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Cycling with diabetes(19 posts)

Cycling with diabetesMike Euritt
Feb 28, 2002 4:20 PM
A friend was diagnosed with borderline diabetes last year. he has done all the right things as far as diet and exercise goes, and is keeping it under control. Late last fall he started riding with me and is now doing 30+ mile rides with me.

We are getting to the point that eating while riding is becoming more important. The usual suggestions for those of us w/o diabetes concern him, many are off his diet, though, in an experiment, he ate a seafood burrito after last weeks ride, then did his blood test, it was still within 'safe' levels.

his doctor seems to have no idea just how different long distance cycling is from spening an hour in the gym.

Does anyone have any suggestions or links about long distance riding with these dietary considerations? We are planning on at least one Metric Century this year, mabe working up to a full 100 miles.

Thanks for your input

re: Cycling with diabetesTJeanloz
Feb 28, 2002 4:40 PM
My dad has type II diabetes- which sounds like the same deal your friend has- and is a long distance kind of guy. If he's really intent on keeping his numbers at a specific level, he should eat things that aren't necessarily simple sugars. It would surprise you how much Ritz crackers will do for you blood-sugar wise. Also try a lot of nutty bars- they make a lot of them with fructose or low sugar contents.

Also remember that the diet was probably not set up with this in mind. If you rode a metric century, blood sugar would get pretty low, and it would be o.k. to augment with something that is normally on the "taboo" list. The goal is to have relatively constant blood sugar (usually in the 100-150 range), and exercise will drive the number down- so it's o.k. to compensate with a PowerBar (or there's one that's all protein, no sugar) to bring the sugar 'up' into the normal range.
re: Cycling with diabetescydswipe
Feb 28, 2002 5:31 PM
I would think that as long as you test your blood sugars often, even during a century, your friend would do very well. I carry a "camelback" with my testing equip as well as items to treat myself if I get too low blood sugar wise. I've been diabetic for 26 years and have riden bikes for a long time. Monitoring blood sugar is the key. Good luck and ride on!
re: Cycling with diabetesZipper
Feb 28, 2002 7:01 PM
There is a team out of San Antonio called Team Diabetic with many of the Cat 1 & 2 riders themselves having varying degrees of Diabetic. Their website is Check them out. I think there are e-mail addresses provided. You may consider e-mailing them for more info.
Don't get into a situation where sugar is not availableBarnyard
Feb 28, 2002 7:17 PM
Low blood sugar can be deadly. I bike with an insulin dependent diabetic. He carries glucose pills with him and pops them when he feels his blood sugar getting low.
Too much sugar is worse than too littleswilson
Mar 1, 2002 3:54 AM
Keep in mind that a high blood sugar is far more serious than a low blood sugar. If your blood sugar gets too high, you crash fast and hard, with little or no warning. If your blood sugar gets too low, you bonk. As everybody who has ever bonked knows, you feel it coming long before you get into serious trouble.

It is easy to bring someone out of acute hypoglycemia just by giving some sugar. Think about carrying one or two hard candies: even if they pass out, you can usually bring them around just by putting a candy under their tongue. The starlight mints you get at restaurants are perfect for that.

Acute hyperglycemia can pretty much be helped only with serious medical intervention. You can't "un-eat" something you already have in your body.

Just something to keep in mind
Disagree!Andy M-S
Mar 1, 2002 4:02 AM
At any given point in time, low bg is much more dangerous. Not all diabetics are able to 'feel' low bg, due to nerve damage, adaptation, or whatever. I used to be able to feel when I hit 70's. Now, 31 years into it, I have no complications, but I can hit the 30's and not feel it clearly.

Trick is, it still has effects on judgement, etc, and if you're left untreated (and your liver glucose happens to be depleted) yes, you can die from hypoglycemia. Hyperglycemia doesn't often have a truly acute onset, which is why there are so many undiagnosed diabetics walking around.

It is possible for diabetics to get into a situation where they will not take glucose by mouth--in that case, a Glucagon injection may be necessary. Ugly, but necessary.
You ignorant bastard!Barnyard
Mar 1, 2002 6:59 AM
When a diabetic is having a reaction, you always give them sugar. Where did you get your information that high blood sugar is a much more serious condition? You are wrong. I suggest you re-check your sources.
Well...Andy M-S
Mar 1, 2002 7:42 AM
In the LONG term, he's correct, acute high blood glucose (hypERglycemia) is a serious problem, leading to all kinds of complications.

However, the long term doesn't matter if you suffer severe brain damage/death from an insulin reaction (hypOglycemia).

