Do you ever get severe chills while training? Ever hit a sense of lethargy that surpasses normal fatigue? Do your hands and feet become numbed and desensitized? Do you feel scattered mentally and lack mental focus? Do you feel nauseous? Do you feel intensity of hunger being at its highest?
All these above questions are common symptoms of those who experience a condition called Fasting Hypoglycemia. For many, this is a temporary issue that might incur from the result of long duration of activity with little to no source of carbohydrates fueling the body. Many high endurance athletes can experience this especially under physical stress and overexertion. You ask me why I chose this topic. Well the main reason is that I see this in quite a few cases with athletes I have coached. Each case can range on severity but I keep it simple on trying to figure out the source of the problem.
First off, I have my athletes purchase a basic glucometer that comes with 10 sample test strips. The average glucometer can range from $15-$25 so it’s a worthwhile investment for anyone suspecting low blood sugar levels. Second, I have them test at different times of the day. The main times to really see the blood sugar levels at their highest and lowest points are first thing fasted, right after fasted cardio (if doing fasting cardio in routine), 2 hours postprandial (2 hours after heavy carbohydrate based meal), and 1 hour before bed. These different points of the day will accurately see where our blood sugar levels do fall and how we can adjust diet. For many of my athletes I will decrease the amount of protein and even some fats to balance the increase in carbohydrate sources. I will also remove fasting cardio and place meal one 45-60 minutes before cardio or early workout. Then I would structure most carbohydrate dense meals surrounding the workouts of the day. I would still keep testing for a few days after these changes to be sure we are balancing our levels between a healthy range of 80-130. I don’t want to see a drop in the 70s or lower or sky rocketing past 130 or higher.
So we have re-adjusted diet. We find our numbers to be normal. Does this mean I’m clear and ok to go? The answer to this is both yes and no. Yes you are falling within a healthy range so your overall body should be using the glucose efficiently and secreting the appropriate amounts of insulin to re-uptake the circulating glucose in the body. But, no in the aspect that this can always come back. And even if your diet is back to a higher metabolic breakdown then you need to watch to make sure it’s not starting to have crazy highs or major increases in the blood sugar spikes. This will happen with many who follow a very low carbohydrate diet for a long period of time without incorporating any sources or carbohydrates then increase carbohydrate intake by over 300% in a short amount of time. This is why reverse dieting is good to incorporate with anyone who is finishing a long diet or a long contest prep. Your body needs to have time to adapt and accommodate. One of the amazing abilities of the body is that it can adapt to whatever we place on it but in respect to extreme or drastic changes. The body is truly our temple of health and vitality as long as we treat it as such.
Dr Trey Hodge, D.C., Contest Prep Coach