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June 25, 2010

Gatorade, Exercise, and My Type 2 II Diabetes


I usually don't blog about personal events because (1) I lack any perspective on them, (2) nobody would find them that interesting, and (3) I don't have much of value to say. But I had an experience recently that I wanted to blog about, if only to have this post appear when somebody else googles "Type 2 Diabetes Gatorade exercise".


I am not a Doctor (IANAD), I am not a Lawyer (IANAL) and probably neither are you. You should see your doctor with your questions. This is just my anecdote. And you know what they say: the plural of anecdote is not information.

I'm a Type II diabetic and a Cyldesdale bicyclist. I've ridden several long, multi-day rides with my Type II diabetes, which is (mostly) in control. These long rides are 80 to 100 miles a day for up to four days, mostly TOSRV and DC-Pittsburgh.

In 2010 I was preparing for another long ride, and my prep rides were turning out to be mostly 20 miles long with the occasional 40-miler. That's not as long as they should be, but my time was tight. I was drinking water and eating power bars and packets of honey on the bike.

As the ride approached I started getting all my gear on the bike and started doing what I'd be doing on the ride, which included drinking Gatorade. In previous years I drank a 50% gatorade/water mix, but this year I started drinking more straight Gatorade. I don't know why.

A curious thing started happening to me when I rode. After an hour, maybe at 1h+15m, I'd feel a blood sugar crash - loss of energy, nervousness, feelings of impending collapse. I'd get off the bike, eat something and drink some Gatorade, and it would pass. I'd get back on the bike, ride for a half-hour, and then the same thing. For the rest of the ride it would be a thirty-minute ride with a twenty-minute break. I figured I wasn't being disciplined enough with my eating.

I went on the DC to Pittsburgh ride. We started in DC and after an hour I started to feel the crash coming on. I'd been focusing on hydrating (gatorade) the whole ride, but I drank some more Gatorade and pressed on. By 1+30 I was feeling terrible and abandoned the day's ride, because I was in a group and I didn't want to hold them up.

Each of the next few days, I'd ride for an hour and crash. Drink more Gatorade, get back on the bike, a half-hour then another crash. So I rode with the group for the first and last 90 minutes each day. It was not the ride I'd hoped to have, and although I really enjoyed the riding I got, I was disappointed to be a DNF and verklempt to think my long rides were over.

Back home I kept riding, and I noticed my daily mileages were slipping from 20 miles, to 15 miles, to 12 miles. Each ride I'd have an energy crash about an hour into it. Finally I tested my blood sugar during a ride and the numbers were very high, 255 mg/dl.

I had thought my problem was that my diabetes was interfering with the bike riding, but then the thought occurred: could it be something I was doing on the bike was interfering with my diabetes? Which led me to: Could it be drinking the Gatorade?

So I Googled "Is drinking Gatorade safe for diabetics" and found this opinion, which said No, it's not. There's a few other similar opinions on the web.

Gatorade and Exercise ~ Diabetic Poisoning For Me

Your mileage may vary, but I found that when I removed the Gatorade and replaced it with water the situation improved dramatically, to the point where I now think I was practically poisoning myself with the Gatorade.


Gatorade contains a lot of carbs, simple sugars, and electrolytes designed to get into your bloodstream quite rapidly. Apparently for me this really spiked my blood sugar which screwed up my energy levels. When I cut out the Gatorade I felt like my old self on the bike again.

To be clear: Gatorade is not poisonous, it's just really, really bad for me. I've read that's it's actually useful for Type 1 diabetes and for people with low blood sugar. The manufacturers aren't evil people.

To repeat, this is just my experience, you should talk with your doctor. Just providing food for thought.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am pre diabetic and have been watching my bs witha a home meter. My 'normal' fasting BS is 118. I started cutting down my soda drinking which I thought was good and replaced it with gatorade. After a week I was feeling poorly and checked my fasting BS and it was 186. After 2 days without gatorade and changing nothing else it was back to 118.

Anonymous said...

interesting, i have diabetes II and rides a road bike and was wondering about that.
thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

But what to eat / dirnk while you feel week during exercise ? i am type 2 any suggestion.

Anonymous said...

seem like water is the best to drink, it beats dehyration especially when you exercise come on give me a break spring water is the best, at least it won't get your blood sugar out of sorts but i was hoping gatorade which i was a big drinking especially during the summer. Well thats reality and stay healthy with the god given supply of water that we were blessed with.

Anonymous said...

Have you tried the low sugar gatorade? Works well with me...

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