Carbs and Type 1 Diabetes: A Sports Nutritionist's Perspective

May 8, 2024

“A lot of people with type one diabetes either believe or have been told that they should limit or restrict the amount of carbohydrates that they're eating because they have the biggest impact on our blood sugars and they do have the biggest impact on our blood sugars.”

On episode 65 of the Reclaim Your Rise podcast, T1D and sports nutritionist Nina Gelbke discusses the importance of carbs in our diets.

While of course she agrees that carbohydrates have the most immediate impact on our blood sugars, and acknowledges that low-carb diets may work for some people with type one diabetes, Nina says, “It's more about how can we learn to manage this and dose correctly for these carbohydrates in different situations rather than removing them from our diets where then our bodies potentially aren't getting that necessary fuel that they need to perform their best and to also feel really good, but also have a good relationship with food.”

For Nina, eating low carb led her to “feeling stressed and down and restricted… having a poor relationship with food, not enjoying the food that I eat and just not feeling great physically either. Especially as a person who is as active as I am with the sport that I do.”

For those who are active and participate in high-intensity sports like weightlifting, CrossFit, functional training, swimming, or running, Nina says carbohydrates are necessary to perform efficiently and effectively.

Nina explains that yes, “it is easier to manage blood sugars when you're training fasted and you don't have any food and insulin on board. I fully agree with that. However, I'm not gonna perform my best. So that is something that I'm willing to work around and find a way that I can manage my blood sugars.”

Trial and error, tweaking insulin dosage and food intake has helped Nina find a way to fuel her body with carbs and still manage her blood sugar levels. It's all about identifying patterns and learning how to manage the body's fuel and insulin needs. Nina believes that removing carbs from the diet does not have to be the answer. She is “really, really passionate about learning how I fuel my body and how I can manage blood sugars around this… rather than just taking things out of the diet because it's less variables.”

Check out the Diabetes Health Journal as a great tool for identifying your blood sugar patterns. Need more support? Apply for coaching HERE.