Medtronic 780G Insulin Pump with Temp Target (Exercise Mode) and well managed blood glucose

Fasted Exercise: Mastering Diabetes with Pre-Breakfast Cycling

This morning, as the first light of dawn crept over the horizon, I embarked on an adventure that’s become a cherished routine in my life – a bike ride before breakfast. This practice, widely discussed within the diabetes community, is known as “fasted exercise.” It’s a concept that resonates with those of us using insulin pumps or managing our condition through Multiple Daily Injections (MDI) because it simplifies the balancing act between blood sugar levels and physical activity.

My opinion is that exercise should be fun and being terrified of lows removes all of the fun from it. Therefore, I try to exercise when I have little or no insulin on board, so that my blood sugar is easier to manage. This means that the best times for exercise are first thing in the morning before breakfast, or before lunch, or before dinner. Alternatively, a low carb or light meal with no insulin bolus can work. But, first thing in the morning is definitely easiest.

People riding bikes on a trail.

Why Fasted Exercise Works for Me

Fasted exercise is particularly beneficial for those on insulin therapy, like myself. Here’s how it works: Upon waking, I set my insulin pump to a “temp target” or exercise mode, symbolized by an icon of a person in motion. This mode instructs my pump to pause any automatic insulin corrections and aim for a blood glucose target of 150 mg/dL (8.3 mmol/L). The rationale? With no recent meals, my body has no “insulin on board,” reducing the risk of exercise-induced hypoglycemia. In the morning, it’s probably been 8 or more hours since I’ve eaten or had an insulin bolus.

Medtronic App Screenshot shows that last bolus was around midnight. When I started my exercise at 7am, I had no insulin on board

Preparation is Key

Before setting out, I ensure that my temp target is active, then proceed with my morning routine. I pack snacks – quick-acting glucose sources for emergency lows and protein bars for sustained energy – and a glucose meter as a backup to my Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) system. While my CGM is reliable, having a plan B is part of being prepared.

Today’s ride was a testament to the effectiveness of this approach. I managed a 40-minute session with my blood sugar levels remaining stable, without needing to reach for fast-acting glucose. However, I’m always prepared to adjust, understanding that each day can bring different challenges.

The Added Bonus: Weight Management

An often-overlooked benefit of fasted exercise is its potential for weight loss and management. By avoiding additional calorie intake before exercise, your body is more likely to tap into stored energy, aiding in weight management.

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Post-Exercise: Returning to Routine

After exercising, I deactivate the temp target mode, allowing my insulin pump to resume its automatic corrections. Typically, my blood sugar levels spike slightly post-exercise, but the auto-corrections efficiently manage these variations. I then enjoy a well-deserved breakfast, refueling after my morning exertion.

The Joy of Spring Mornings

One of the delights of spring is the earlier sunrise, providing ample daylight for morning activities before the day’s responsibilities beckon. It’s a serene time for reflection, movement, and connecting with nature, setting a positive tone for the day ahead.

Please Share Your Thoughts Below

I’ve shared my journey with fasted exercise and diabetes management, and I’d love to hear about your experiences. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or someone considering incorporating exercise into your diabetes management plan, your stories are valuable. Together, we can inspire and support each other in our health and wellness journeys.


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