Living with diabetes takes a bit of effort every day. So, when exercising is your job, how do you make it all work? Nicola Alger sat down with Jack Fitzpatrick, 24-year-old Hawthorn AFL recruit, who was kind enough to share his insightful thoughts and experiences with diabetes.
Jack was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes just four years ago and quickly learnt the importance of balancing diabetes with his rigorous exercise regime. Over time he has become somewhat of an expert and enjoys sharing this new found expertise.
Nikola: What are the benefits of exercise for diabetes management?
Jack: Personally, I find it heightens awareness of your blood glucose levels (BGLs) and the importance of testing. By constantly checking mine, I found a pattern. Now that I know my BGLs well, I can usually guess around what my levels are. I find that routine is important! Without it, BGLs can be all over the shop.
Nikola: What do you do before exercise to manage your BGLs?
Jack: On training and game days, I act as I do on any other day: I have my bolus [insulin medication injection] with my main meals, and make sure that I have carbohydrates before and after the activity. I do not inject insulin before exercise as this increases my risk of a hypo [having BGLs going too low].
Nikola: How often do you test, and what BGL range do you aim for?
Jack: On a daily basis, I like to stick as close to 5mmol/L as possible, however, when exercising, I aim for a BGL of 10-14mmol/L for the duration of the activity, to make sure my body has enough energy to function efficiently.
I usually test my BGLs before, during and after training, and after every quarter during a game. The highest I’ve ever run during exercise was 21mmol/L, which was too high, and in instances like that it’s safest to alert a friend or someone around you.
Nikola: How do you maintain your BGLs during and after exercise?
Jack: I personally avoid eating throughout exercise, and if I find myself low after a test, I tend to drink Gatorade to boost my BGLs.
I find that I’m more at ease if I run on the higher side, as I think it’s easier to treat hyperglycaemia by injecting insulin after exercise. I find if I have hypo during exercise it makes me tired and lethargic for the rest of the day.
But in saying that, everyone is different and should manage their BGL at a level that suits them!
Nikola: How do you manage hypos during exercise?
Jack: I usually sit down and drink Gatorade. I’m not a big fan of eating during exercise, but lollies and fruit are another great option!
Nikola: Is fluid intake during exercise a concern?
Jack: Yes, because a lot of water can dilute your blood sugars and increase your hypo risk. During intense training and games, I always have Gatorade to keep my BGLs up.
Nikola: Do you think most people with Type 1 Diabetes are afraid to exercise due to concerns with BGLs?
Jack: Yes, I think that a lot of people are hesitant and scared of the hypo risk. This is a difficult battle, particularly for adults with busy lifestyles who may suffer consequences of poor management. That’s why I enjoy advocating living with Diabetes, as I believe I can help people overcome these mental demons.
Nikola: Do you have any advice for people with type 1 diabetes, who are keen to exercise?
Jack: My advice is to manage your BGLs well. If you do so, you will find how you react to certain activities and find a pattern. Therefore, finding a routine and what works for you is the best way to incorporate exercise into your lifestyle and better manage your diabetes.
Nikola: Thanks Jack!