It is well understood elevated blood sugar can have negative implications for your overall health. Those with high blood sugar or hyperglycaemia tend to be more overweight and have a greater chance of acquiring cardiovascular disease as well as Type 2 diabetes in the future. It is also suggested that they may experience fewer benefits from exercise. However, having low blood sugar can also negatively impact your health and your ability to exercise to your full potential. Low blood sugar or hypoglycaemia can occur as an effect of diabetes, but also can arise in those without underlying problems. Both sides of the scale can affect your ability to exercise and to get the most out of your workouts.
What is the difference between hypoglycaemia and hyperglycaemia?
Hypoglycaemia (or low blood sugar) occurs when there is not enough glucose in the blood to fuel your organs and muscles properly. This can result in the body releasing epinephrine that causes sweating, shaking, and increased heart rate. It mainly occurs when you do not eat each enough food to provide energy and glucose. Low blood sugar is often a symptom of diabetes, but healthy people can experience episodes of hypoglycaemia during workouts.
Hyperglycaemia (or high blood sugar/glucose levels) occurs when the body either cannot properly use or break down insulin in the body or does not have enough insulin. This causes the body to funnel the glucose in the blood into muscles and organs, which causes a build-up of sugar in the blood. This can occur for a variety of reasons including when you each more food or higher amounts of carbohydrates than normal if you do not take insulin or diabetes medication, when there is a decrease in physical activity, and when you are under a lot of emotional stress.
What can this mean for workouts?
Hypoglycaemia: low blood sugar can affect your ability to work out properly, as it presents as dizziness, headaches, shaking, sweating, blurred vision, irregular heartbeats, and even loss of coordination. When you work out, you are using glucose as fuel for your body, so with too intense a workout you can use up your body’s store of glucose and your blood sugar levels will drop. This often occurs alongside inadequate nutrition for your workout. While getting a workout in first thing in the morning before any food may seem like a fantastic way to begin the day, without anything else for your body to break down it will turn to the glucose first. This can cause hypoglycaemic attacks and will stop you from being able to perform workouts properly. It is important to eat enough balanced foods and carbohydrates in order to allow your body to perform well.
Hyperglycaemia: high blood sugar can also affect your ability to exercise properly. New studies suggest that those with consistency high blood sugar levels could be getting much less benefit from the workouts than those with normal levels. While exercise is good and important for managing high blood sugar, it needs to be done carefully and with guidance. People with high blood sugar are often eating foods that are processed and high in sugar, which may affect their capacity to control their blood sugar levels. One study showed that within a group of young adults (none of whom had diabetes) those with the highest blood sugar levels consistently showed the lowest endurance and their muscle tissue had high levels of proteins that stop or slow down the ability to improve for better aerobic fitness. It is suggested that high blood sugar may, therefore, be impacting you, not just in the short term while exercising, but in the long term in improving your overall health and fitness.
In conclusion, though many of us may not have to think about our blood sugar levels daily, we should remember that it is an important part of the way that our body functions. When exercising you are putting the body under a lot of stress and when it is not supported by proper nutrition or by a real understanding of how the body works, we may be doing more harm than good. If you think that you could be experiencing problems with your blood sugar levels, it is vital to speak to your doctor about how you can treat the problem.
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