Four years ago I went to my doctor after I experienced faintness when exercising in the morning. He told me I had an isolated case of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) as a result of strenuous exercise without adequate food. He said he sees it frequently in both vegans and those who recently lost a lot of weight–both were true for me at the time–as a result of not eating a lot of simple carbs and sugars and thus not having a high level of glucose built up (unlike typical instances of low blood sugar where people eat too much simple carbs and sugars). When I worked out in the morning without eating or drinking beforehand, my body would quickly burn through my glucose levels, and I would start to feel faint when my body reached a dangerously low level. (A little more info on that here.) He didn’t think it was related to diabetes because it’s isolated to mornings when I’m exercising. His solution was simple: drink or eat simple carbs before exercising, especially if I exercise first thing in the morning. I’ve successfully used that strategy for years but this morning had a really bad episode.
|How I felt this morning. Image from http://purnendukumar.wordpress.com/
I went on a 4.5-mile easy run. It wasn’t very hot, about 65. Prior to running, I ate a half a banana and a
handful of raisins like usual. About 20 minutes in, I checked my Garmin and was surprised to see I was nearing a 12:00 pace. Even for me that’s really slow; my easy runs are usually no slower than 11:30, unless I’m purposefully trying to slow down on a hot day. I figured that maybe my body just needed to take it easy since yesterday I did tough hill sprints.
At about three miles, I started to feel extremely depleted and even considered walking. But I told myself just to go slow, and I kept slogging. My heart rate was way up, which is crazy for that slow a pace, and I was sweating buckets. Normally I sweat (obvs), but not like that. I knew something was wrong and realized I was feeling like how I felt four years ago when I felt faint while working out. I’m not sure why I made myself continue running after realizing I was having a problem with low blood sugar, but I made myself get to 4.5 miles.
When I was done, I thought I might collapse. I contemplated sitting down on the sidewalk since I know that sitting and lying down helps, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get back up. I live only a five-minute walk from the river trail, but that walk home was slow and agonizing, where I felt like I was about to pass out the whole time.
When I got home I ate drank soymilk and ate an orange, a half a banana, and even a chocolate chip cookie (good thing I’d baked a batch over the weekend). It took a while for my levels to get back to normal though–about two hours.
I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out what happened. Why did this happen again after four years without an incident? I haven’t eaten unusually, and I ate my usual pre-run fuel. I did not eat chia seeds, which I usually only eat for long runs, though. The only thing I can think is that recently I’ve eaten slightly less than normal. At my last Weight Watchers weigh-in, I found that I was at the high level of my goal weight range, so over the past few weeks I switched from maintaining to losing again, which means I eat slightly less. I’ve lost a few pounds and am now just below my goal weight, where I should be. But I’ve been following Weight Watchers for years! It’s not like I drastically limited my eating, and the limiting I did do was what I would normally eat when I was losing weight on Weight Watchers.
And how do I ensure this doesn’t happen again? My challenge is that I head out for a run about 15 minutes after I wake up, so I need to get simple sugars into my blood fast. Should I switch from eating fruit to drinking fruit juice? Do I need to eat more? Eating more and switching from fruit to fruit juice before I run doesn’t seem like a great solution since my weight might go back up. Are there healthier, non-sugar options to raise my blood sugar levels quickly? Does anyone have any suggestions or have dealt with anything like this?
Tomorrow’s run is supposed to include three race-pace miles, but I’ll have to see how I feel.