Does Working Out Raise Your Blood Sugar Levels?

If you’re wondering whether working out raises your blood sugar levels, the answer is yes – but it depends on the type of exercise you’re doing.


When it comes to managing blood sugar levels, there is no magic pill or one-size-fits-all solution. Whether you’re pre-diabetic, diabetic or simply seeking to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, lifestyle and diet modifications are key for achieving your health goals. Exercise plays a major role in helping you reach these goals, but many people are curious if working out directly affects their blood sugar levels.

The answer isn’t a simple yes or no; there are multiple factors involved. The type of exercise, intensity and duration of the activity are all important factors that need to be addressed in order to determine how working out affects your blood sugar levels. Read on for more information about how exercise can affect your health and well-being depending on your current condition and fitness goals.

Blood Sugar Basics

Understanding the basics of blood sugar levels is essential in order to know if working out will raise your blood sugar levels. Blood sugar (or glucose) is an important fuel source for the body, and levels can be affected by a number of factors, such as diet, medication, stress and physical activity. In this article, we’ll discuss how working out can influence your blood sugar levels and the necessary precautions to take when exercising if you have diabetes.

What is Blood Sugar?

Blood sugar, also known as glucose, is the main source of fuel for the body. Glucose is broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream after meals, providing energy to nourish cells in various parts of the body. After eating carbohydrates or protein, enzymes in the small intestine break down those molecules into glucose and other simpler sugars before they enter the bloodstream. The blood transports glucose throughout your body, where organs like muscles and liver use it for energy.

Maintaining normal levels of blood sugar is essential for promoting optimal health, as excessive spikes or drops can lead to serious medical conditions such as diabetes or hypoglycemia. The pancreas produces and secretes insulin, a hormone that helps regulate levels of sugar in the blood. The amount of insulin produced depends partly on what you eat; carbohydrates entering the bloodstream cause a larger spike in insulin production than proteins and fats do. Insulin helps cells take up glucose from your bloodstream as fuel for energy production so you can stay energized throughout your day-to-day activities.

How Does Blood Sugar Affect Your Health?

Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is a critical part of overall health, as it helps control hunger, energy levels, and even long-term health outcomes like risk for heart disease. Uncontrolled high blood sugar can lead to unhealthy levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, chronic inflammation and hormonal imbalances, which can increase one’s risk of developing diabetes or even stroke. On the flip side, low blood sugar can leave one feeling fatigued and lead to poor focus, headaches or even fainting.

For those who are not diabetic or pre-diabetic, ideally your fasting (before eating anything) and post-meal (2 hours after eating) blood sugar levels should remain below 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl), according to the International Diabetes Federation guidelines. For those who are at higher risk for diabetes or already have it , the target range is usually 70 – 130 mg/dl before meals and less than 180 mg/dl two hours after meals.

The key to having healthy blood glucose levels is keeping your pancreas active by exercising regularly; this helps ensure that your cells have enough insulin available to help them properly absorb glucose from the food you eat into your bloodstream. Exercise also triggers the production of glucagon – a hormone that increases your body’s ability to effectively use insulin so that there’s less inactive glucose floating around in your bloodstream Even if exercise leads to a temporary rise in glucose levels, it’s generally beneficial in terms of long-term regulation — as long as you don’t overwork yourself with too much intensity too quickly!

The Impact of Exercise on Blood Sugar

Exercise is known to be beneficial for many aspects of physical and mental health. But, many wonder if exercise can also have an impact on your blood sugar levels. While physical activity can help to regulate your blood sugar levels, it is still important to understand how exercise affects your body and when it is best to exercise. This article will explore the impact of exercise on blood sugar levels.

Short-Term Effects

The short-term effects of exercise on blood sugar levels depend on the timing and intensity of your physical activity. Typically, low-intensity exercise can lower your blood sugar levels, while strenuous or long-duration exercises may cause an increase.

Low-intensity exercise causes less stress to the body and produces less of the hormone cortisol. This decrease in cortisol helps the cells respond more effectively to insulin, resulting in a decrease in blood glucose levels. Additionally, when you exercise, your body breaks down muscle glycogen which releases energy that further lowers blood glucose levels.

