Diabetes Nutrition and Exercise
Exercise is important for a strong, healthy body. It is also an important piece of your diabetes management plan. Exercise may help you to:
- Lower your blood glucose (sugar)
- Maintain or lose weight
- Cope with stress
You should check with your doctor before starting an exercise program. He or she will tell you which exercise program is right for you. Here are some other tips:
- Try to exercise at the same time each day.
- You may need to eat a snack before and/or after exercising to prevent low Hypoglycemia (blood glucose).
- The amount of food you should eat for a snack will be based on your blood glucose level (see guidelines that follow).
- If you have Type 1 diabetes, do not exercise if your blood glucose is above 240
mg/dl with ketones or above 300 mg/dl without ketones. You may not have enough insulin to handle your increased need for glucose. Your blood glucose may rise and put you at risk for ketosis. Call your doctor if your blood glucose is at this level.
- Drink plenty of fluids during long periods of exercise.
- Always carry a carbohydrate source and an identification bracelet or wallet card.
- Be alert to signs of low blood glucose including: feeling nervous, clammy, hungry, weak or like you are going to pass out. Treat immediately with a carbohydrate source.
- Smart food choices help keep blood sugar, weight, and cholesterol in better control. Focus on fewer calories, and eat less fat (especially saturated fat). Enjoy more fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, and legumes instead.
- The amounts of fat, carbohydrate (fruits, vegetables, breads and grains) and protein (meat, fish, milk, nuts) you eat depend on your calorie needs and goals for weight control. A healthy diet usually includes 15–20% of daily calories from protein, 20–35% from fat, and 45–60% from carbohydrates.
- Always read the labels before trying “low fat,” “light,” or “no fat” foods. Some of these specially-labelled foods are “dietetic” because they’re sugar free. Others are lower in calories. Some mention that they’re good for people with diabetes. But many diet foods that use sugar substitutes are high in fat and calories. Words like “light” or “low” can be deceptive. Try to read the fine print!
- Just one alcoholic beverage on an empty stomach can lower your blood sugar drastically. Sip drinks slowly and always drink alcohol with food in your stomach. Limit yourself to no more that two drinks a day and be careful when consuming brandy, port, and liqueurs, which have high sugar content.
- Enjoy sweets in moderation: People with diabetes don’t have to avoid sugar all together. You can still enjoy a cookie, a piece of cake, or chocolate every now and then. Talk to your health care professional about how to safely incorporate sweets into your diet.