Continuous Glucose Monitoring for Athletes: Managing Blood Sugar During Exercising

athlete using cgm device

The physiological response to physical exertion can lead to fluctuations in blood sugar, posing challenges and opportunities alike.

For individuals with diabetes, exercise can significantly impact blood glucose levels. However, the link between physical activity and blood sugar doesn’t just impact diabetics. Non-diabetic athletes, too, experience fluctuations that can influence performance and overall well-being.

Continuous glucose monitoring is a wearable device to track blood sugar. When you hear continuous glucose monitoring (CGM), you most likely think diabetes management. But, emerging research and technological advancements have led to the development of CGM devices specifically for athletes

Blood Sugar and Athletic Performance

Blood sugar levels play a pivotal role in both endurance and cognitive function. Maintaining an optimal balance is crucial for sustained energy, focus, and overall well-being during physical activity.

Since glucose, or blood sugar, is the body’s main source of energy, blood sugar control is vital. 

If your glucose levels dip below what is considered normal blood sugar, it can have adverse effects on your performance. 

Glucose levels typically drop during exercise, though this isn’t always the case.

Vigorous exercise and exercises that increase adrenaline output can actually raise blood sugar levels

If your blood sugar levels trend lower during your workouts, you may deal with:

  • Fatigue and reduced energy levels. Insufficient blood glucose levels can deprive muscles of energy and lead to premature fatigue. This can lead to a significant decline in endurance and overall athletic output. 
  • Impaired cognitive function. Like the body, blood sugar is the brain’s main source of energy. Low glucose levels, particularly those dipping toward hypoglycemia can lead to impaired cognitive function. That means slower reaction times, impaired decision making, impaired coordination, and more. 
  • Higher risk of injury. Reduced energy and impaired cognitive function increase the risk of injury during physical activity. Compromised coordination and reaction times can mean more accidents also increasing risk of injury. 

Effective blood sugar management ensures a steady supply of energy to the body. This allows athletes to maintain the levels of physical activity required of them during training and competitions. 

Even post-exercise blood sugar management can play a pivotal role by aiding the recovery process. 


CGM for athletes is a game-changer for fueling

Off-label use for CGM devices is new and still developing. But, there are devices available that were designed specifically for non-diabetic athletes, like the Libre Sense Glucose Sport Biosensor

The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), has even shown support of CGM for athletes. They cite research which states athletes can use CGM devices as their own “personal nutrition coach,” since it allows them to test new methods of fueling during training. 

They even discuss how CGM data can be used to determine the types and number of carbohydrates that work best for them.

Continuous glucose monitoring for athletes is similar to CGM for diabetics. It is a small, wearable device that is inserted into the subcutaneous tissue. Typically worn for 7-14 days, these devices take a precise blood glucose measurement at regular intervals—usually no longer than 15 minutes apart. 

The real-time continuous stream of data gives users a clearer picture of how dietary choices impact their glucose levels. When used correctly, it can determine what to eat and when to eat it for the optimal levels. An American College of Sports Medicine study, athletes who understand the impact of what they consume have a better chance of improving their performance during training and competitions. 

Understanding when to refuel as an endurance athlete is crucial for blood sugar control and can prevent hypoglycemia


Real-world applications of CGM for athletes

Continuous glucose monitoring is especially beneficial for endurance athletes such as runners, cyclists, and swimmers. But, it can be used for any type of sports or fitness activity. There may even be devices that can integrate with your other fitness apps. 

The manufacturer of the Libra Sense device, the CGM for athletes, tested their device on some of the top teams of cyclists participating in the Tour de France. Team members wore the device as part of their training and found it enabled them to determine the optimal time to refuel. 

Continuous glucose monitoring for athletes is still relatively new, but there is a notable surge among both professional and recreational athletes, across multiple sports and fitness disciplines.

Athletes are using CGM to fine-tune their training regimens and achieve more optimal results, preventing unnecessary fatigue and cognitive impairment while maximizing the efficiency of their workouts.


Benefits of CGM for Athletes

Continuous glucose monitoring benefits aren’t endless, but they are plentiful. Benefits of CGM for athletes includes:

Optimized Fuel Intake

CGM data provides real-time insights into how different activities impact blood glucose levels. Athletes can use this information to make informed decisions about their carbohydrate intake during exercise, preventing hypoglycemia and ensuring a steady and sufficient energy supply to fuel performance.

Enhanced Training Strategies

CGM insights empower athletes to fine-tune their training regimens. By monitoring blood glucose responses to different exercise intensities and durations, athletes can adjust their workouts to optimize energy expenditure, improve endurance, and tailor recovery strategies for more effective training cycles.

Improved Performance

Stable blood sugar levels during exercise contribute to enhanced performance. Athletes can sustain optimal energy levels, reducing the likelihood of premature fatigue, cognitive impairment, and the complications that come along with them. This leads to improved endurance, better focus, and an overall improvement in athletic performance.

Reduced Risk of Hypoglycemia

CGM acts as a proactive tool to prevent hypoglycemic events, which can be particularly dangerous during exercise. By receiving real-time alerts and insights, athletes can take prompt action to avoid low blood sugar levels, preventing symptoms like dizziness, weakness, and potential injuries associated with hypoglycemia.

Reduced Risk of Injuries

As previously mentioned, reduced energy levels and impaired cognitive function increase the risk of injury for athletes. Hypoglycemia also potential injury-inducing symptoms such as dizziness, fainting, and weakness. Maintaining better blood sugar control can prevent these symptoms and reduce the risk of injury. 


Register with Heally to get your CGM prescription

Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) can be a powerful and individualized tool for athletes, offering real-time insights that can profoundly impact performance. It offers the ability to tailor strategies that align with their unique metabolic responses, optimizing training, nutrition, and recovery.

Register with Heally to seamlessly integrate CGM into your athletic performance plan. Your peak performance awaits—take the first step with Heally.


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