However, vigorous and longer duration activities lead to an increase in cortisol and epinephrine hormones that can cause your cells to ignore insulin’s signals for glucose uptake. This elevated level of cortisol promotes gluconeogenesis (the process through which glucose is created from noncarbohydrate substrates), leading to an increased contribution from gluconeogenesis towards maintaining blood glucose concentration during exercise. At the same time, increased epinephrine hormones may also contribute strongly towards elevating circulating concentrations of glycerol resulting in increased production of plasma glucose during physical activity.

Therefore, depending on the type and level of intensity of physical activity undertaken there could be either a decrease or an increase in one’s blood sugar level post exercise. It is also important to note that one’s hydration status is barely considered when discussing these effects and might be a factor worth considering while studying this issue further.

Long-Term Effects

Understanding how exercise can affect your blood sugar levels is essential for staying healthy and reducing the risk of diabetes or other health complications associated with high sugar levels. Long-term effects of physical activity may include an increased ability to metabolize glucose and reduced resting blood sugar, generated by increases in muscle mass and greater utilization of fats for energy. While the sudden burst of strenuous activity can cause an immediate spike in blood sugar, regular physical activity can ultimately result in a decrease in overall glucose levels.

Additionally, long-term exercise has been correlated with decreased insulin resistance, meaning that cells are better able to utilize available glucose even at times of high blood sugar. By improving overall metabolic efficiency, it’s possible to lower fasting and postprandial (after meals) blood sugar more sustainably over time than could be achieved through changes in dietary habits alone. This balance is especially important for aged populations as metabolism tends to slow down with age due to loss of muscle mass and increased fat deposits within the body. Exercise helps restore metabolic equilibrium through building strong muscles which in turn lead to higher energy expenditure.

How to Manage Blood Sugar Levels While Exercising

Exercise is essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but you may wonder how it affects your blood sugar levels. Working out can cause your blood sugar levels to rise depending on the intensity of the activity and how long you are working out. It’s important to learn how to manage your blood sugar levels before, during, and after your workouts for optimal health. Let’s take a look at the practical steps you can take.

Pre-Workout Nutrition

Consuming the right foods before a workout can help you manage your blood sugar levels. Eating carbohydrates that provide long-lasting fuel is key. Complex carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, whole-wheat toast, oats and quinoa help release glucose gradually into the bloodstream, which helps control your blood sugar. You should also consume proteins and healthy fats to fuel your exercise. The goal is to strive for a balance of these macronutrients — 35 percent of your total calories should come from complex carbs, 25 to 30 percent from protein and 20 to 25 percent from fat. To keep your blood sugar in check when exercising, eat a snack containing protein and carbs about two hours beforeo doing so. This will give you enough energy without throwing off blood sugar levels mid-workout.

Post-Workout Nutrition

It is important to replenish your glycogen stores after a workout by eating carbohydrates. The optimal timing for eating to support steady blood sugar levels depends on what type, intensity, and duration of exercise you did. If you exercised at a moderate or low intensity and for less than an hour, aim to eat your meal within 30-45 minutes after finishing. For higher intensity workouts lasting over an hour, eat a snack with complex carbs and protein shortly after exercise and follow up with a meal within 2 hours of your workout.

When planning post-workout meals or snacks aim for quality carbohydrates that are nutrient-dense like sweet potatoes, quinoa, brown rice, oats, fruit with fiber (beans or legumes are also good for fiber), whole grain breads and cereals plus a healthy source of protein like tofu, eggs, fish or turkey. If you need something fast in between meals don’t forget to include healthy snacks such as nuts (almonds, walnuts etc.), dark chocolate/cocoa powder plus fruits/vegetables like apples with almond butter or hummus and carrots in your diet. In addition to the nutrients mentioned it is also good to stay hydrated throughout the day. Remember that hydration helps regulate blood glucose concentrations; not just during exercise but at all times!


In conclusion, the answer to the question of whether or not working out increases blood sugar levels is a bit more complicated than it appears. While physical activity can cause some temporary, natural fluctuations in blood sugar, it does not necessarily result in significant changes over time. On the contrary, physical activity that is consistent and done within the confines of your doctor’s guidelines can actually be beneficial for people with diabetes. In addition to helping improve blood glucose control and reduce risk for diabetes-related complications, regular exercise offers many known health benefits, including improved heart health and mental well-being. Overall, moderate-intensity exercise is recommended for people with diabetes (and everyone!), and keeping up with an active lifestyle will help you reap all of its rewards.

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