There are a number of myths among diabetic individuals about diet before, during and after exercise.
The first thing to know is that there is no standard instruction for all the patients of diabetes. It all depends upon the age of the individual, the duration of diabetes, the state of control of diabetes, diabetes associated complications involving other organs like the kidney, heart, eyes and the nerves and also the medication the individual is taking.
Hence it is necessary for every individual diabetic to consult and follow his diabetologist as to what kind of exercise he/she can do, how much of the exercise, the duration and intensity of the exercise and how to manage the food intake during the exercise period.
Few general do’s and don’ts about what care a diabetic should take during exercise.
- If the patient is going on a morning walk and the last meal he has had is more than 8 hours ago the previous night, it is better to have a cup of beverage like coffee, tea or skimmed milk without sugar and a couple of low calorie biscuits or a slice of bread. In elderly patients especially an empty stomach of more than 8 hours and a 30 to 45 minute walk may give rise to drastic falls in blood glucose levels.
- If the diabetic has experienced an episode of low sugar (hypoglycemia) that early morning or previous night, better to avoid the exercise the next day.
- If there is any occasion of long durations of exertion such as walking long distances as in pilgrimages or during unprecedented emergencies, better to have a small snack meal before one starts. Also one needs to carry sugar cubes, candies or sugared drinks.
- Avoid heavy meals just before exercise as it may lead to other symptoms such as chest pain in patients having heart problems.
- One should avoid heavy meals (binge eating) immediately after an exercise also. This may cause gross fluctuations in blood glucose.
- Of late we find in public walking places, people selling all kinds of “diabetes diet juices”. We really do not know what they contain and what water is used for preparing them. They have no labels of any sort. All diabetics should avoid any temptation to consume such juices hoping that they will control their blood glucose. Rather than being benefic , one may land up with an infection.
Ultimately, your doctor is the best person to advice you individually regarding this matter.
–Dr. Sudha Tinaikar