Exercising With Reactive Hypoglycemia: Diet Is Key!
If you have just recently been diagnosed with Reactive Hypoglycemia, or Idiopathic Postprandial Syndrome, I am sure your lifestyle has changed or is changing dramatically. For those of you that have always exercised, you may be frustrated with your workout (and diet!), I know I was when I first started having problems with Reactive Hypoglycemia. Aside from trying to figure out what you can and can not eat, the biggest challenge seems to be getting your diet right so that you can have enough energy to get you through your workout and not have a hypoglycemic episode. This will take some time to nail down. You have to keep detailed journals of what you eat, and the times that you eat, but maybe I can speed up your learning process.
A little background on me, I’m a 4-time survivor of cancer, and believe it or not have been very active most of my life. I lift weights, train in martial arts and enjoy walking. My experience with cancer in the past and all of it’s effects, both short-term and long-term, have helped me get to know my body better than anyone else. Sometimes I think even better than my doctors.
When I first started having my problems with Reactive Hypoglycemia or in my case Idiopathic Postprandial Syndrome, the doctors first said I didn’t have anything wrong at all. That is because I was having episodes consistent with Idiopathic Postprandial Syndrome, which is a bit different than Reactive Hypoglycemia. In short, after eating carbohydrates, I would have all of the same symptoms of someone diagnosed with Reactive Hypoglycemia (low glucose levels 1 to 4 hours after eating) such as, tremors, confusion, anxiety, heart palpitations, cold extremities, etc. However, my blood glucose levels would not be medically defined as “hypoglycemia” because they would not get below 50.
My journey through having the symptoms, learning what the problem was and finding a way to fix the problem was a pure nightmare! It took me nine trips to the emergency room, a convulsion with my heart racing at 160, severe panic attacks, multiple hospitalizations and doctors simply missing major red flags before I could determine for myself what was going on and what I needed to do to fix my problem… and in the end, how funny, the doctors agreed I was right that I was experiencing Idiopathic Postprandial Syndrome and they were astonished that I fixed my problem myself with diet and exercise! This did not come easy though!
Once I knew what my problem was, Idiopathic Postprandial Syndrome, I began to do some major research. I talked with nutritionists, dietitians, personal trainers and professional bodybuilders. I learned that simple carbohydrates, refined foods, sugars, caffeine and alcohol would cause me to have an episode. I also learned how and what to eat! This was key and would eventually make it possible for me to enjoy my intense workouts again!
The diet was simple! Eat every 2 to 3 hours daily. Eat foods high in protein, fat (Yes! Fat!) and fiber, avoid the foods I mentioned above and eat only a small amount of complex carbohydrates (raw oatmeal, sweet potatoes) depending on your physical activity… and be consistent above all!
If you are wondering why you should eat fats, well the reason is that the fats slow down the absorption of your carbohydrates. Remember, this whole problem, Reactive Hypoglycemia and Idiopathic Postprandial Syndrome, comes about when your insulin levels are spiked. And what spikes insulin levels? An instant surge of sugar from say a candy bar, white rice, a baked potato. Also, if you are eating a low enough level of carbohydrates, your body will then begin to burn fat as an energy source. Nice huh?
So after making all of these changes, and completely having to re-learn how to eat, I then became my own test subject. I guess you could say I ran clinical trials on myself! I kept detailed journals of what I was eating and the times that I was eating. At first, I was pretty tired because of lowering my carbohydrates, but then about a week later, it got easier. Everyday life became much easier. The challenge now was figuring out the proper nutrition for my workout.
There I was again, me and the internet going at it! I was researching to find out how to provide myself with the nutrition I needed to get myself through a workout without the blood sugar drops… and I found it! At the time, the only carbohydrates I was having per day was about a quarter cup of raw oatmeal each morning. The rest of my diet consisted of meats, cheeses and salads. Which is a great diet if you are not planning on working out or being that physical. However, for me, this diet did not give me enough energy to workout, and if I did workout, I most definitely was going to have a hypoglycemic episode.
So, now I knew I had to increase my complex carbohydrates even more. It went something like this, a quarter cup of raw oatmeal in the morning, then about a quarter of a sweet potato about an hour out from my workout. Then, immediately before my workout, I would take two glucose tablets and two more glucose tablets during my workout. My workout lasts an hour. Well, that seemed to do the trick.
When taken, the glucose tablets would immediately be used as energy and never cause my glucose levels to surge making my insulin levels spike. Eventually my blood sugar stayed pretty much even all of the time. I would have occasional hypoglycemic episodes, but they were minor and were easily fixed with a 2 to 3 glucose tablets.
Now, I am no doctor, but I will say that there is a good chance that you can overcome your problem with Reactive Hypoglycemia or Idiopathic Postprandial Syndrome with diet and exercise. Always consult with your doctor before starting any new diet or workout. Stay focused, determined and hopeful!