You are Diabetic and You CrossFit?

I am an athlete. I am also a Type 1 Diabetic. Too often at competitions or other CrossFit events people are shocked or in awe that I am a diabetic and can do CrossFit. And that is exactly the reason why I do it.  For me, diabetes is not my identity, but rather a part of what has made me a better person and stronger athlete.

My Diagnosis

I was diagnosed at 6 years old and began using an insulin pump at the age of 8. Having been diagnosed this young contributes to me being comfortable taking risks and activities regarding the roller coaster of blood sugars. It’s a game of trial and error in all honesty and it takes time to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Managing My Diabetes while CrossFitting

I started CrossFit in 2013 when I went into college and decided I needed to do something extracurricular in my life. It was exactly what I was looking for since I had done sports all my life. My first box was great regarding my diabetes and not micromanaging my health because their owner was also a Type 1 diabetic. It was great knowing I could do this type of sport at this intensity level and was not alone in the uphill battle. This coach and I talked about what to eat before and after workouts, how hormones affect blood sugars while working out, and ingredients in supplements that could affect our blood sugars.

In a non-diabetic’s body, adrenaline is produced during CrossFit style workouts which naturally raises the blood sugar, to prepare for the fight or flight syndrome ideally. That is, if you are going to stay and fight or run away. Being a diabetic, it raises our blood sugar in a non-calculable and unexpected manner. If we give insulin to correct the high blood sugar, the adrenaline wears off and can potentially lead to a low blood sugar. A normal person’s body is able to know when the adrenaline has worn off and can then adjust its own insulin output levels.

Figuring Out How to Incorporate Supplements

Pre-workout or post workout ingredients that can cause blood sugar fluctuations are high amounts of caffeine, insulin mimetics, and adaptogens. According to Diabetic Muscle and Fitness magazine, these supplements are dangerous to a diabetic in high doses and frequency, not necessarily short term use. First, caffeine is a natural stimulant and increase adrenaline and stress hormones which amplifies the stress hormones and cortisol your body is already producing during high intensity training or stress in general, therefore; raising the body’s blood sugar. Next, insulin mimetics such as alpha lipoic acid which are popular in creatine supplements and fat burners. This ingredient amplifies the effect of insulin and essentially creates an overdose of insulin. Finally, adaptogens such as melatonin which help with sleep. These ingredients can make a diabetic unaware they are having a low blood sugar in the middle of the night and that is very dangerous to our health.

Overcome and Acheive

All in all, diabetes is a science. I have been luckily and had many good mentors along the way and have honed in my insulin intake while working out ratio. Being an athlete and diabetic is difficult but it forces me to be more aware of my body and how it reacts to things. Be not ready to rest, but ready to fight.