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How to Run with Diabetes

Running with diabetes

Diabetic runners should always carry glucose tablets, diabetic identification and a meter

Diabetes is linked with obesity, metabolic syndrome and heart disease, and all of these conditions benefit from reduced body weight, increased cardiovascular fitness and improved blood sugar control.

If you have the go ahead from your doctor to begin a running program, your main consideration is managing your blood sugar levels to accommodate your running.

The main things to remember are:

  1. Ensure you have enough energy for your run
  2. A fast, high intensity run or a long run will use up more energy
  3. Make sure you refuel soon after your run
  4. Allow sufficient time between runs for your carbohydrate stores to be replenished.

Foods facts

Carbohydrate-rich foods to keep you going through your run include:

  • Porridge or meals containing oats
  • Rice-based meals
  • Pasta-based meals
  • Beans

These foods all release carbohydrate into your body quite slowly, so aim to eat them two to three hours before your run.

Quick release carbohydrate-rich foods for fast energy include:

  • Watermelon or watermelon juice
  • Banana
  • White bread or white baguette
  • Breakfast cereals such as cornflakes
  • Sports drinks

These foods all provide energy quite quickly, so if your blood sugar is low and you need energy for a run, top up glucose levels with higher GI (glycaemic index) foods. However, if your blood sugar control is poor and you need to avoid quick release carbohydrates, you should manage your diet so that low and medium GI foods provide the energy for your runs.

Sports drinks can also be useful for topping up energy mid-run if necessary – it may be a good idea to take a quickly absorbed (isotonic) sports drink or gel with you on your runs in case you run out of energy.

Energy on the run

For a convenient and fast glucose fix, try these:

  • Isotonic sports drink
  • Sports energy gel
  • A handful of raisins
  • A piece of chocolate

Running in the early days

If you are not used to regular exercise, discuss your glucose and-or insulin requirements with your doctor before you begin running, as they may want to adjust your medication to accommodate your additional carbohydrate needs.

It may take a while to get used to how much extra carbohydrate you need to eat to accommodate your running without overloading with glucose, so in the early days keep runs short and sweet as follows:

  • Keep rims to a maximum of 20 minutes
  • Avoid higher intensity runs such as hills or sprints
  • Plan a route close to home in case you need an energy top-up
  • Consider carrying medication or an energy gel with you


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