Time Your Meals Right for Diabetes Self-Management

To say that timing is everything may apply better to stock market trades or hitting a baseball than to eating with diabetes, but the timing of your meals and snacks and medication can be important in several ways.

The most direct timing relationship, and the most important, is the timing between injecting or bolusing with rapid- or short-acting insulin and eating carbohydrate food. These insulin varieties are formulated to take effect lowering blood glucose relatively quickly (5 minutes to one hour) and reach peak activity relatively soon (30 minutes to three hours).

Unless taken specifically to lower high blood glucose levels, this insulin is intended to be followed by ingestion of a certain number of carbohydrate grams. A lapse in proper timing here can result in dangerously low blood glucose levels.

Timing is less critical, but still important for long acting insulin and for some oral diabetes medications where low blood glucose is a potential side effect. Overall, eating on a regular schedule, following your dietitian’s meal plan recommendations by spreading carbohydrates throughout the day, and not skipping meals can improve blood glucose control, especially after meals.

Meal skipping, especially skipping breakfast, can sabotage one other important mission for a statistical majority of people with type 2 diabetes weight loss. Weight management is so important. Even a modest loss of body weight can have profound benefits to blood sugar control.

Although it may seem logical that skipping the calories from an entire meal would promote weight loss, that logic doesn’t hold up.

On the other hand, breakfast is not a magic meal where you eat anything you want and watch the weight fall off. Breakfast — breaking the overnight fast — should include carbohydrates for energy and protein for feeling full enough to pass on the donuts you find at the office or the bank — or the donut shop.

For many, skipping breakfast is not a misplaced weight loss strategy, but rather is an issue of time. Mornings can be frantic, and waiting two minutes for a bowl of oatmeal can simply seem difficult. But, a healthy breakfast is too important, and this problem of timing is too easy to resolve. Breakfast is a priority, and therefore gets its necessary time.

The National Weight Control Registry is a database of individuals who qualify by having lost at least 30 pounds and by keeping lost weight off for a minimum of one year. The group is a valuable source of information to define weight loss strategies that have proven successful.

When it comes to eating breakfast, 78 percent of this group report eating breakfast every day, and 90 percent report eating breakfast at least five days per week. That is a strong hint that breakfast is a key part of reaching weight loss goals.

When traveling across several time zones, talk to your doctor about how to adjust your medication, including insulin. Going by local time at your destination can result in taking doses too close together or too far apart, depending upon which direction you travel.

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