Running Diabetes: Fueling, carbs and the long runs Part 1

I am Type 1 diabetic runner. Which means that I am insulin dependent which I receive in specific doses via an insulin pump. I am not going to cover what diabetes is or the difference between the types and other general stuff here. There are plenty of really good information available, you can take a look in sites like The American Diabetes Association, JDRF (Juvinile Diabetes Research Foundation), WebMD, TuDiabetes, DLife and others. Here I will like talk about how I manage my sugars and diabetes while training, running and racing. For that purpose I have divided the topic in several segments, from basic to some running details.

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One important aspect of endurance running is fueling. This is not necessary a conversation about diet during and off training, but some insights from what I do pre-, during and post- workouts and events. With that in mind, today the topic is going to be around the topic of fueling. One of the key elements of endurance running is the long run. For these long type of workouts fueling during the runs becomes a critical element since we will need, especially for us the slower runners, to replenish some of the calories that are being spent during the runs. Most of the advice for fueling will be very similar for individuals with diabetes, with the main difference being to also know the carbs content, the type of carbs and how your body reacts and/or uses those carbs in addition to the calories consumed. You will need to pair the training notes to the fueling and keep track of what works for you and how it affects your performance. Also you will need to select the foods and/or items that they will settle well with the stomach and that give you the energy you need to complete your workout or your long run.

As mentioned earlier one of the things that is key, is that you also need to take in consideration the amount of carbs and type that you are digesting in addition to the calories numbers. Runners use energy gel, energy drinks, crackers, gummies, candy, chocolate and others types. With many options and brands you need to spread the options, spend time sorting and select the ones that will most likely provide you with what you need. I used an initial simple criteria based on the following areas,

  1. Possible good flavors
  2. Calorie content
  3. Carbs content
  4. Type of carbs
  5. Electrolytes
  6. Ease to carry
  7. Cost

The Fuel

While my preferred source on long runs and events has been energy gels and energy drink, I have also tried granola bars, gummy blocks, gummy beans during my long runs to understand and figure what works best for me. For now I would like to continue the conversation around energy gels. 

gels

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After tossing out the options that will not meet your criteria you will need to select a few to try during your workouts. If starting from 0, start with a list of possible 6 to 7 different options, so they can be use during the next few weeks of training. Narrow that then to 3 to 4 good candidates and proceed to do consecutive training runs using those. As an example you can then evaluate the result ranking them each using the following criteria,

gelstABLE1Ranking the options will help you make a better selection for the top 3 go to energy sources. You should also take in consideration how quickly those carbohydrates provide energy. The carbs either help you make sugar level rise or sustained a certain performance. Helping you stay in control should be the optimal goal while supplying you with the much needed energy specially in the later part of your workout.

Also another ranking variation to evaluate your options, is to have values added for Good, Better and Best. Then add up the total. Of course in this example we are using three gels, but you can add up as many as you like and also add criteria like Bad and Worse assigning 0 point for Bad and subtracting 1 point for worse. Also you can add additional criteria that better fit your style. Any method that will help you figure out which one work best for you.

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As mentioned earlier, not all fuels are equal. Did you know that several manufactures formulate their product slightly different, each of them with a combination of different type of carbohydrates. Some will use a combination of low and & high glycemic index to provide a short and long term energy source.  I normally check new fuel flavors and brands during some of my long runs when is time for the second fuel. That way I know the body is in a need of fuel and I will definitely be able to gauge how I react and if it will be acceptable for me.