A good exercise plan is a major part of diabetes management. But it can be tricky to know what to eat and drink before and during a workout to avoid blood sugar spikes or crashes. According to the American Diabetes Association , people with diabetes should check their blood sugar levels before, during, and after exercise to prevent hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia.

You may have considered taking pre-workout supplements. They contain caffeine, creatine, beta-alanine, and other ingredients that increase energy, focus, and strength. But can diabetics take pre-workout? According to Mayo Clinic, "People with diabetes can take pre-workout supplements, but they need to be cautious about the ingredients and monitor their blood sugar levels closely."

Some people with diabetes can have pre-workout without problems, while others could experience side effects. A 2019 study found that around 25% of people with type 1 diabetes experienced hypoglycemia after taking a pre-workout supplement containing caffeine, creatine, and amino acids.

This article will address in-depth how safe it is to take pre-workout if you have diabetes, including analyzing the potential risks and benefits. It'll also go through the ingredients to look for and avoid in a pre-workout supplement and offer tips on how to safely and effectively use pre-workout for improved exercise performance while managing blood sugar levels.

Key Facts

  • Exercise is important: Check your blood sugar before, during, and after workouts.
  • Pre-workout supplements can help: They boost energy but can have side effects for people with diabetes.
  • Be cautious with ingredients: Avoid too much caffeine, sugar, and artificial sweeteners.
  • Choose safer options: Look for low-caffeine or no-caffeine pre-workouts with added nutrients.
  • Start small: Start with a small amount and closely watch your blood sugar.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink water and have a healthy snack before exercising.
  • Ask your doctor: Get advice on safe pre-workout choices for diabetes.

Pre-Workout: A Brief Overview

Pre - workout supplements are the rage in the fitness world. These supplements promise to give you extra energy so you can push yourself harder in your workouts. 

So, what are the ingredients in pre-workout supplements that make them so effective? Here are a few of the most common components in pre-workout:

  • Caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant that helps improve alertness and focus. It can also increase energy levels and promote fat burning.
  • Creatine: Creatine is a substance that naturally exists in the body. It provides energy for muscle contractions.
  • Beta-alanine: Beta-alanine is an amino acid that improves muscle endurance. It does this by increasing the production of carnosine, which buffers lactic acid buildup in the muscles.
  • Nitric oxide boosters: Nitric oxide is a compound with a significant role in relaxing blood vessels and improving blood flow. It increases oxygen and nutrient delivery to the muscles, which could lead to improved performance.

Is It Safe for People with Diabetes to Take Pre-Workout Supplements?

The answer is yes, but with caution. Pre-workout supplements can be a helpful way to improve workouts for people with diabetes, but they may also have side effects if they have certain ingredients. 

Pre-workout supplements can spike insulin levels, especially if they contain carbohydrates, sugars, or specific amino acids. However, the extent of this spike varies based on the ingredients and individual factors like diet and exercise intensity. 

Most pre - workout ingredients might interfere with blood sugar control. These components involve artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, and high amounts of caffeine.

Such ingredients could expose diabetics to numerous health risks, including:

  • Increased blood sugar: Many pre-workout supplements contain caffeine, which raises blood sugar levels.
  • Heart problems: Pre-workout supplements tend to increase heart rate and blood pressure—a dangerous scenario for people with heart problems.
  • Insomnia: These energy-boosting supplements can interfere with sleep. Insomnia can be a problem for people with diabetes who need regular sleep to manage their condition.
A Man Sitting On A Bed Suffering From Insomnia

If you have diabetes and are considering taking pre-workout supplements, do your research on what ingredients to avoid first.

You should also talk to your healthcare provider. They can help you assess the risks and benefits of pre-workout for your condition to ensure it's safe.

Key Factors to Consider Before Taking Pre-Workout as a Diabetic

Usually, your doctor will assess the following points to determine whether or not pre - workout is suitable for you:

  • Your blood sugar control: If your blood sugar is not well-controlled, you may be more likely to experience negative effects from pre-workout like hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia. Diabetes UK recommends having blood glucose levels between 5-13 mmol/L before exercise.
  • Your medication: Some medications for diabetes like insulin, sulfonylureas, and meglitinides can increase the risk of hypoglycemia when combined with pre-workout supplements containing stimulants like caffeine.
  • Your health history: If you have heart problems, high blood pressure, or other health conditions, you should consult your doctor before taking pre-workout as the stimulants could exacerbate these issues.

