The Energy Gel Experiment – Part 1


All of my recent troubles with blood sugar control during runs have made me decide to rethink a lot of what I’ve been doing to try to regulate my BS.

I started reducing my long-acting insulin (Lantus) dose. I went down to 18 units a week ago, then 16, and now have reduced to 14.

One of the things I noticed lately is that I’ve been eating huge amounts of halva when I run (on long runs I have a hard time fitting enough of them into my pack)and still I can’t seem to keep my BS levels up. Each one of my individually wrapped halva snacks has 14g of carb, 7g fat and 132 calories. The high fat content slows down the absorption process of the carbohydrates.

I originally started using halva instead of energy gels, on the advice of my nutritionist, after I told her I thought my BS was going high during runs from the gels. I didn’t actually check to see if my BS was spiking or if I was just having other diabetes related problems. I may have even been having lows. The truth is that I reached many of my conclusions without really checking.  I knew nutrition was a great part of my bad marathon experience, but I wasn’t very scientific about finding out what really happened during my runs.

Because I can be very thick-headed (it took me six months and a near-death experience to go do the blood test that diagnosed my diabetes), it was only after my third marathon and repeated high heart rate episodes did I start running with a glucometer.  And to my surprise my BS levels during my runs had nothing to do with my heart rate. (I still don’t know what causes my HR to shoot up during runs but I think it has to do with my BS during the night).

So, since halva hasn’t solved the problems of my running lows, and the truth is that all food makes me feel nauseous after 15 miles, even water, I’ve decided to give energy gels another chance.

My plan was to first try the gels at home while not exercising and then try them again during runs, checking my BS before and after taking the gels.  Here’s what I did:

The gel I decided to try is GU Lemon Sublime. This is one of the least offensive flavors during a run (this was the gel I preferred before switching to halva). It has 100 calories and 25g of carbohydrate (5g sugar) – all the GU Energy Gels have the same nutritional values.

Monday, before eating anything or taking any insulin, I sat down at my desk checked my BS (it was 130) and sucked down the gel. It didn’t taste that bad at all. It’s interesting how things taste different after 10 miles. I checked my BS every 15 minutes for the next hour.  After 15 minutes my BS was 157, after 30 minutes 194, after 45 minutes 216 and an hour after consuming the gel my BS was 204. I waited another hour, which included a slow 10-15 minute walk and checked again it was 109.

Wow, not what I was expecting. 2¼ hours after taking the gel my BS was down to normal – 20 points lower than where I started. What makes this more incredible is that – remember… I’d cut my long acting insulin down to 14 (thanks Ginger for the tip!).

The next step is to try it on a run and see how it goes.

* I am aware of the fact that the energy gels are about as far as possible from the Paleo diet and that they are highly processed.

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Catherine Price
11 years ago

Hi meg, I don’t get it either. My pancreas does not secrete insulin any more but I am not on the pump and I had 14 units of Lantus the night before so that was still working. I also took a little walk. I know I should have tested it again (and maybe I will) but I didn’t feel like spending the time. I also find that during runs the GU keeps me up for 30-45 minutes but then seems to quickly drop. I have found bananas to be problematic driving my BS way higher (i had a half a… Read more »

Meg Kelly
Meg Kelly
11 years ago

Am I understanding correctly–you ate a Gu (25 grams of carb), didn’t bolus for it and 2 hours later the sugar was out of your blood?  I don’t get it.  If you eat a banana and don’t bolus for it what does your BG do?  Do you still have some insulin production? I would love to figure out a new system for energy on a run.  Currently I eat a banana and bolus .5 of what I’d do if I wasn’t going to run.  If I do that, I can I run for an hour without a low and finish… Read more »

Catherine Price
11 years ago

Yes I imagine you are right but I would then be connected to a machine that comes with a whole new set of problems. I’m just not there yet. (vanity)

Dr. Margaret A. Morris
11 years ago

I can’t help but think an insulin pump would make this easier on you– the idea of trying to modulate long-acting insulin for a marathon hours away seems extremely difficult. A pump would give you much more fine-grained control over the insulin, which of course won’t solve all of your problems, but might make the food part that much easier…

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