Information on Diabetes and Crossfit is hard to come by. There’s little to none, especially that is helpful. In writing about my experience, I hope to be able to help others that are struggling to find the delicate balance between the disease that constantly controls their lives, and doing something they love.
The first time I tried Crossfit, I absolutely hated it. Why? I sucked, I was dizzy, and I wanted to puke. And that was after just the warm-up.
Fast forward about two years, and I decided to give it another shot. I saw a gym with a deal on a fundamentals course, and signed up. That was the beginning of the end. Just kidding, it’s never-ending.
From everything I’ve ever been told, exercise is expected to lower blood sugar. I went into Crossfit thinking I would need to watch my blood sugars for lows. Boy was I ever wrong. Once I started taking classes, I noticed my blood sugar would be fine throughout the class, but rise drastically about an hour later. And then NOT GO DOWN. It was like I was pumping myself full of insulin and my body rejected all of it. For typically the entire day. Luckily I wasn’t going into DKA (a harmful, potentially deadly state of high blood sugar) because I wasn’t super high, but I was higher than I felt comfortable being all day long.
Not only was this freaking frustrating, but as I was gaining muscle, I was also gaining fat from all the insulin I was taking, and absolutely NOTHING fit me. I felt terrible. I knew I had to do something. Others mixed diabetes and Crossfit and excelled…so why couldn’t I?
So I took it to the Googles. I figured someone with Type 1 diabetes had dealt with crazy blood sugars and written about it. Or maybe a doctor posted an article about it. So I Googled “Diabetes and Crossfit.” But nothing. I found nothing. One post by Robb Wolfe, but it barely covered enough to help. So I changed my search to “lifting and diabetes” and then “lifting and insulin,” and that’s when I found the craziest, but most helpful information.
Turns out, body builders have used insulin for years to get gains in the gym. Hold up. What? Insulin makes you fat. That’s what I’d always learned. Insulin = fat. But apparently there’s more to the story than I knew. Here’s the very basic version of what I depicted. Insulin takes nutrients to your cells. This includes your muscles. When you workout, insulin takes nutrients to your muscles. The way body builders are using insulin, is by taking it around their workouts so that more nutrients get to their muscles than their body would deliver on its own. INSANE!!!
Anyways, from intense workouts, the liver can produce glucose in trying to feed the muscles. So this gave me enough information to realize that I need to actually take insulin during my workouts. But how much? And when?
As I was trying to eat pretty low carb at first, I started taking 1 unit of insulin right after my workout. This was hit or miss for me. Sometimes it worked perfectly and I never saw a spike. Sometimes I saw a slight spike, but the insulin took care of it. Other days I still went high. And then there were the lows. It was a mess.
What I’ve found to work the best so far, is to eat healthy carbs immediately following my workout. This seems to end the glucose being released by my liver. In regards to the insulin for those carbs, I take it before the last chunk of my workout, which is 15-30 minutes. I also correct my blood sugar at this time if necessary. About the time I finish my workout, I am seeing the insulin start to work, and it’s the perfect time to eat. By doing this, I rarely see a huge spike an hour after my workout, but as anyone with diabetes knows, it’s never perfect.
My go-to post workout snack is a banana with my protein shake. But word to the wise, did you know that the ripeness of the banana can affect when it hits your blood sugar? A super ripe banana has already converted to glucose and will be absorbed more quickly by the body to be used as energy. With a green banana, the body has to metabolize the fructose into glucose, and it will not hit your blood stream as quickly.
My guilty pleasure post-workout is a Perfect Bar, mostly because my gym sells them and the Peanut Butter flavor is to die for. The mix of fat, protein, and carbs seems to also be perfect for my blood sugar if I take the insulin for it 15-30 minutes earlier. And yes, I couldn’t even wait to take the picture before eating this one.
As with all things diabetes related, this may work for me, and not for others. Mixing diabetes and Crossfit is hard, but that doesn’t mean that a diabetic can’t do Crossfit. Hopefully it’s a starting point and some good information for anyone going through the struggles I have had. I plan to put more effort into analyzing my blood sugars and different types of workouts, and of course write about it.