Which Features Should Diabetic Patients Look for in a Pre-Workout?

When shopping for pre-workout, focus on the following points to keep its side effects to a minimum:

Look for Stim-Free or Low-Caffeine Pre-Workouts

If you're sensitive to caffeine or if it tends to spike your blood sugar levels, look for a stim-free or low-caffeine pre-workout. Research shows that caffeine can impair glucose metabolism and reduce insulin sensitivity in some people, potentially leading to hyperglycemia.

Typically, stim-free pre-workouts still contain ingredients like citrulline, beta-alanine, and BCAAs that can boost your energy and performance without the potential blood sugar impacts of caffeine. They provide an effective but safer alternative for diabetics looking for an extra kick before their workout.

Look for L-Citrulline to Support Blood Flow

L-citrulline is an amino acid that acts as a precursor to nitric oxide, which helps dilate blood vessels and improve blood flow. For diabetics, better blood flow can enhance nutrient and oxygen delivery to working muscles during exercise. One study found L-citrulline supplementation improved endurance performance in people with type 2 diabetes.

This can be great for people with diabetes, as it can deliver more oxygen and nutrients to the muscles. 

As a result, it can boost performance and reduce fatigue, keeping you going for hours!

Including Added Vitamins and Minerals

Diabetes can take a toll on your overall health, so you should make sure you're getting enough vitamins and minerals. 

Look for a pre-workout supplement that contains added vitamins C, zinc, and magnesium. All these nutrients can support immune health and help reduce inflammation. Other components you should focus on are:

  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Beet root extract
  • B12

Low Sugar Content

Diabetic Person Using Blood Glucose Meter

In addition to these ingredients, shop for a pre-workout supplement that is low in sugar and calories. 

This way, you can avoid blood sugar spikes and crashes during and after your workout.

Which Ingredients Should a Person with Diabetes Avoid in a Pre-Workout?

There are some pre-workout common ingredients that you shouldn’t have, besides caffeine. Here are a few examples of harmful components to watch out for:

Creatine

Creatine is a popular pre-workout ingredient that can help to improve strength and power. However, it can also raise blood sugar levels in some people with diabetes. 

This is because creatine increases the amount of glucose stored in the muscles. When the muscles release this glucose, it can cause blood sugar levels to spike.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are a quick source of energy, but similar to creatine, they lead to an increase in blood sugar levels. That’s why it's a must to avoid pre-workouts that are high in carbohydrates.

Your body turns simple and complex carbs into glucose. As a result, this scenario can lead to complications such as hypoglycemia.

Artificial Sweeteners and Sugar Alcohols

Finally, you should steer clear of pre-workout supplements that have high amounts of artificial sweeteners. We know that they’re often promoted as better, healthier alternatives to sugar, but they have drawbacks that don’t work well with people who have diabetes.

Artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols are sometimes found in pre-workouts to sweeten them without adding calories. 

However, they can also cause blood sugar levels to rise rapidly in some people with diabetes. Artificial sweeteners can be metabolized by the body in different ways, which can lead to fluctuations in blood sugar levels.

In addition to that, they could influence insulin sensitivity. As a result, they could lead to many complications for diabetic people, including:

  • Hypertension
  • Elevated inflammatory markers
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Visceral adiposity
  • Endothelial dysfunction
  • Hyperuricemia

Tips for Using Pre-Workout for Diabetic Patients

If you have diabetes and you're looking to use pre-workout to improve your workouts, here are a few tips to help you stay safe and healthy:

1. Choose the Right Pre-Workout

Of course, the first step is to choose a pre-workout that is specifically designed for people with diabetes. Thankfully, many pre-workouts on the market are low in sugar, calories, and caffeine. They also don’t have any artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols. 

