Thursday, February 9, 2012

Running with Hypoglycemia

Recently, I had someone ask about running and hypoglycemia.   Basically, you experience low blood sugar which is just like "hitting the wall" in the marathon.  His question was how to train for the marathon even though hypoglycemic.  My advice was as follows.  If anyone has any personal experience with running with this condition, please chime in and comment on how you handle it.

First - give yourself time to train.  Build up your mileage by no more than 10% each week.  This may delay your goal of running a marathon, especially if your current mileage is very low.  This will give your body time to adjust as well as give you time to play around with eating schedules and snacks.

Next - and I hate to say this 'cause it hurts...but cut out the junk food and sugars.  That's right...give up the sodas, candy, cookies, etc...that are loaded with sugars.  Don't be fooled by "healthy" products in disguise.  Some of the worst offenders are the Orange Juice products that have a ton of sugar.  Buy yourself a juicer or just eat oranges.  You'll be better off.

Also - focus on eating "complex carbs" rather than simple carbs.  In other words, wheat bread over white.  Whole grain pasta over the more traditional standard types of pasta.  The complex carbs take longer to break down and therefore provide the fuel over a longer period, thus delaying the "bonk" or crash.

My other recommendation was to eat smaller, more frequent meals...breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner...possibly another snack.  All your meals will be smaller and you may feel like you are grazing all day long at first.  My spreading out your meals - smaller and frequent throughout the day - you will maintain a more steady blood sugar level.

One last thing - always run with some hard candy ( I know...contradicting what I said above about candy) to suck on in case you feel like you are crashing.  Low blood sugar can have devastating effects, so if you need to get your sugar level back up, do it!  While training on long runs...or during a long race such as the marathon, suck on a hard candy every 20 - 30 minutes.  Again, play around with this while training to see the timing and what works best for you.

Again, if anyone out there is hypoglycemic and does endurance events like running, swimming, cycling, let us know and post how you deal with it.


  1. Hi John, I love this article by Coach Jenny and thought I'd pass it along. I too am learning how to run a marathon as a hypoglycemic, and I shy away from things like hard candies, myself, because processed sugar and corn syrup can cause serious crashes, especially after you've taken them out of your diet. Hope this helps!

  2. Oh, I'm sorry I missed this conversation! But, I'm going to lay something out on the table anyway. I'm a weight loss surgery patient, it's been over 4 years for me. I continued to lose weight and to try to reach a plateau my medical team advised me to add some complex carbs back into my diet boy was I sorry and I still am because that lead me to being a reactive hypoglycemic which has caused me some serious issues. I've dropped the carbs again and in spite of feeling sluggish and lifeless my goal is to participate in some walks starting with a 5K and hopefully working my way up to longer endurance walks. I'm going to start an 8 week training program to condition myself for my first walk in December and I have to be honest when I get rid of everything, meaning almost ALL carbs I do well unfortunately adding even hard candy sends me into a spiral that's not too pretty. I fainted in May after a 4 miler, I've learned what's best for me although I'm not above taking any sound advice from anyone especially a professional. Any advice for me to prepare for my first walk would be greatly appreciated, no I'm not a runner due to misaligned kneecaps and arthritis but I'm a rather fast walker and that suits me pretty good. Thanks!

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