In high school and my first semester of college, I hated doing anything physical. When I say physical, I mean performing a motion that would cause me to break a sweat. I had no idea why I wanted to pass out every time I broke into a run; why I would suddenly be starving to the point of cold sweats at 10:00 in the morning, just a few hours after eating breakfast.
I finally decided to see a doctor (was forced by my parents) my first semester of college. Long story short, it was determined that I have Hypoglycemia. In laymans terms, it means that too much insulin is released in my body when sugar is being digested. Just a few hours after eating, I was feeling faint, would break into cold sweats, and get dizzy. Basically, I would feel like I was going to pass out. I would crave sugar and carbohydrates to fill the void so I would stuff my face full of bread, crackers, candy, anything to make myself feel better. After eating, it would still take a good 30 minutes before my body felt back to normal, and I would feel the effects of a Hypoglycemic episode all day long. Needless to say, it was not fun, and it made working out nearly impossible.
There is no cure for Hypoglycemia, but there are lots of ways to manage it. While in school for my Nutrition degree – figuring out my own health was one of the driving forces that led me on that path, I discovered ways to manage my diet and the Hypoglycemic episodes lessened but they did not go away. I can honestly say that it has taken me 10 years to find a diet that works for me, allows me to workout all while eliminating the dizziness and cold sweats brought on by low blood sugar.
For the most part (I am still human), I follow a high protein, low starch diet. I eat lots of fruits and veggies, and TONS of fiber. Although fruits are loaded with fructose, I would never deprive myself of the nutritional benefits of them. If I am going to eat fruit, I make sure to do it alongside a protein – think apple slices and natural peanut butter. What “Hypoglycemics” like myself need to avoid are starchy grains like breads and cereal. Starch fills you up quickly, has almost no nutritional benefit, and is also digested very quickly which is what causes blood sugar to take a nose dive. High protein, high fiber foods are digested slower in the body, and help your body’s insulin to be released at a more constant rate – keeping your blood sugar levels from dropping too quickly.
I have a very strict eating schedule – five small meals each day, around 200-300 calories, spread out about every 3 hours. I never skip breakfast, and I eat at least 20 grams of protein at each small meal. Each meal I eat includes a fruit or veggie, the more nutrient dense the better – berries, bananas, apples, spinach leaves, tomatoes, snap peas. Thirty minutes before a workout, I eat 1/2 of an apple along with 1-2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter. As I’m walking into the gym or out the door for a run, I eat 6 ounces of raspberries or blackberries. If I’m only hitting a Pilates class, I save the berries for my walk home. I am keeping the Driscolls farm in business.
I always keep mints in my pocket during a workout just in case I feel my blood sugar dropping unexpectedly. Usually, my snack before the gym is the perfect amount to help me power through an hour long workout. There are those days though, where it’s not. Sometimes popping a mint is enough to stabilize my blood sugar so that I can finish my workout. Other days, I have to leave the gym altogether for fear of passing out in front of lots of people. Luckily, this has not happened to me in almost six months.
Everyone’s body is different, and finding a diet that manages your Hypoglycemia will be unique to you. Play around with different foods. High protein, high fiber, low sugar foods like Egg whites, Greek yogurt, Chia seeds, berries, Quinoa, edamame, nuts, and hummus are just a few foods that I incorporate into my diet.
Think you might be Hypoglycemic? See your doctor and make an appointment to meet with a Dietitian. There are also lots of great resources for those with Hypoglycemia. William Dufty’s book Sugar Blues is a great resource for cutting sugar from your diet. Don’t let Hypoglycemia get the best of you.
“I’ve been motivated by overcoming challenge and overcoming the hurdles and obstacles that face me. There still is plenty out there to get motivated by.” – Andre Agassi