Ask The Trainer #94 – Diabetes And Gaining Muscle

Ask The Trainer #94 - Diabetes And Gaining Muscle


I wanted to ask you a question. I’m a type 1 diabetic and I have gastroparesis digestive, along with malabsorption issues that affect my sugar level, which makes my sugar stay around 9-12 mmol. Do you think it’s still possible to gain muscle mass? Is there anything you can recommend that might help? Thanks.



Hi, Ash. I do believe beyond any shadow of a doubt that you can still build muscle despite the health challenges you’re contending with. If you stimulate your muscles with the precise amount of resistance, they will respond by getting larger and stronger.

With type 1 diabetes, the pancreas completely ceases to produce insulin. Insulin is the hormone necessary to use glucose (sugar) for energy. Therefore, individuals with type 1 diabetes must take insulin shots. Your particular health conditions will call for some extra caution when implementing a training regimen, but there’s no reason why you can’t still build a great physique.

Since type 1 diabetes can make your body more sensitive to exercise, you will want to carefully engage in a regular lifting routine. I suggest writing down the time of day that you lift weights, your pre-training blood sugar count, the most recent food you consumed, and also the last time you took insulin. I suggest weight lifting for 30-45 minutes, but no longer than that.

Write down exactly what exercises you do, weights you use, and the reps you complete on each exercise. Check your blood sugar about halfway into your workout, then again when you’re done. If your blood sugar is high, you know you either consumed more food than you needed prior to your workout, or you waited too long after your last dose of insulin to do your workout.

If your blood sugar level is low, you’ll know you can either wait a little longer to train after your last dose of insulin or eat a little bit more during whatever meal you consume prior to your workout. Most importantly, if you’re lifting weights, or exercising, and you begin feeling light-headed, weak, or dizzy— CEASE EXERCISING IMMEDIATELY!!

Your protein requirements will increase slightly with weight training. However, monitor your protein intake very carefully since diabetes does place additional stress on the kidneys. Consuming too much protein will exacerbate kidney stress by forcing them to work harder. You should consume quality protein at meal times. Protein foods like eggs, meats, and whey protein are great choices, but don’t go overboard with protein consumption!

One threat diabetics are more sensitive to is a metabolic process known as glycation.  This is when sugars such as glucose bond to proteins, fats, and nucleic acids in an uncontrolled fashion. This results in the formation of toxic compounds known as advanced glycation end products (AGEs).

When AGEs build up in the body, they negatively alter the structure and function of vital proteins in the body. This will exacerbate health problems associated with diabetes. You can help protect yourself from these issues by supplementing with the amino acid carnosine.  This amino acid will bind to protein molecules and shield them from sugar molecules, thus preventing glycation. Carnosine can also stimulate enzymes and other compounds to eliminate damaged, glycated protein, which will help minimize the impact of diabetic related complications.

Carnosine can be found at some health food stores, or there are many online supplements stores that sell it. It isn’t a cheap supplement to purchase, but I believe the benefits it offers definitely make it worth the cost.

To help manage the gastroparesis, I suggest adhering to a whole, soft food diet. Avoid processed foods since they tend to result in high levels of residue. Avoid tough fibrous meats and vegetables because they are more difficult to digest. Try to stick with softer foods like boiled, or steamed chicken, fish, eggs, potatoes, yams, cooked pasta, steamed veggies, steamed rice, soft fruits, grits, Greek yogurt, and cottage cheese.

Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to prevent dehydration, and to support digestion. To help maximize digestion and nutrient absorption, I strongly recommend taking a digestive enzyme complex with all of your meals, and also a high potency probiotic— one with at least 8 different strains of good bacteria, and a CFU of at least 50 billion. These can be purchased at most health food stores, and also from many online supplement stores. If you’re not sure which brands are good, you may want to try purchasing them at a health food store first, so that you can seek direction from someone more knowledgeable on the various brands available.

One last thing I insist you do: Consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine or using any new supplements. Your doctor can also help guide you on implementing changes safely without complicating any of your existing health issues.

I hope you found this advice useful! I wish you all the best of health!

Prove ‘Em Wrong,
Chad Shaw

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