It may not be just the exercise that leaves a diabetic fatigued for days after.
So when a person with diabetes is still suffering from fatigue even days after exercise, there’s a particular situation going on.
“The main cause of fatigue after exercise that lasts is being low on muscle glycogen stores,” explains Sheri Colberg, PhD, Professor Emerita, Exercise Science, Old Dominion University, founder of Diabetes Motion, and one of the world’s leading experts on diabetes and exercise.
“Depending on how much of these carbohydrate stores that you use up during an exercise session, it can take 24 to 48 hours to fully replenish them — assuming you’re eating a diet with enough carbohydrates in it.
“If you are on a low-carb diet [as many diabetics are], it can take much longer for glycogen to be repleted, and that can make people feel tired when they try to do any type of activity.
“If you’re eating enough carbs (usually at least 40 percent of total calories coming from carbs when you’re training regularly is required for optimal recovery), you also have to keep your blood glucose in good control for glycogen restoration to occur in a timely manner.”
Causes of Longer Lasting Fatigue in Diabetics After Exercise
“Thus, longer lasting fatigue can be related to:
1) not enough carbohydrate intake after workouts so glycogen levels remain lower;
2) poorly managed blood glucose levels (which also can impact glycogen restoration); or possibly
3) low iron levels (anemia).”
It’s important to check your blood sugar at various points in the days following your exercise sessions to see if there’s a predictable depletion.
A diabetic who works out should have a convenient source of carbohydrate with them so that it can be taken right after the exercise or soon after.
For hardcore weight workouts, a healthy carb source may need to be taken every few hours in the ensuing days to fight off undue fatigue.
The mission of Diabetes Motion is to provide practical guidance about blood glucose management to active diabetics. Dr. Sheri Colberg is the author of “Diabetes & Keeping Fit for Dummies.”
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.