Speeding Ahead: NASCAR Racer Ryan Isn’t Letting Diabetes Slow Him Down
Advocacy NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Ryan Reed has been behind the wheel since he was four and he's not letting Type 1 diabetes get in the way of him crossing the finish line.
Reed was just 17 when he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, a chronic, autoimmune condition where the pancreas produces little to no insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar.
“I was told I’d never race again and that stayed with me,” says the Bakersfield native. “I know what it’s like to have a disease you didn’t choose. You did nothing wrong to get it and it potentially robs you of something in your life.”
Now 24, Reed is making his mark on the track. He found an endocrinologist who helped him continue his career. That doctor recommended working with a nutritionist and Reed, who used to eat a lot of fast food, says that was a game changer.
“Chase your dreams... Don’t let diabetes stop you."
“Today nutrition is a huge part of my life,” he says, explaining he eats a lot of carbs including fruit in the morning to give him energy all day. A typical dinner includes lean proteins like salmon, as well as veggies and sweet potatoes.
The clean diet helps him manage his diabetes and perform at his best too.
“I want to be a better athlete,” says the two-time ARCA Race winner. “I want to feel better. I want to have more energy.”
Reed knows he needs to stay hydrated to control his blood sugar, especially while racing 200 MPH around the track.
“In summer it’s 140 degrees in the car on a hot day,” he says, explaining he has a drink system built into his car: a hose runs through his helmet giving him water and he keeps a sports drink with dextrose on his left leg board in case of low blood sugar.
He’s learned to control his nerves too, noting adrenaline spikes cause his blood sugar to rise.
“The more I can reduce stress, the calmer it keeps me,” he says. “I can make better decisions in the car. Also, it really helps me manage my blood sugar an hour or two before the race.”
Reed is raising diabetes awareness through his non-profit, Ryan’s Mission. He gives inspirational speeches and also attends Beyond Type 1 and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) events.
Even though he has Type 1, he wants to also help people with Type 2 diabetes, including many of his fans. Reed knows managing both types can be challenging, especially with a busy schedule.
Proudly racing Number 16, Reed has partnered with Lilly Diabetes on the “Drive Down A1C” to encourage people with the disease to better manage their care and talk to their doctor about treatment options.
Reed knows the condition can be demanding. That’s why he advises sufferers work with their doctors, lean on their support systems and not let their health hold them back.
“Chase your dreams,” Reed says. “Don’t let diabetes stop you."