Diabetic muscle building and improving fitness when diabetic is unfortunately tough. I hate to say it, but when it comes to building a healthy, lean, strong body, diabetics are at a marked disadvantage. The condition is associated with a host of long and short-term implications if left uncontrolled. Generally speaking, these include:
- Catabolism (muscle wasting in particular)
- Rapid mood swings and dips in performance
- Suppression of the immune system (ability to fight infection)
- Increased risk of heart disease, kidney failure, eyesight problems.
- Nerve damage
- Amputation of limbs
As you can see none of these complications will benefit training performance or health for that matter. Diabetes can be extremely hard to control from the outset especially when one lacks the necessary knowledge of how the body works and also how to manipulate medication in accordance to the ever-changing dynamics of day-to-day life, stress, appetite and environment. In all my 10 years of being a Type 1 Diabetic I’ve come to terms with understanding my condition and respecting that I will never have perfect control. However, there are a number of key guidelines I want to share that have allowed me to stay major complication free and get the most out of my diabetic muscle building and fat loss efforts! I touch on these in greater detail in my upcoming book The Diabetic Blueprint – the first fully comprehensive diabetic body composition and performance resource of its kind!
The 5 Cornerstones of Diabetic Muscle & Fitness
1. Acceptance (Break The Trance)
First things first You’re diabetic… You have two choices, Come to terms with the condition, embrace it, understand it and do everything you can to control it. Or, Deny the truth, get on with your life and hope for the best. The problem is many diabetics simply don’t care or know enough to change. Your very existence is under threat. It doesn’t matter how much your worth, how popular or good looking you are without your health you’re good to nobody including yourself! Break The Trance! Do something about it – you have control as a Type 1 or Type 2.
2. Measure Everything
This is especially true for those diabetics who have been newly diagnosed. If you aren’t assessing your control you’re just guessing. Tracking allows you to assess your body’s reaction to certain foods, doses of medication and a host of other factors like stress and physical activity. Consistent measuring allows you to identify problems and work towards better long-term control, meaning fewer complications and better quality of life. Track the following
- Fasting blood sugar
- Pre meal blood sugar
- Meal macro content (specifically quantity and type of carbs)
- Post feeding blood sugar (1 hour)
- Pre and Post exercise blood sugars
- Overall Blood Panel (conducted by your professional health team)
3. High Intensity Exercise Can Upset Control
Exercise has always been seen as a control measure for Type 1 and 2 diabetics. However, it’s important to realize different types of exercise have different effects upon the body. In particular, high intensity exercise like weight training or high intensity interval training can actually increase blood sugar levels instead of decrease them, and in turn promote diabetic complications if left uncontrolled. The rise in blood sugar is simply down to the stress of the activity and subsequent release of stress hormones like adrenaline which release glucose from the body’s internal glycogen stores like that found in the liver. Take home – measure and assess – then you can ascertain the appropriate response to different types of exercise.
4. Avoid Hypo’s For Optimal Fat Loss and Performance
When blood sugar levels drop outside of healthy range (hypoglycemia) a decline in mental functioning and physical performance is certain. This is of no use to the hard training individual looking to get the most out of each training session. Low blood sugar need to be treated in order to prevent further complications, such as falling unconscious, which of course could increase one’s potential to further suffer a severe/life threatening injury depending on the circumstance (car crash, fall etc.) Treatment requires the consumption of extra calories, which of course is highly dependent on the severity of the hypoglycemic episode. However, most diabetics will tell you, a hypo is often accompanied by a great deal of hunger which can promote mindless eating and excessive calorific binging especially if low quality food options are chosen. As a result this can have a significantly negative impact on one’s fat loss attempts especially if they are to reoccur regularly. Hypo’s will come and go, but learn to catch them early. This is another reason why you must measure, as it will give you a clearer means of calculating your individual medication dose and/or appropriate food portion size in relation to the set activity your about to pursue.
5. Avoid High blood Sugar
The physiological response to chronic high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) is lengthy and well beyond the scope of this short article. To cut a long story short when blood sugar levels are persistently high (due to a lack of insulin) the body cannot utilize nutrients (fuel) properly. Amino acids, carbs and fats fail to make it into cells and perform their necessary roles. The end result is a massive upset in the body’s internal chemistry which proves highly detrimental to health and catabolic to muscle & fat tissue. Diabetic muscle building is obviously much harder when in a state of catabolism. In layman’s terms recovery and your hard earned muscle goes out the window. Don’t think running yourself high is a healthy way to lose fat – far from it! Strive for control and balance with your blood sugar levels.
Take Home Message On Diabetic Muscle & Diabetic Fitness
Whether your type 1 or type 2, do your very best to achieve better diabetic control through lifestyle, diet, exercise and the appropriate medication. Respect the condition, chase perfect control by learning more about the condition, tactfully measuring your food intake/medication and physical activity levels Know that with better control come fewer complications, better health, fat loss, muscle growth and performance.
About The Author
Renowned competitive body builder and Sports Nutritionist Phil Graham (BSc, CSSN) has established himself as one of UK’s leading fitness educators and coaches. Phil is also in the process of writing the first ever diabetic body composition and performance resource for diabetics – The Diabetic Blueprint will be published in January 2016 www.phil-graham.com