Low Blood Sugar Strikes Again

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.

Labels: ,