Four Day Grit, Football and Diabetes Part 1 by Brandon Green

I know a little a bit about Grit, Football and Diabetes. I had the privilege of playing 5 years in the National Football League as a Defensive End. My journey and the lessons learned didn’t start there. They started 15 years earlier on the gridiron of Industrial Junior High, just outside Edna, Texas. There in the hot August sun, my T1D body was tested in the tough, physically demanding world of
2-day football practices.

4 Day Grit, Football and Diabetes


I titled this 4-day Grit, because I found throughout my 15-year football life that the first 4 days were always the most difficult. Sometimes as diabetics we feel our body functions in a “robotic” style. We think we control and alter our physical state by just adjusting our insulin injections.

In reality, it’s not that simple. Our body transitions and evolves to find equilibrium in its environment.

(During his NFL Career, Brandon was with 
the Jacksonville Jaguars, St. Louis Rams 
and the Seattle Seahawks.)

Prior to the NFL, Brandon played
for Rice University. 

First 4 days take grit!

In my experience, once I passed the 4-day mark my blood sugars would level off. Amazingly, the drastic rises and falls smoothed out. In fact, minus the first 3 days, 2‑days were by far my best blood sugars of all time! But it’s important to know, those first 4 days take grit.

They had to be fought through and well managed to get to the “promised land.” That place where an apple in the middle of the day only raises your blood sugar 30 points because your metabolism sucks it up so fast and your body refuses not to stay in equilibrium….

I would start a week out…

Low blood sugars, especially at night, were always the concern. I don’t think I ever survived a 2‑days season without getting low at night at least twice in those first 4 days. Sometimes more. The shock, no matter how good of shape I was in, was something that my body didn’t easily handle.

My last 2 years in the NFL, I would start a week out. I’d get up early and exercise at the same times as my upcoming 2‑day practices. This may have helped some, but I just wasn’t able to mimic the intensity and stress of true 2‑days workouts. The shock would normally send my blood sugars down in a hurry. And the effect of the physical activity would linger and strike later in the day when I wasn’t expecting it.

This was the norm for 3‑4 days. Then my blood sugars leveled out and became much easier to manage. There were still times of highs and lows, but never as intense as those early days.

So, I learned some things over the years..

And I thought I’d share the first half of my 4 day Grit plan with you today. These key points, and some grit, helped make my dream become a reality. I hope they benefit you!

Number 1. You CANNOT be an Undisciplined Diabetic Athlete

This is not only dangerous, but it just isn’t possible. It’s not a dream killer, its just reality. If your pancreas worked perfectly and you were NOT disciplined, your chances of achieving your dream drop pretty much to zero. So in a way, the discipline needed to achieve your goal must be there whether you have diabetes or not. But for diabetics, it is unsafe, impractical, and unwise to try to be an Undisciplined Diabetic Athlete. The words don’t even make sense when you put them together.

Number 2. Consistent CGM/Glucose monitoring is key

You must – at all times – know what your blood sugar is.  And more importantly, the direction it is heading. And this must be done as often as possible in these early days.

If a CGM is not possible, or not practical at your position, you must have an alternative plan. When you are not in practice, you must check before every change in schedule and every 10‑20 minutes if you are heading into an activity. A 30 minute and 10 minute check prior to practice is essential.

A 30 minute check gives you the ability to consume a complex carbohydrate (granola bars or power bars) and forget how they taste! They offer protein with complex carbs, which last longer.  A 10-minute check lets you know where you are heading and if you need the boost of simple sugars (Gatorade). Consumed quickly, they have time to work  through stretching to have you ready for your first individual period (or whatever practice scheduled station.)

Number 3. Bump up to a “45 minute- Let it Ride” rule

I bump up my game day “30 min – Let it Ride” rule to 45 min in the first 4 days. Blood sugars will probably be high as your body tries to correct and rebound from the low blood sugars and the added adrenaline.

Set boundaries for corrections. The biggest temptation with CGMs or consistent blood sugar testing is to over correct with your insulin. YOU CAN BOTTOM OUT QUICKLY with the increased exercise, so I learned to not help the crash by greasing the track with insulin.

Some practices you just have to endure a high blood sugar and “Ride it out”. These were not fun and you must constantly drink water to keep hydrated. But you do not want to increase the likelihood of a blood sugar crash from a late delivery of insulin. On a performance level, the crash is so physically demanding your blood sugar doesn’t have to be low to affect you. It will make you feel so tired you can barely function. A high sugar day is a tough day, but in those first 4 days, you have to Beware the Insulin Crash!

More rules coming in Part 2

So these were my first three rules. They were critical in getting me through the first 4 days of 2-days. These tips were learned the hard way and helped me realize my dream of making it to the NFL.

Part 2 of this blog will give you the final rules I followed along my football journey!
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Written by Brandon Green

March 1, 2017

Read Brandon’s final tips at Four Day Grit, Football and Diabetes Part 2. 

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This information provided for general use only.
It is not intended as medical and/or legal advice.
Always consult your doctor for medical advice.
All Rights Reserved. 

Athletic Practices Guide for Diabetics

Print your own simplified, summarized Guide of Brandon’s Tips 
for intense Athletic workouts. 

Coaches Playbook for Diabetics

Brandon’s Coaches Guide
A Handout for your Coaches! 

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