The Diabetic Athlete

According to the Centers for Disease Control (2014), approximately 29 million Americans are currently living with diabetes. Diabetes is a group of metabolic diseases characterized by increased blood glucose (sugar) levels (termed hyperglycemia) due to the inability of an individual to either secrete or properly utilize the hormone insulin (American Diabetes Association, 2012). Insulin is produced in the pancreas and allows available glucose into the cell in order to for the cell to to utilize the glucose to generate energy.

With the number of people living with diabetes growing, it is likely that you have encountered a diabetic athlete in one of your classes. The good news is that diabetes can be controlled. The best outcomes rest with the ability of the diabetic to self-manage their disease. The triad of management for diabetics focuses on lifestyle changes in diet and exercise as well as the use of medications as necessary. The following frequently asked questions regarding exercise and diabetes can help you to understand the influence of the disease on training and your role as a coach when supporting the diabetic athlete.


  1. In keeping with the spirit of ICA and as a tribute to all the work Jennifer and her team have done for the sport of indoor cycling, may I suggest a more appropriate title for this excellent article read, “An Athlete with Diabetes.” Subtle, but empowering.

  2. Thank you for this. No one swings a leg over a bike in my classes until I have determined whether they have diabetes, learned how they manage it and have a chance to point out where I keep juice and candy. I shouldn’t be surprised, but always am, when they tell me it is the first time they have been asked in a group ex setting.

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