Why Your Blood Sugar Drops During Exercise

Do you get lightheaded or dizzy when you work out?

Lots of people experience a blood sugar drop during exercise. It’s normal and usually nothing to worry about. But if you have diabetes, it’s important to know how to handle low blood sugar.

We have some tips for you on what to do when your blood sugar drops during a workout. a woman testing her blood sugar with a device

Whether you have diabetes or not, these tips will help make sure your workouts stay safe and enjoyable.

When you exercise, your body's demand for energy increases. To meet this demand, your body breaks down stored carbohydrates in your muscles into glucose and releases it into your bloodstream.

As your blood sugar rises, your pancreas responds by releasing insulin, a hormone that helps move glucose from your bloodstream into your cells to be used for energy.

However, sometimes the pancreas can "overreact" to the rise in blood sugar and release too much insulin.

This can cause blood sugar levels to drop too low, a condition called hypoglycemia.

Hypoglycemia is more likely to occur if you have diabetes or are taking certain medications such as insulin or sulfonylureas.

It can also occur in people who don't have diabetes, though this is less common.

If you have diabetes or are taking medications that can cause hypoglycemia, it's important to monitor your blood sugar levels during and after exercise.

You may need to adjust your medication dose or eat a snack before or after exercise to help keep your blood sugar levels in a safe range.

People with diabetes should also be aware that exercising for long periods of time or at high intensities can cause their blood sugar levels to drop even if they don't have diabetes.

This is because during endurance exercise, your muscles use more glucose than usual and your body may not be able to produce enough insulin to keep up.

This condition is called exercise-induced hypoglycemia.

Symptoms Of Low Blood Sugar

The symptoms of low blood sugar can vary from person to person. They can range from mild to severe and usually happen quickly.

Common symptoms of low blood sugar include:

  • feeling shaky or trembly
  • having a headache
  • feeling sweaty or clammy
  • heart racing or palpitations
  • feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • feeling hungry
  • having trouble concentrating
  • feeling irritable or confused

If blood sugar levels drop too low, it can lead to more serious symptoms such as loss of consciousness or seizures. This is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment.

What Level Of Blood Sugar Is Dangerous?

As mentioned earlier, the level at which low blood sugar becomes dangerous will be different from one person to the next - generally speaking, blood sugar levels below 70 mg/dL (3.9 mmol/L) are considered too low and can be dangerous.

However, some people may start to experience symptoms of low blood sugar at levels above 70 mg/dL. And for others, blood sugar levels may drop below 70 mg/dL without causing any symptoms.

It's important to work with your doctor or healthcare professionals to find out what level of blood sugar is too low for you and what you should do if it happens.

What To Do When Blood Sugar Is Low

If you think you or someone you're with is experiencing symptoms of low blood sugar, it's important to act quickly.

The following steps can help:

  • Eat or drink a quick source of sugar such as fruit juice, honey, candy, soda, or glucose tablets.
  • Wait 15 minutes and check your blood sugar level again. If it's still low, eat or drink another quick source of sugar. Check your blood sugar level again in 15 minutes. If it's still low and you're having trouble staying awake or are confused, call a paramedic/ambulance for assistance. If you have diabetes and carry glucose tablets with you, follow the instructions on the package to treat low blood sugar.

What Is The Best Thing To Eat When Your Blood Sugar Is Low?

The best thing to eat or drink when your blood sugar is low will depend on your individual needs and preferences.

These are great to have on hand if low blood sugar strikes at the gym:

  • fruit juice
  • non-diet soft drinks
  • sports drinks
  • sweets
  • honey
  • glucose gel or tablets
  • raisins

If you have diabetes, it's also a good idea to carry a source of complex carbohydrates with you in case of low blood sugar.

These can take longer to digest and raise blood sugar levels more slowly than simple sugars.

Good options include:

  • crackers
  • bread
  • cereal
  • rice
  • dried fruit
  • noodles
  • peanut butter

If you're feeling low blood sugar during exercise, it's best to stop and eat or drink right away.

Once your blood sugar has stabilized, you can resume your workout.

It's also a good idea to eat or drink something after exercise to help raise your blood sugar levels and prevent them from dropping again.

Complex carbohydrates are a good choice here as well.


What is the 15-15 Rule in diabetes?

The 15-15 rule is a guideline that people with diabetes can use to help treat low blood sugar levels. It involves eating or drinking a quick source of sugar, such as fruit juice or glucose tablets, and then checking your blood sugar level after 15 minutes. If it's still low, you'll eat or drink another quick source of sugar and check your blood sugar again in 15 minutes. The 15-15 rule can be a useful tool, but it's important to work with your doctor or healthcare team to find out what level of blood sugar is too low for you and what you should do if it happens.

Related: Fitness-Boosting Summer Fruits and Vegetables

At what blood sugar level is diabetic coma?

A diabetic coma can occur when blood sugar levels reach a dangerously high level, usually above 240 mg/dL (13.3 mmol/L). This is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment.

What foods to avoid if you have hypoglycemia?

If you have hypoglycemia, it's important to avoid foods that can cause your blood sugar levels to drop too low. These include sugary foods and drinks, simple carbohydrates, and alcohol. It's also a good idea to eat small, frequent meals and snacks throughout the day to keep your blood sugar levels stable.

Wrapping Up:

So, what causes our blood sugar to drop during a workout? The answer lies in how our body produces energy.

When we exercise, our muscles use glucose for energy. This process results in the production of lactic acid, which can cause our blood sugar levels to drop.

In addition, when we exercise intensely, our bodies release adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones also work to lower blood sugar levels.

While low blood sugar may not be desirable, it is actually a sign that your body is working hard and getting stronger.

By understanding why blood sugar drops during a workout, you can take steps to ensure that you have enough energy to complete your session safely and effectively.

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