Some examples of diabetes-friendly pre-workout supplements involve:

  • PEScience High Volume
  • ProSupps Dr. Jekyll Signature
  • Pre-Series STIM-FREE
  • Six Star N.O. Fury Pre-workout
  • Gorilla Mode Nitric

These pre-workouts can be a safe and effective way to improve energy and performance without raising your blood glucose levels.

2. Start with a Small Dose

Even if you choose a pre-workout designed for people with diabetes, start with a small dose and gradually increase it as needed. 

This will help you determine how your body reacts to the pre-workout to avoid any negative side effects.

A Pre-Workout Complex In The Kitchen, Closeup

3. Monitor Your Blood Sugar Levels

It's also important to keep a watchful eye on your blood sugar levels before, during, and after physical activity. 

This ensures your blood sugar levels stay within a safe range. If your blood sugar levels start to rise, you may need to take a break from your workout or eat a snack.

4. Drink Plenty of Water

Keeping hydrated is essential for everyone, but it's especially important for people with diabetes who are working out. 

Drinking plenty of water will help prevent dehydration, which can lead to high blood sugar levels.

5. Eat a Healthy Pre-Workout Snack

Eating a nutritious snack before your workout can keep your blood glucose levels from dropping too low during exercise. 

A good snack option would be a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts, or a whole-wheat granola bar.

At the same time, you should avoid snacks with fast-acting carbohydrates and medium-acting ones. Steer clear of the likes of wheat bread, full-sugar energy drinks, or anything with potatoes.

What Are The Best Pre-workout Foods for People With Diabetes

If you have diabetes, the best foods to eat before a workout are those that give you energy without causing big jumps in your blood sugar. Some good choices are foods with carbohydrates like oatmeal, whole wheat bread, or brown rice.

  • Fruits like apples, bananas, or berries for natural sugars and fiber to keep your energy steady.
  • Greek yogurt is a good source of protein and health nutrients, such as calcium and probiotics, which help your muscles and blood sugar stay stable. 
  • Nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, or chia seeds are good for healthy fats, protein, and lasting energy. 
  • Lean proteins such as chicken, fish, or tofu to help your muscles recover and stay strong. 
  • Veggies like spinach, broccoli, or bell peppers are good for vitamins and other stuff. 
  • Smoothies with fruits, Greek yogurt, spinach, and nuts/seeds can also be healthy.

Just pick foods that will keep your blood sugar high. Try different combinations to see what works best for you.

Conclusion

So, here’s everything you need to know about using pre-workout safely if you have diabetes.

Just remember to choose the right pre-workout, start with a small dose, and monitor your blood sugar levels. You should also drink plenty of water and eat a healthy snack before your workout to manage your sugar levels.

If you ever feel lost or need clarification, contact your doctor or a certified personal trainer. They can help you create a workout routine tailored to your individual needs.

With a little planning and preparation, you can enjoy the benefits of pre-workout without risking a healthy lifestyle. Now, start your exercise plan and wait for the results!

Sources

At Diabetic Me, we are committed to delivering information that is precise, accurate, and pertinent. Our articles are supported by verified data from research papers, prestigious organizations, academic institutions, and medical associations to guarantee the integrity and relevance of the information we provide. You can learn more about our process and team on the about us page.

  1. Bio Med Central The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength
  2. WebMD Beta-Alanine - Uses, Side Effects, and More
  3. Medical News Today What to know about nitric oxide supplements
  4. CDC Manage Blood Sugar
  5. WebMD L-citrulline
  6. Health Central Caffeine and Diabetes: What You Need to Know
  7. Harvard School of Public Health Nutrition and Immunity
  8. Medical News Today Everything to know about carbs and diabetes
  9. National Library of Medicine The truth about artificial sweeteners – Are they good for diabetics?
  10. Diabetes.co.uk Dehydration and Diabetes

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About the Author

Ely Fornoville

Hi, I'm Ely Fornoville, and I am the founder of Diabetic Me. Being a type 1 diabetic since 1996, I developed a passion to help people learn more about diabetes. I write about diabetes and share stories from other diabetics around the world. I currently use a Medtronic Guardian 4 CGM and a MiniMed 780G insulin pump with Humalog insulin.

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