This study aimed to evaluate the impact of consuming 50 grams of protein on overnight blood glucose levels following moderate-intensity exercise late afternoon.

Although exercise is well known to benefit healthy individuals and those living with type 1 diabetes (T1D), the fear of hypoglycemia still keeps people living with T1D from participating in exercise. 

In addition, moderate-intensity exercise (MOD) performed late in the afternoon increases the risk of overnight late-onset post-exercise hypoglycemia (LOPEH) in individuals with T1D.

A study by McMahon et al. showed that for a 70 kg person, an additional 10 g of intravenous glucose was needed for 7 to 11 hours after MOD was performed in the late afternoon to maintain euglycemia. 

In addition to insulin dose reduction and carbohydrate supplementation, current strategies are not always effective in lowering this risk, particularly for individuals on pump therapy or receiving multiple daily injections.

It has also been shown that consuming protein after exercise optimizes muscle protein remodeling and repair, and consuming protein before sleep may enhance muscle protein synthesis.

In this case, ingesting protein after exercising for hypoglycemia prevention may be attractive to people with Type 1 Diabetes who wish to maximize their afternoon exercise’s training effect because protein helps optimize muscle protein remodeling and repair after exercise.

The opposite occurs with protein consumed alone or with meals, which causes a late postprandial rise in blood glucose levels that requires additional insulin to maintain euglycemia.

Results of the Study

The researchers used a basal insulin euglycemic clamp to measure the mean glucose infusion rate (m-GIR) required to maintain euglycemia in six individuals with type 1 diabetes. Each individual exercised for 45 minutes at 1600 hours and consumed a protein drink or water alone at 2000 hours on two separate occasions.

“A potential limitation of the study is the small sample size, but significant results were achieved in the primary outcomes of glucose requirements between Pr-nights and Wa-nights, as well as hormone responses,”

– the researchers concluded

As a result, the m-GIR on a protein night was six-fold lower than that on a water-only night during LOPEH’s risk period of four hours and 2.5-fold lower overnight than those on protein nights.

A novel and effective strategy for preventing late-onset post-exercise hypoglycemia can be found in taking protein in the evening and following moderate-intensity exercise in the late afternoon. However, real-life studies are needed to determine how protein ingested after exercise affects overnight blood glucose levels.

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