5.14.15

A Simple Routine For A Smooth Day Of Hiking With Diabetes

It’s the weekend, it’s sunny (or snowy in our case), and you decide to take off on a last-second, afternoon adventure. You haven’t prepared, but it’s too perfect of an opportunity to pass up. What’s an insulin-dependent to do? Go for it! In an effort to simplify the process and get us outdoors quickly, I’ve put together the list of hiking essentials:

Shoes

This really should go without saying, but it’s important for two reasons.
1) The right hiking shoe avoids any kind of blister issues that get endocrinologists all hot and bothered.
2) A comfortable shoe increases joy while hiking, especially while coming down the mountain, exponentially.

I love all of Merrell’s products. Extremely comfortable. Wearing this hiking/running low-profile pair for shorter hikes or camping has worked great.

Water

You just never know when that “little afternoon adventure” will turn into the “holy shit I think we’re actually lost” moment. Pack some water, everytime. More than you think you need. On longer bike rides and hikes I go with the endurance oriented Camelbak system here:

Snacks

Same concept applies from the water lesson: pack more than you need. Or just remember to put food in your bag! (That’s a reference to the above video.) While hiking, I like something geared around carbs with adequate protein and fat. Bobo’s Oat Bars were originally part of my plan on the Cub Lake hike, but got left in the car. Love these!

Insulin Rates

If you do the traditional, Lantus/Levemir and Novolog/Humalog routine, only part of this advice applies to you. If you pump up, think about your basal rates. This can be a complicated decision and should be based on past experience. For me, I chose a basal rate of 60%. I knew we’d be gone for about 2 hours and that the hike was relatively flat.

For the complete guide to hiking with diabetes, feel free to check out my other post from last summer HERE.

Have a few tips of your own? Drop them in here!

Former co-founder of DiabetesDailyGrind, Ryan's mission is to motivate others with diabetes to live their own authentic life. Most days, when not in the hospital during his medical residency, you can find him on the bike, surfboard, or yoga mat. He believes in the power of clean eating, and loves his Dexcom.

4 thoughts on “A Simple Routine For A Smooth Day Of Hiking With Diabetes

  1. Hi, Ryan!

    I have recently started kayaking and while I love it, I am having a hard time controlling my bloodsugars while I am on the water. Things I have tried:

    1.Eating a good meal before going and taking a regular bolus, which resulted in terrible lows while on the water.
    2. Taking a half bolus with a good meal before going, resulting in a bloodsugar of 436 when I was finished kayaking. Ruined day!
    3. Eating a high protein, low carb meal with 3/4 bolus before starting, also resulting in high bloodsugar.
    4. Good meal, regular bolus, and lots of high-protein snack on the water. I still have lows when I try this method.

    I am really enjoying this new hobby, but I feel like I have to choose between either high or low bloodsugar when I do it. What do you do when you try new things to avoid fluctuations in your bloodsugar and they don’t seem to work?

    • I should also add that I have experimented with changing my basal rates, which doesn’t seem to be helping.

      I often have high bloodsugar when I do anaerobic exercise. While kayaking seems more aerobic (which brings my bloodsugar down), I think the resistance from the water when paddling makes it more anaerobic. Do you struggle with your bloodsugars when you do aerobic vs. anaerobic activity? Do you have an aerobic vs. anaerobic solution that works for you?

      • Hey Wendie,

        You’re definitely in a pickle and you’re not the only one! The predicament of high sugars and low sugars while exercising is pretty complicated, as you’re well aware. It sounds like you’ve figured a few things out.

        First, I’ll give you a few of my general observations about exercise and pre-workout food.

        The rules about aerobic making your BG drop and anaerobic causing a BG rise aren’t black and white. Usually, we’re getting a mix of both aerobic and anaerobic activity. Say I go out for a 10 mile run at a casual pace but once per mile I do a 100m sprint. That’s a mix. Or in your case, I assume you’re probably breathing harder while kayaking into the wind. In my experience, despite the kind of exercise, my blood usually goes down 99% of the time. The exception would be heavy lifting of weights, which as you can probably see in my photos, is not something I do often.

        When it comes to food, I try to limit the amount of food that’s in my system before a workout. Whether it’s cycling, running, or kayaking, I prefer to do a snack, probably less than 300 calories. I usually workout in the afternoons or mid-morning, so this usually fits into a normal meal pattern. I’ve found that the more I eat prior, the more erratic my blood sugar usually gets. Kind of sounds like what you’re experiencing currently. Less food, less insulin, small margin for error. I like to give it a few hours post big meal before taking off, mainly so I know where my sugar is trending and to clear insulin out of the system.

        Let’s start with your list:
        1) My experience has been the same. Regular bolusing results in low blood sugars.
        2) This one’s puzzling. It sounds like a pretty good plan going in. As you know, weird things we can’t explain happen sometimes. How strenuous is the kayaking? Can you hold a conversation during it? Are your arms about to fall off?
        3) Protein is tough before a workout. When I’ve done this, my body hasn’t liked me much either.
        4) During exercise, the body has a hard time breaking down protein. I like to use whole fruits, sweet potatoes, or some kind of sugary beverage or drink to sustain my blood sugar in the short-term. I usually don’t bolus for these snacks. Just my experience.

        To sum things up, I would expect some blood sugar variability anytime we exercise. I always aim to have my blood towards the top-end of my range to start, regardless of anaerobic vs aerobic, and always keep a snack on hand. If my blood sugar is high enough, and I’m just doing moderate activity, I’ll pass of the temp basal. If it’s a tougher workout, I’ll try out varying temp rates, beginning 15-30 minutes before an exercise.

        Keep in mind, I’m not a health professional. Just speaking about the stuff I do.

        Hope that novella was helpful! Best of luck finding balance!

        Feel free to shoot any more questions this way!

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