Daniella Brasacchio shares her experience on cycling and diabetes.
First and foremost, my name is Danielle! I love to cycle and have type 1 diabetes.
It has taken years of practice and persistence to learn how to manage my blood glucose levels (BGLs) whilst doing the activities I love to keep me fit and healthy. Here are some ways I manage my BGLs depending on the activity I choose to do, but remember: we are all different. Speak with your health professional to help you get started on your journey.
Right now, it’s winter in Melbourne so it’s cold and wet outside. My usual activities of running or long bike rides are definitely not happening. How do I stay motivated to keep fit ? I choose the gym – it’s dry and warm – and there’s a great selection of fitness classes to help keep me motivated. Nothing works better for my motivation than being in a class, with an instructor guiding me through the workout. There is also the bonus of walking out of the gym on a cold winter’s morning or evening and feeling warm!
If my spin class is at 6am in the gym, I get up 30 minutes before it is due to start, check my BGLs and then have a small glass of milk or a small banana (equivalent to 15g carbohydrates). I don’t give myself any insulin, as I’ll burn off the snack during the class. After the 45 minute class, I check my BGLs, before driving or walking home. I generally don’t need to eat again until breakfast, because I didn’t have any insulin before to the class. My BGLs are always great after a class, anything in the 5mmol/L range puts a smile on my face! However, the high intensity exercise will mean I adjust my long acting insulin by lowering the dose because the exercise will keep my BGLs on the lower side for about 8 hours. I will enjoy a good breakfast of some low GI toast with nut butter and no-added sugar jam, a café latte with skim milk and some no-added sugar, low fat yogurt. This will provide me with the protein and carbohydrates that my body needs to recover. I’ll also need to re-fuel before lunch with a small low GI snack like a banana, mandarin or some yoghurt with a handful of nuts such as walnuts, almonds or pecans. The tweak to my insulin and extra snacks are really all I need to help me refuel and recover.
What about an evening yoga class or short brisk walk? Well, for this, I don’t need a snack, as yoga or a short brisk walk are low-intensity workouts. If I am feeling hungry though, a small handful of almonds or walnuts, or a piece of low fat cheese before class will get me through. I don’t need to adjust my insulin, but feel great for getting some exercise in, particularly after a long day at work.
Cycling is one of my favourite things to do at the weekend – I even blog about it! The warmer months usually involve a 50-70 km bike ride anywhere between 3-5 hours, traveling the Dandenong ranges or along Beach Road in Melbourne. These rides do require some planning though as they do affect my BGLs. In general, I have a good balanced dinner the evening before, adjust my long lasting insulin dose down and eat a good carbohydrate-based breakfast like some toast, just before my ride begins. I check my BGLs every 20-25 km and fuel up with a mix of high and low GI snacks to keep me pedalling. My post-cycle recover involves checking my BGLs regularly, adjusting my short acting insulin down and eating a hearty post ride meal! I love having eggs, spinach and toast with a bowl of yogurt and a big dinner with some lean meat or fish and green leafy vegetables to help my body refuel and recover. Having some dark chocolate, one of my favourite foods is also a snack post-ride. The effects of a long ride are great for my BGLs and I feel so good for doing it plus I have such fun riding with my friends, who really are supportive of me.