And I wish it were as easy as giving someone a hard candy to suck on...
what did he say that justifies calling him a bastard??weiwentg
Mar 1, 2002 2:29 PM
good grief, this board is turning into a madhouse.
what did he say that justifies calling him a bastard??Barnyard
Mar 1, 2002 8:43 PM
The post that reads "to much sugar is worse that to little".
I have a diabetic friend who had a stroke after bonking.Yoyo
Mar 1, 2002 7:48 PM
He's usually carefull about controlling his blood sugar when he rides. Somehow he wasn't paying attention and bonked. He immediately collapsed on this bike. Another rider who knew of his condition gave him candy, but it was too late. He had a stroke and went into a coma. He eventually recovered but is paralyzed on one side. He also had his bike stolen while in the hospital. If you have this conditon, you need to pay attention.
M&M's? (nm)SnowBlind
Mar 1, 2002 1:32 PM
M&M's? (nm)Andy M-S
Mar 2, 2002 3:38 AM
M&Ms work, but they're not the most efficient way to transmit glucose. WalMart and many other places sell glucose tablets designed specifically for insuling reactions. They come in tubes of 10 and 3 of these usually will stop any reaction. Refills come in bottles of 50.

I carry a single tube all the time, every day, and two tubes for longer rides. Also several powerbars, just in case I get in trouble a ways out from civilization...
re: Cycling with diabetesDrPete
Feb 28, 2002 7:43 PM
I would see about talking to an endocrinologist, or someone with more experience with diabetes.
I want to preface this with the fact that he should see a doctor, and I am in no way making a recommendation about his diet. That said (sorry, legal stuff), everyone's blood sugar is going to be "high" while they're loading for a long ride. Try it--use the fingerstick on yourself, and see where yours is. I'm betting yours would be high by diabetic standards too. The diagnosis of diabetes is made based on fasting glucose for that very reason. If it were measured 1-2 hours after a meal, everyone would be diabetic.
As far as "safe" levels, it's important to remember that the hemoglobin A1C is the important number. If a diabetic patient has a single glucose reading of 1000 on a given day, that's not necessarily as bad as an elevated A1C, because the A1C tells you about how well the sugars have been controlled over a 3-month period.
Long story short- a high glucose right before a century is not necessarily a bad thing, and your partner should discuss it with an endocrinologist or other diabetes specialist. Again, I am not offering medical advice, and it should not be construed as such. Just my $0.02.
bg=1,000?????!!Andy M-S
Mar 1, 2002 3:55 AM
Sorry, I've been diabetic for 31 years, I've tested 10x a day for the last 10 or so, and I've NEVER had a bg of over 500. I get really worried if I'm over 300, not to mention that I start to get physical effects at that level (headache, poor vision focus, irritability, etc.).

I suspect anyone with a bg of 1,000 will be close to (if not in) ketoacidosis and essentially unable to function.

In my experience, the key is to eat (and drink) caloies fairly frequently, but not at a extremely high level. And (perhaps) reduce your insulin intake.

Of course, you should always have a tube of glucose tablets or two in your jersey pocket, and some emergency food in your saddlebag. And don't forget some kind of identification (a necklace works well).

I agree that the A1C is important, but remember that it's essentially an average (lots of highs and lots of lows will give you the same number as very good control, but the long-term consequences of the differing inputs are not the same).
complex carbsTig
Mar 1, 2002 12:12 AM
You might want to point them to a great source of complex carb's from Hammer Jel at
It is cheaper and more effective than Gu or Power Bars with their high simple carb's (sugar) that can cause blood sugar spikes and the following insulin spike. Hammer Jel contains mostly long chain complex carb's and the energy release is longer sustained and doesn't cause the same exaggerated spike and bonk patterns.

First he should see an endocrinologist, as DrPete recommended. Some sports medicine doc's are up on diabetic athletics as well.
complex carbsAndy M-S
Mar 1, 2002 6:04 AM
One of the nicer things about being diabetic is that we don't have "insulin spikes" due to eating simple carbs (OK, so I'm speaking for insulin-dependent diabetics here). Our insulin profile is determined by the amount we shoot up and its absorption--which is the really tricky part, since two injection sites that differ by a fraction of an inch may not allow the insulin to distribute in the same way.

Everyone is going to be a little different in terms of best ride food, and that goes for diabetics as well. Personally, I know that Powerbar chocolate "Harvest" bars work best for me, but I'm sure they would be too much for some and not enough for others.
re: Cycling with diabetesnewrider
Mar 1, 2002 12:17 PM
If your friend has Type II diabetes and its under control by diet and exercise without resort to medication, he can continue to eat a balanced diet. One gram of carbohydrate is the same whether it is sugar or a slice of bread. Both turn to sugar in your blood stream. However, some high glycemic foods turn to sugar quicker than others. The key is to replace nutritionless carbohydrates, like simple sugars, with nutrient rich carbohydrates, like fruits and vegetables, and to eat several small meals. It is particlularly important to eat snacks while engaging in long rides to prevent a sudden drop in blood sugar.

I have maintained my sugar levels through diet and exercise for 5 years without ever having to take any medications. I also occasionally eat chocolate cake or any other snack I crave. Moderation is the key.

Good luck!