Q I am an active woman with type-1 diabetes, so I am dependent on insulin. I regularly run on a treadmill – to be near food if I need it. An orange keeps me safe for about 30 minutes, but I’d like to run outside and want to know what to eat if I want to run longer?
A Physical activity is extremely important as part of a healthy lifestyle, especially if you have diabetes. It makes you feel good about yourself, helps to control weight, and enables you to lose fat and gain muscle. It will also improve your sensitivity to insulin and improve blood glucose levels. Blood glucose levels often worry diabetics planning to increase their levels of activity. Muscles use more glucose (sugar) and oxygen when they’re exercising than at rest. Insulin also works more effectively, so problems occur if the blood glucose drops too low, causing hypoglycaemia.
It is best to eat about an hour before you run. Make sure you include carbohydrates (such as bread, potatoes, pasta, rice and cereals). The body converts the starch in these foods to sugar for energy. The glycaemic index (GI) can be useful. Slowly absorbed foods have a low GI while quickly absorbed foods have a higher GI. When you are planning to run consider low GI foods, such as oranges, to maintain blood glucose. If you need an instant boost, a high-GI sugary drink is ideal. Test your blood glucose before setting off, and, if it’s a long run, test it half-way through. It is very important to test it at the end as hypoglycaemia can sometimes occur later.
—Cathy Moulton, Diabetes Care Advisor, Diabetes UK