How To Make Basal Rate Testing Less Brutal


Insulin Pump - Basal Rate Testing

If you use an insulin pump or multiple daily injections to treat your diabetes, you’ve probably heard of (or performed) basal rate testing. It’s a test you can perform to measure the appropriateness of your basal (or background) insulin doses. The idea is to sit back and watch what happens to your blood sugar with as few variables as possible in play. That means no exercise, no active insulin from recent boluses, and no leftover carbohydrates making their way through your bloodstream.

Basal rate testing can be quite helpful in fine-tuning your daily insulin doses, but it can also be tedious, frustrating, and cause sudden cravings for things like pancakes and baked potatoes. Here are a few ways to test your basal rates without losing your mind.

Plan ahead. If you want to conduct an effective, informative basal rate test, pretty much all the stars have to align. Make sure you’re not sick, or unusually stressed out, or training for a marathon.

Tell your friends. Nothing will make you feel sorrier for yourself than being invited out for a lunchtime burrito feast by your coworkers. If you’re comfortable disclosing your status, let your friends know how they can help you.

Stock up. If you have a continuous glucose monitor, make sure it’s charged up and ready to go.

Start off with a full vial of test strips, alcohol swabs, and a fresh battery in your glucose meter. This is not the time to run out of anything.

Sleep through it. The best thing about a nighttime basal test? You’re not awake to realize how hungry you are.

Write it all down. It seems obvious, but you’ll get more out of your results if you record all the times, all the blood sugars, and all the other variables that might have an effect on your numbers.

Reward yourself. Plan a nice meal or some time with friends for the end of your basal rate test. The food will taste extra delicious, and you’ll feel more proactive about your self care.

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Valerie Heffron
7 years ago

I would like to hear more from Dan about Metformin.

7 years ago

I have had type 1 diabetes for over 30 years. I have never done this exercise. I do not see why you need to. If you notice a high at a certain time of day, you can factor out whether it is food by analyzing the patterns. You can slowly increase or decrease and observe what happens. In addition, it is a myth to think that basal rates do not differ by the day. That is, if you have more need for more basal in the evening–every evening will not be the same. Food plays a role. However, most glucose… Read more »

Sheri Z
Sheri Z
7 years ago

My doctor “requests” that I do these every 3 months and have the results for him at my visit. I cant stand doing them. I understand why it’s done and it IS helpful. But, yah, I’m always more hungry during these times and the craziest things start to call my name! LOL

Mike R
Mike R
7 years ago

I only use two basal rates every day, one during waking hours and another, about 30% higher, basal rate during sleeping hours.  (Insulin is more effective when you are awake and moving around, so you need less during the day.) I keep an eye on my daily insulin dosage and make sure that my basal/bolus ratio is near 50/50 percent.  If that ratio starts to skew toward a higher basal percentage and/or I have frequent lows, then I lower my basal rates, usually both of them, by the same amount.  If I find my seven-day-average shows that I am taking more insulin in… Read more »

Jacquie Wojcik
7 years ago

You can do the test any time of day, based on which basal rates you’re trying to target. Unfortunately, when your stomach is growling and you want to eat, you basically just have to suck it up and wait. Gary Scheiner’s Book “Think Like a Pancreas” has great step-by-step instructions for basal testing.

Khürt Williams
7 years ago

Is night time the only time to do this test? What do you do about lunchtime type basal night? Breakfast time? How do you manage when your stomach is growling and you want to eat?

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