Exercising with Type 1 Diabetes:
A Q&A with Amanda Kirpitch, CDE, CSSD

If you’re interested in learning more about managing exercise with diabetes (whether you’re beginning a new activity or contemplating your next half-marathon) consider a visit with diabetes educator Amanda Kirpitch.

Amanda is a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) who has a master’s degree in Medical Nutritional Sciences from Boston University School of Medicine. She is a Registered Dietician (RD), a Licensed Dietician and Nutritionist (LDN) and a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD).

On February 23, 2016 from 4:30 to 6 PM Amanda will share her considerable knowledge on sports and nutrition at a workshop for Berrie Center patients on exercising with type 1 diabetes. Here’s her first piece of advice: “It’s important for people to know that diabetes doesn’t need to get in the way of exercise,” said Amanda. ”Whatever people want to do, we’re here to help you figure it out.” 

Amanda sat down last month to answer questions about her upcoming workshop.

Here’s what else she had to say:

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What do you tell all of your diabetes patients about exercise, no matter what level they are at?

Amanda: With diabetes and exercise, there is much more focus on what it is that people are trying to accomplish from a nutritional standpoint. I tell my patients to think of nutrition as a fueling process for exercise. I ask them to think about what activity they want to do, and then think about the nutritional concerns surrounding that activity – these are the same concerns they would have even if they did not have diabetes. Then we work together to manage their blood sugar levels around their exercise.

What are the challenges people encounter trying to manage their diabetes with exercise?

Amanda: Everything is doable, but when people think about challenges and exercising with diabetes, they think of hypoglycemia because blood sugar levels usually drop during activity. But the reality is, a lot of patients can also struggle with hyperglycemia as well as hypoglycemia, depending on the exercise. Different exercises affect blood sugars in different ways.

For example?

Amanda: When you’re doing strength training, it’s possible that your blood sugar may rise instead of fall. In some cases a stress response may predominate in exercise leading to a rise in blood sugar. It depends on how people perceive exercise and how the body perceives exercise as well. You’re going to get a different glucose response on a casual run than you’re going to get during a race, or during a day when you’re struggling to make any exercise happen.

It’s the most frustrating for people when they don’t understand the different responses they have and why they’re having them. That’s probably the biggest challenge to managing blood sugar during exercise—expecting one response and getting another. That’s where I can really help. Everything is doable and workable and certainly worth it.

Does exercise help your diabetes?

Yes. The healthier you are, the better for everything including your diabetes. But regular exercise often increases insulin sensitivity, an effect that has to be considered in diabetes.

Tell us a little about Amanda Kirpitch, MA, CDE, RD/LDN, CSSD

My patients are always asking me what all the letters mean after my name. I’m in a field where certification is awarded, the more course work you do. So I guess it means I’m ambitious and motivated by learning new things related to the work I do. As soon as I learned that a credential even existed for a Specialist in Sports Diatetics, I knew I wanted to go for it. My patients were getting fitter and fitter and more and more savvy about exercise. It was being incorporated into their daily lives as part of a treatment plan. I knew a lot about exercise from my training as a nutritionist and a diabetes educator. As a diabetes educator, the sports nutrition component was missing from my credentials.

Where does your interest in diabetes and fitness come from?

I’ve always been active. As a kid, I never played sports competitively, but I danced, and I enjoyed watching team sports. My mom had a healthy lifestyle, so it was something I knew about from a very early age. When I went off to college, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do until I realized that studying nutrition was an option.