21 Aug 2018
TEAM NOVO NORDISK STORY, EPISODE 3: 6 INTERESTING QUESTIONS ABOUT DIABETIC ATHLETES
Do the Team Novo Nordisk riders need special food?
“Like other endurance athletes, the Team Novo Nordisk riders need a nutritious, well balanced diet. The key difference for these riders is that they need to carefully balance their food with their physical activity and insulin intake. The aim is to keep their blood glucose in the target range at all times for optimal performance.”
How do the riders know how much insulin to take?
“The riders go through a long learning process in Development Team, learning and honing their insulin doses through structured trial and error, looking for patterns and trends in their blood glucose response. By the time they get to the Professional Team they are pretty self-sufficient, and know their own bodies very well, but continue to closely monitor and refine their diabetes management.”
How do the Team Novo Nordisk riders check their blood glucose during racing/training?
"Team Novo Nordisk riders check their blood glucose with a portable blood glucose meter and also wear a CGM, or Continuous Glucose Monitor, which gives a glucose reading every few minutes. During a race, they put the CGM receiver in their jersey pocket or mount it onto their handlebars. It provides a graph in real-time of their blood glucose levels. It’s particularly important to check blood glucose before, during and after the race. The riders have also learnt to listen to their bodies, and the way they react and feel during a race. They aim for an optimum blood glucose range of 6.6 to 10mmol/L or 120 to 180mg/dl. However, it’s very important to remember that every individual is different, and what works for one person may not work for someone else. Each athlete has their own tailored approach to managing diabetes and exercise."
Are riders with type 2 affected in the same way as the type 1 pro-team riders?
“With type 2 diabetes, blood glucose does not usually fluctuate as drastically as with type 1, unless they have become insulin dependent. So while it’s still important to check the blood glucose and eat a healthy diet, people living with type 2 diabetes can be less affected by changes in the environment.”
Do different types of races affect the Team Novo Nordisk riders’ blood glucose differently?
“The effect of exercise varies for each individual, but is also influenced by exercise variables such as intensity, frequency and duration, as well as the types of muscle fibres stimulated. Weather, temperature, altitude, hydration levels, circadian rhythm, jet lag, and adrenalin are also factors that have a direct effect on blood glucose. Each rider develops a deep understanding of how their body reacts, so they can tailor their nutrition and insulin dosage.”
Is it safe for people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes to participate in tougher sports?
“Cycling is one of the most difficult sports to compete in and diabetes management can be quite challenging when racing at that level. When you combine the two, many think it’s impossible, but it’s something the team embraces. The team wants to show that its riders struggle with a lot of the same challenges that other people with diabetes struggle with, but it shouldn’t stop you from being at the top of your game.”