Back to Sports Corner The After Exercise Blues

Hypoglycemia after exercise can be a very frustrating experience. For individuals who use insulin and are active the likelihood of a low blood sugar is high if preventive measures are not taken. The problem is not so much that it can occur but it is so unpredictable. It is common to have low blood sugars after exercise. In fact, there is a high occurrence for people 4-6 hours after exercise but some experience it up to 24 hours later.

Once the body burns the food eaten prior to exercise it uses a stored form of glucose (called glycogen) in the liver and muscles. After that is depleted if food is not eaten the body will get glucose from the blood, which causes us to go low. This does not happen quickly but over a number of hours. There is a twofold reason for eating carbs after exercise. One is to help prevent a low, but probably just as important is to restore the glycogen lost during exercise. This will not only help with decreasing the chance of a low blood sugar but will help with performance for the next exercise bout.

Now that you know why it happens, the question becomes, what can be done to prevent this? There is no easy answer, but if you follow a few guidelines the risk of hypoglycemia will decrease. Some tips to follow for individuals who experience low blood sugars after exercise are:

These are guidelines to follow but are not absolute. If a pattern develops look to make changes up or down depending on blood sugars and make sure to keep your healthcare team in the loop with any changes made.

A good book to read on exercise and diabetes is called The Diabetic Athlete by Sheri Colberg, PhD.

Rick Philbin, MBA, M.Ed., ATC

March 2005

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Last Updated: Friday September 07, 2012 11:16:32
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