What Do Blood Sugars Do When Competing in Sport?

This week saw the start of the outdoor athletics season for me, and what a busy week it has been. With the Welsh Championships on the weekend and an open meeting on Wednesday it was also an excellent opportunity to see a pattern in my blood sugar control in such a situation too.

What blood sugars do during competition is a tricky matter. Mostly because during day-to-day life blood sugars are often effected by food, illness, emotions and good delivery of insulin. In sport the number of factors increase to whether you've trained/recovered from the previous session, and the content of the session at hand. As well as trying to manage irregular mealtimes due to erratic racing times and lengthy final-calls. (Final call being the point where you go and register for a race and are waiting to go out on track- which usually takes about half an hour).

But add competition into the mix and the list of things that can effect your blood sugars increases even more. Not to a rate that isn't manageable, but these factors always have to be taken into account to try and avoid surprises. This weekend saw the start to my athletic season at the Welsh Athletics Championships at Cardiff Athletics Stadium, South Wales. Where I competed in both the 100m and 200m sprints. With it being my first race of the season the pressure was on to get my blood sugars right and not allow them to effect my performance.

Pre- Race Night

It was important to have a carbohydrate-y snack before bed and depending on blood sugars at the time, perhaps slightly under-bolus for it. As the last thing you want is to be up having a hypo in the early hours of the morning, as this will disrupt sleep and leave me chasing blood sugars during the day. And in the other way having high blood sugars will dehydrate you over night.

Morning of the Race

I managed to avoid having any highs or lows during the night and woke up with a blood sugar of 5.9 mmol. An excellent place to start the day from and take on my first meal of the day, which was porridge. Although sprinters don't require mass amounts of carbohydrate, people with diabetes need enough to sustain blood sugars throughout the day. So a low GI food such as this that will release energy as I go was perfect.

Mid Morning

I had a mid-morning blood sugar reading of 11.0 mmol and decided to have a snack of a banana to keep me going until lunch. I wasn't due to race until the afternoon on both days of the Welsh Champs, so blood sugars slowly started to rise as they so often do before a competition. This is often due to the adrenaline spike that happens in anticipation of the forth coming event.

Lunch Time

My blood sugars were 11.2 mmol at lunch time and I had a meal that was high in protein and low GI carbohydrate. The addition of protein to the meal slows down the release of carbohydrate allowing an even blood sugar throughout the day, theoretically anyway. So after lunch it was time to leave for the competition and adrenaline really kicked in. So that my post lunch time blood sugar that was also 1 hour before the start of my warm up was 15.1 mmol. I only gave a small correction of insulin for this however, because as the warm up for my first event was about to start, the sensitivity of the insulin would be increased. And again I wanted to avoid having a hypo. My blood sugars dropped to 8.0 mmol before I went out on track.

Post First Event

After the first event of my 100m my blood sugars dropped to 5.2 mmol. Whilst frustrating it was to be expected because it was a sunny day and temperatures were high, Also with the exertion and high intensity of the event. At this point I reduced the background insulin on my pump and took about 30 grams of carbohydrate on board and did not bolus for it. This had the effect of keeping my blood sugars safely elevated until after I raced in the final for the 100m. I was then quick to take on protein so that the recovery process could begin again, ready for the next day of racing.

Measuring my blood sugars at regular intervals and looking back on the pattern was exceptionally helpful when it came to racing again. When you know what to expect you can prepare for it. I also find if I know what my blood sugars are doing, the worry about them dropping or going high doesn't play on my mind when my thoughts should be on performance.


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My blog takes you through a daily look at sport, diabetes and everything in between. As an athlete that lives with type 1 diabetes I want to let you into news, views and all that is important to both of my passions.

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