Morning Exercise and Type 1 Diabetes, Part Deux


A couple months ago I wrote a post called “Morning Exercise and Type 1 Diabetes” (hello, SEO) in which I expressed my frustration at the different ways my blood sugar reacts to exercise throughout the day, and to different types of movement. In short: exercise hard in the evening, my blood sugar plummets. Exercise hard in the morning, and it sky-rockets. Exercise moderately in the morning (e.g. walking) and it drops. Exercise in the middle of the day and, well, I have no idea what it does, because I don’t do that. 

Anyway, the point is that it’s been driving me crazy — as many of you know, it is excruciatingly frustrating to force yourself out of bed early in the morning in the name of doing something good for your body, only to have your body rebel against you.  Sometimes it seems like it would be healthier, at least as far as blood sugars, to never exercise and just base my diet entirely on cheese.

But I will not do that! No! I have kept up the battle, and I thought I’d share my somewhat successful results. 

First, I have begun to take pre-exercise boluses in the morning (I repeat: in the morning. If I did this in the afternoon, I’d die). I have figured out a routine where if I eat a 4oz cup of cottage cheese (7 grams carb), take 2 units of insulin (!), and go to my cross-training class, my blood sugar does not go too far up or down. (If I do not do this and go to my  class, it will spike.) 

This system has worked relatively well so far, but it has two major weaknesses. First, it terrifies me. I do not like bolusing before I work out. I have had far too many scary spin class lows for that. And second, it makes me completely dependent on cottage cheese. I am serious — it’s the only thing I know how to eat before my workout. If I run out of Breakstone’s, I am screwed. 

In an unfortunate twist of fate, I do not live near any grocery store that sells Breakstone’s (and I am picky about my cottage cheese). This means that I have to order it in bulk whenever I get groceries from Last time, I got 28 containers. Not only does this take up a lot of room in the fridge, but it makes me do things that appear crazy, like tell visiting friends to help themselves to anything in the house — chocolate, wine, whatever, but DON’T TOUCH MY 28 CONTAINERS OF COTTAGE CHEESE OR I WILL KICK YOU OUT OF MY HOME.

But I’m getting off my point, which is to share exercise tips. My second tip, which I have mentioned before, is to drop my basal rate an hour and a half before I exercise in the evening or afternoon (and, of course, to always have glucose tabs on hand). This does not always prevent lows, as my body continues to “pool” insulin at lunchtime — resulting in a post-meal high and a crash when it finally gets absorbed. But it’s helpful. 

And the third thing I’d recommend, which my cottage cheese experience indicates, is to think of exercise not on its own, but in the context of your meals. I’d never really put together the idea that if I know my day is going to involve both morning exercise and (perhaps unsurprisingly) breakfast, it would make sense to figure out how to combine the two into a pattern that works. I should probably branch out into some foods other than cottage cheese, just in case my supply runs out. But at the moment, I’m just grateful to have found something that works, more or less. As is so often the case with diabetes, I feel like that might be the best I can hope for. 

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10 years ago

I have found that avoiding classes, and working independently where I can monitor my heartrate carefully allows me the best control over blood sugars.  I bike to work in the mornings because otherwise I have wicked morning insulin resistance until 11, so I bike pretty “easy” so as to not raise my heart rate over 140 and that usually staves off the morning spike.  If I’m hitting the gym in the evening I make sure it’s been at least two hours since I’ve eaten. If I’m under 70 I start with something agressive like burpees or something really strenuous and anaerobic.  Once… Read more »

10 years ago

I wish I could send you cottage cheese because Breakstone’s is nothing compared to the stuff over here.  But I fear the trip overseas might be a bad idea.  As for eating the same thing all of the time… it’s the best.  Though every so often I have a wave of nausea while eating almond butter.  That’s the sign that I need a few days off.

Dr. Margaret A. Morris
10 years ago

Hehehe, soooo  much sympathy. I eat almost exclusively nutrition bars. Until recently, Luna Iced Oatmeal, but I’m looking into switching that up. I buy them in bulk from Amazon. I look a little crazy, I know, but it works. So I don’t mess with it. I have been training myself to explain without utter embarrassment that it’s just what I prefer, no offense to the food in front of me– it’s just so much easier that way. But, yeah, a fridge full of cottage cheese? I’m so right there with you.

Scott K. Johnson
10 years ago

Great post, Catherine.  I have to admit, when I see you I’ll think of a huge refrigerator filled with nothing but cottage cheese containers.  haha!

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