Three years ago, I had to undergo multiple health screenings to stay on my father’s insurance plan. When the doctor called me back and told me I was hypoglycemic (meaning I have low blood sugar), I was surprised, but when thinking back it totally made sense.
According to Medical News Today, “Hypoglycemia occurs when blood sugar levels drop below 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl). Severe hypoglycemia can be life-threatening if a person does not receive treatment. Treatments focus on returning blood sugar to safe levels.” When I asked my doctor what I needed to do with my new diagnosis, she recommended eating multiple smaller meals throughout the day and eating small, healthy snacks every few hours to maintain my blood sugar levels.
Prior to learning about hypoglycemia, I can remember occasions where I experienced different symptoms that I should have kept track of and notified my doctor of. The worst instance was when I was teaching a ski lesson and had all of the typical indicators: shaky, dizzy, unable to concentrate, trouble focusing my eyes, confusion, moody, and hungry. I pushed through it at the time, thinking I was just “hangry,” finished the lesson, and luckily only had a short drive home. I couldn’t eat fast enough and by the time my sugar levels started to even out, my body spent the rest of the day trying to re-regulate itself and I spent the rest of the evening in bed too exhausted to do anything else.
Over the past three years, I’ve learned what snacks help to keep me full the longest and I almost always have extra food packed just in case. I even keep a stash of jelly beans or (my favorite) Sour Patch Kids in my glove box for emergency situations. If I start to get too low, I know that the fastest way to get back to a healthy balance is with fruit juice—apple, cranberry, and grape are the ones I’ve found to be the best. Other snacks that are good to have on hand are bananas, trail mix, and energy bars like Clif Bars.
Working With Hypoglycemic Clients
I still slip up and find myself without extra carbs occasionally, putting myself in situations that I find to be frustrating and embarrassing. As a personal trainer, I hold myself to a high standard and know what my body is capable of doing. Recently I was biking and didn’t keep track of the last time I ate; I started to feel shaky, dizzy and felt cold and clammy. Instead of being able to complete the ride, I had to wait while one of my friends went to get the car. My body wouldn’t allow me to keep going. I blamed myself, apologized profusely to my friend, and felt my body trying to readjust for the next few days—I really had to keep track of how I was feeling and eat even more frequently than usual to stay in equilibrium.
When training a client living with hypoglycemia, The Personal Trainer Development Center states, moderate-level activities like brisk walking, light jogging, and cycling have a greater potential to lower blood glucose and cause hypoglycemia (depending on how diabetes is treated). Each person’s exercise regime should be modified according to his/her habitual physical activity, physical function, health status, exercise responses, and stated goals.”
Trainers need to respect their scope of practice and not overstep their boundaries. Refrain from advising clients on topics you are not qualified to work with, including (but not limited to) diet, medication, and other underlying health complications or injuries. As a trainer, be sure you’re prepared if your client does experience hypoglycemic episodes—have snacks or juice on hand, know how to spot the symptoms, listen to your client, and ask how they’re feeling throughout the workout.