Life of a Diabetic Athlete
The other day I was having a conversation with a friend, who like me lives an active and fit lifestyle. A casual runner and a Crossfit addict, clocking in gym time like most fitness enthusiasts, but with one difference… he’s been a diabetic all his life.
1. As an athlete how is diabetes affecting you and your performance?
I think I have similar problems that plague other non-diabetic athletes have in the area of “performance,” i.e. muscle soreness, fatigue, I need the same amount of rest days to recover, in short: diabetes (DM) hasn’t really affected my performance on a level that I am at a disadvantage when I do a CrossFit WOD with a non-diabetic. It’s the details though that are important and which matter: nutrition (red-flags on supplements), footwear (foot-care is a super important thing to really be wary of as an active diabetic), and of course, pre-workout and post-workout nutrition.
a. Nutrition – apart from really sticking to paleo, keeping track of the glycemic index of foodet, supplements and supplement contents, their impact on my insulin (sugar spikes are a no-no) are red flags I make sure to get more info and clearance on first before I buy/integrate them with my training.
b. Footwear (foot-care is a super important thing to really be wary of as an active diabetic) – sizing has to be just right because as a diabetic, I really need to pay attention to foot-care: lotion, moisturizing, staying away from pedicures and foot spas and just generally taking care of my feet are important things to live with as a diabetic.
2. I believe diabetes slows down the healing process, how is this affecting you?
Diabetics are at a higher risk of amputations and other complications related to wounds because of two primary things: DM affects our blood flow (decrease in blood flow) and because we have neuropathy (reduced sensation in our hands and feet – related to decreased blood flow as the feet and hands are at “extreme” points of our bodies where veins usually have their end-points) we don’t immediately notice wounds or injuries to our feet and hands. So, as an athlete, I take extra care in choosing good footwear, making sure to clean and care for any cuts and bruises I get during training, moisturize, moisturize, moisturize and just generally making sure my gym bag’s stocked with betadine and a cut-kit.
3. What are some of the techniques you are using to cope/manage your condition?
I really make sure to research and ask a lot of questions about my disease. I make sure my medication is properly spaced between training sessions and resting sessions: I can’t take my insulin shot and expect to WOD right after, for instance. Smarter choice in supplementation and just general foot care.
Foot care’s a pretty basic and important, but often ignored diabetic routine. Who wants to bother with their feet, right? “Mas lalo na tayong mga lalaki!” So, yeah, you can say I have never had a foot-spa in about 10 years! A good relationship with my endocrinologist also really helps. Having a knowledgeable (and not relying on Google 90% of the time) expert to reach out to really helps.
I do shift work so I need to really take extra efforts in ensuring I get to sleep well has been really helpful in keeping my sugar levels in check (stress induces spikes in sugar levels), so I have black-out curtains at home. Lastly, investing in a glucose meter has been worth it with really keeping my sugar levels in check during the day and after my training sessions.
4. Did you know that Diabetics are 2x more susceptible to develop serious gum disease?
I’m not aware about the multiplier but that’s possible, due to DM our ability to fight bacterial infection including the bacteria that can invade our gums or the gum line is drastically decreased.
As I mentioned above, diabetics are of high risk of complications related to wounds, and gum infections is no exception, maintaining a good oral hygiene to support gum health is actually very simple for diabetics nowadays, just choose the right toothpaste!
Colgate actually has a product called Colgate Total Pro-Gum Health that is recommended for diabetics, it’s formulated to help fight harmful bacteria build-up that causes gum problems and promote gum health. Prevention is always key, don’t let you gums get infected in the first place.
It’s not easy to be a diabetic athlete, but as long as you have the proper discipline and the right knowledge, it should not prevent you from living a full and active life.
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