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Lessons Learned Series: Type 1 Diabetes and Sport Panel

The CIM community is like an amazing source of information with experts across a diverse range of topics joining us at our events across the country. This year, we’re working to distill many of the tips and things we’ve learned into digestible chunks. Throughout the year, expect to see recaps from some of our favourite Slipstream sessions, how-to guides based on things we’ve learned during Hot Topics sessions, and information we just couldn’t keep to ourselves. This blog features the latest in Type 1 diabetes and sport.

If you have questions or something you’d like crowd-sourced and answered, share your question with us by sending us an email at info@connectedinmotion.ca.

One of the many sessions offered at the Friends for Life Canada conference in November was a Diabetes & Sport panel of distinguished athletes living with Type 1 diabetes. Moderated by Registered Kinesiologist and CDE, Julie Devos, the session offered insight into the athletes’ experiences with diabetes management while training and competing at a high-level of sport. We wanted to pass some of the great lessons we learned from the panel on to the wider CIM community, and so we asked each of the athletes to share their top sport-specific diabetes management tip.


Marathoner, Ironman Triathlete

“Focus on type, trends, and timing”

I always say focus on type, trends, and timing. What type of exercise are you doing? Is it aerobic, anaerobic, mixed or HIIT? How do your blood sugar levels react? What are your individual trends? And timing. When are you working out (morning, afternoon, evening, before/after meals)? How much insulin is on board? Or when was your last meal?

For me I think it’s really important to record different training days and race days (jot down your blood sugar levels, what you ate, how stressed you felt, etc.) so that you can learn how to better adjust your insulin and your nutrition. And also, if you race, never do anything new on race day. Practice everything before.


MMA Fighter, Bronze Medalist at 2013 Taekwondo World Championships

“Basal reductions during exercise can help”

If you are using insulin pump therapy, set an 80% basal rate reduction 90 minutes before aerobic exercise to better protect against hypoglycemia. Also as a tip, try to exercise with little-to-no insulin on-board or “active insulin” because this will help protect against a large drop in blood glucose level during aerobic exercise.

Just remember that different types of exercise can impact blood sugar levels differently. For example: continuous, steady state moderate-intensity ‘aerobic’ exercise tends to cause blood sugar levels to drop whereas intermittent high-intensity or sprint-based exercise tends to cause blood sugars to stay the same or sometimes rise.


Skier, Ironman Triathlete

"Learn what works for you as an individual"

Do some testing to figure what works for you. You can read all about the ‘proper’ or ‘common’ things to do when active, but figuring out what works for your particular sport and personal diabetes management still comes down to a bit of trial and error. Just because there is a certain technique everyone else uses doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the right solution for you.


Professional Hockey Player - Canadian Women's Hockey League

"Modifying post-game basal rates can help prevent hypoglycemia"

During hockey games, adrenaline causes my blood sugar to rise. After the game I decrease my basal rate because adrenaline levels decline and my muscles are recovering and restoring their glycogen stores, causing my blood sugar to drop. By decreasing my basal rates I am proactively trying to prevent hypoglycemia. This is extremely important when you play at night and want to prevent night time lows.


Alpine Ski Coach, RKin, CDE

"Fuel up with a bedtime snack"

Eating and fueling for exercise is important, and so is replacing glycogen stores. Remember to have a good meal after exercise and before bed, particularly if you’ve exercised in the afternoon, to have an non-bolused for snack for bedtime. Try and a mixture of carbs (15-20 grams) and protein, whole toast and peanut butter, a glass of milk, or perhaps crackers and cheese.