that can be injected in case of loss of consciousness because of low blood glucose. Keep one kit at home and one at work or school.
  • Monitor your blood glucose regularly so that low levels can be corrected before symptoms progress.

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How To Choose The Best Exercise With Hypoglycemia

Aerobic and resistance exercises are beneficial for diabetes management, but it is optimal to do both. You also may wonder if there is a better type of exercise if you are prone to hypoglycemia. In people with type 1 diabetes, high-intensity interval exercise is associated with less risk for hypoglycemia compared with continuous aerobic exercise.

Strength training with high-rep workouts that raise your heart rate will lower blood sugar,” says Sheth. “However, a strength training routine that is low-rep will most likely not cause a significant rise in your heart rate and may not affect your blood sugar as much.”

Everyones blood sugar response to exercise is different, adds Chan. Monitoring blood sugars before, during, and after exercise will help better guide decisions around type of exercise, insulin dose adjustments, and carbohydrate intake for future sessions. Chan also suggests exercising in the morning, when insulin sensitivity is typically lower.

What Causes Blood Sugar To Be High

Many things can cause high blood sugar , including being sick, being stressed, eating more than planned, and not giving yourself enough insulin. Over time, high blood sugar can lead to long-term, serious health problems. Symptoms of high blood sugar include:

  • Feeling very tired.
  • Having blurry vision.
  • Needing to urinate more often.

If you get sick, your blood sugar can be hard to manage. You may not be able to eat or drink as much as usual, which can affect blood sugar levels. If youre ill and your blood sugar is 240 mg/dL or above, use an over-the-counter ketone test kit to check your urine for ketones and call your doctor if your ketones are high. High ketones can be an early sign of diabetic ketoacidosis, which is a medical emergency and needs to be treated immediately.

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How Exercise Lowers Blood Sugar

Blood sugar, also called glucose, is the body’s main source of energy it mainly comes from the carbohydrates in food, according to Kaiser Permanente. The body regulates blood sugar levels with the help of the hormone insulin, which moves glucose out of the bloodstream and into the cells.

Exercise lowers blood sugar levels by increasing the body’s insulin sensitivity, aka its ability to use insulin, according to the American Diabetes Association . This helps the muscles get more glucose. Additionally, physical activity allows the cells to take in more glucose, whether insulin is available or not. This further reduces blood sugar.

Exercise also depletes the body’s glycogen stores, according to the Joslin Diabetes Center. When you eat, your liver stores some glucose in the form of glycogen for later use. During exercise, this glycogen is converted back into glucose for fuel. After exercise, it can take the body anywhere from four to 24 hours to replenish its glycogen stores, depending on the intensity of the activity. That means even if exercise doesn’t cause low blood sugar in the moment, it can increase the risk of hypoglycemia for people with diabetes for up to 24 hours after a workout.

Dr. Hafida says that exercise doesn’t pose a risk of hypoglycemia for people without diabetes. Even though a person without diabetes may sometimes âfeelâ the symptoms of low blood sugar, their blood glucose levels will usually still be within the normal range.

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Prevention In People With Diabetes

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The American Diabetes Association recommends that people who take diabetes medications to control their blood glucose check their blood glucose levels before exercising. If the reading is below 100 mg/dl, they should have 1520 grams of carbohydrates to increase their blood glucose.

Some options include:

  • 1 tablespoon of honey or sugar
  • 4 ounces of soda or juice

According to the ADA, a person should recheck their blood glucose after 15 minutes. If the reading remains below 100 mg/dl, they should have another 15 g serving of carbohydrates. They should repeat these steps every 15 minutes until their blood glucose is at least 100 mg/dl.

A 2019 review notes that anaerobic exercise, such as high intensity interval training , may reduce the risk of hypoglycemia in people with diabetes. HIIT involves brief bursts of intense activity, followed by a rest and then another brief burst of intense activity.

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How Can Exercise Cause Hypoglycemia

Glucose, or sugar, is the primary fuel for your muscles during physical activity. When youre exercising, your muscles are under more strain than normal, which requires them to use more fuel. Your body initially retrieves this fuel from glucose in the bloodstream or from larger glucose stores in the muscles known as glycogen. During strenuous exercise, however, your body will begin to use the glycogen stored in the liver, which can eventually deplete the bodys overall glucose levels. This fueling process is unavoidable, but there are things you can do to keep your blood glucose levels in a healthy range.

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Screening Day: Anthropometrics And Questionnaires

Height, weight, and waist circumference were measured. Fat mass, fat-free mass, and percent body fat were assessed using a Bod Pod or DEXA . All subjects had a screening OGTT, and hematocrit was measured. Further, questionnaires were completed on the screening day to determine their inclusion in the study, and included a health inventory and sleep apnea .

All subjects completed a peak oxygen consumption test on a treadmill. Prior to starting the test, electrodes were placed for EKG and heart rate measurements during the test. The ventilation, and percent oxygen and carbon dioxide were measured by True One 240 Metabolic Measurement Cart ParvoMedics and VO2 was calculated. The test began with 2 min of very slow walking . Speed and incline of the treadmill were increased every 2 min until the subject reached volitional exhaustion . Following the exercise test, subjects actively cooled down and were monitored for 510 min until HR and BP returned to near baseline.

Clearing Glycogen Stores And Increasing Glycogen Accumulation After Exercise

How to lower blood sugar for up to 100 points: After Meal Exercise

When you deplete your glycogen stores through exercise, you increase your available storage space for future incoming glucose. This increased availability is something that you can take advantage of. You can replenish your glycogen stores by eating carbohydrates while minimizing your glucose responses and fat gain.

You may have had a sports coach or trainer tell you to eat carbohydrates immediately after exercise. Thatâs because by doing this, you stabilize your blood sugar levels and enhance muscle glycogen recovery. This is a great technique for athletes, but also a great trick for us to have more flexibility in our diets.

Choose the correct type of training to deplete your glycogen stores to take full advantage of the increased storage space and improve your metabolic flexibility.

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How Are Low Blood Sugar Levels Treated

Your diabetes health care team will give you guidelines for treating low blood sugar levels, depending on your symptoms. If you can, try to test your blood sugar levels to make sure that your symptoms are because of hypoglycemia. If you can’t test blood sugar immediately, don’t delay in treating your symptoms you can always check your blood sugar after you’ve taken steps to get your blood sugar back up into the normal range.

When blood sugar levels are low, the goal is to get them back up quickly. To do that, you should take in sugar or sugary foods, which raise the blood sugar level quickly. Your health care team might suggest that you:

  • Eat, drink, or take something that contains sugar that can get into the blood quickly. Your doctor may tell you to have really sugary foods or drinks or might give you glucose tablets or gel to take all of these can help to raise your blood sugar level fast, which is what you need to do when it’s low.
  • Wait about 10 minutes to let the sugar work.
  • Recheck your blood sugar level with a glucose meter to see if blood sugar levels are back to normal.
  • Get a glucagon shot , if your symptoms are severe or get worse after you eat, drink, or take glucose.

Sometimes, blood sugar levels can get so low that you may not be awake enough to eat or drink something to get them back up. When this happens, you may need a glucagon shot.

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