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Diabetic Athlete’s Handbook

Diabetic Athlete’s Handbook


May 07, 2009

Review By: Doris J. Dickson
Type 1 Mentor

Sheri R. Colberg, Ph.D is an exercise physiologist and associate professor of exercise science, specializing in diabetes and exercise, at OldDominionUniversity in Norfolk, Virginia. In addition, she conducts extensive clinical research on diabetes and exercise. Dr. Colberg is also the co-author of “50 Secrets of the Longest Living People with Diabetes,” as well as several other diabetes-related books.
Dr. Colberg wrote this book in response to the fact that there was little information available to teach diabetics how to control their blood sugar while also being physically active. Most diabetics, including the author, have learned blood sugar control through trial and error, as well as sharing experience through groups, such as the Diabetes Exercise and Sports Association (DESA – formerly known as International Diabetes Athletes Association).

Dr. Colberg used her website to post a diabetic athlete questionnaire. From these questionnaires, she gathered information about active diabetic people’s diets, medication, and exercise routines. With 360 responses, Dr. Colberg highlighted several athletes with profiles throughout the book.  The profiles describe training regimens of the athletes of various types and ages.
Though Dr. Colberg geared the book primarily toward the serious athlete, as indicated by the subtitle, “Your guide to peak performance,” there are sections dedicated to the recreational athlete. Information within the book can also be adapted for the weekend gardener, athlete, or physically active construction worker.

The book is broken into two parts: basics about exercise and guidelines for specific activities at specific training levels. There are also appendices listing diabetes and athletic organizations, as well as diabetes, sport, and nutrition web sites.  
There are three chapters that may be of interest to non-athletic diabetics – those of us who are active but have no interest in performing a particular sport, competing, or being in the gym on a regular basis. These chapters explain the energy system, how the body processes and uses fuel, and provide insight to blood sugar control, insulin regimens, and food requirements before, during, and after physical activity. The book is specific; it contains recommendations and charts for altering insulin levels, blood sugar guidelines, and carbohydrate ingestion.
 
The majority of the book focuses on the diabetic athlete and how to perform at specific performance points – the endurance sport, endurance-power sport, power sport and outdoor recreational activities and sport levels. Each of these activity-specific sections contains tables recommending insulin and diet modifications while using an insulin pump or basal-bolus regimens.
One chapter of particular relevance to anyone- athlete or not- is the discussion on prevention and treatment of “athletic” injuries. As everyday “worker bees” know, the same injuries occur while working in the garden, hanging ductwork, or painting a wall. We use the same diabetes-affected joints and muscles as athletes. The question is, what is affected, why, and what do we do about it?

Finally, also of relevance to the entire diabetic population, is the chapter on diet and supplements. Dr. Colberg provides a comprehensive section on a variety of the body’s needs. She discusses how to satisfy those needs using every day healthy eating habits and/or supplements. She also discusses which supplements are unsafe or unnecessary.

Overall, Dr. Colberg’s book is applicable to a variety of diabetics, not just those who take insulin, and not just those who are dedicated athletes. It is often very scientifically based and detailed - almost at a textbook level. It returns to a less clinical level, however, with the faces shown through both the descriptions and photos in the athletic profiles. It is a good resource to add to your library. Bring a highlighter- you will need it.

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