Fight Diabetes Using Bodybuilding

Can I Benefit From Bodybuilding If I Have Diabetes?

Many people with the terrible illness of diabetes do not realize how much they can benefit from following a bodybuilding lifestyle. In this article, I'll point out what the top benefits are for following a healthy bodybuilding lifestyle if you suffer from diabetes.​

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes comes in two forms:

  • Type 1 Diabetes: With this type, people need to take insulin injections so this is often called "insulin dependent diabetes". Insulin is the hormone responsible for delivering the nutrients (carbs, proteins, and fats) into the muscle cells and is essential for energy production from the glucose (carbs) that come from food. The pancreas is the organ responsible for this hormone's production. Unfortunately, Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented as it is a result of an autoimmune reaction that causes the cells in the pancreas to stop working. Typically, this happens on the early ages between 8-12 (though cases have been reported where it happens much later).
  • Type 2 Diabetes: This type requires no need for insulin shots as it is caused by the cells' reduced capability to let insulin in and do its job. This condition is called insulin insensitivity or low insulin sensitivity. When the cells reject the hormone insulin, then not only does the person get lousy energy production but also starts to get fat due to the fact that since the nutrients cannot be delivered to the appropriate tissues, then they just get stored. In addition, once the body notices that the cells are not having adequate insulin uptake, then it starts to increase its insulin production in an attempt to compensate. This only worsens the problem as cells become even more resistant and body fat continues to increase from anything that the person eats.

Fight Diabetes Using Bodybuilding

A healthy bodybuilding lifestyle can be a powerful ally in the fight against diabetes. In the next section, I will describe the impact that a bodybuilding lifestyle has on insulin sensitivity and glucose (carbohydrate) utilization and the benefits that these effects bring about.

Benefits of the Bodybuilding Lifestyle for People with Diabetes

  1. Bodybuilding Training Improves Insulin Sensitivity and Glucose Tolerance: It seems that people with type 2 diabetes (around 90% of diabetic cases) benefit most from bodybuilding training as insulin sensitivity is increased and therefore the problem that causes it is attacked directly. People with type 1 however also benefit as most see a decreased amount in the insulin that they need to take each day to manage their glucose levels.
  2. Bodybuilding Training Increases The Need To Use Glucose For Energy: Even moderate amounts of bodybuilding training (as in 30-40 minutes three times a week) increase muscle mass. More muscle means that larger amounts of glucose are used throughout the day and during exercise. In turn, this helps the person with type 1 as it may be possible to reduce the insulin dosage (lower glucose levels allow for a smaller insulin dose to manage the remainder). It should also be noted that the cardiovascular exercise component of bodybuilding training also helps to dispose of glucose, in addition to increasing insulin sensitivity as well.
  3. A Bodybuilding Diet Is Optimal for Controlling Blood Sugar Better: Bodybuilding requires constant blood sugar control and the best way to accomplish that is by using the correct diet. Slow-released/high fiber carbs like brown rice, oatmeal, and sweet potatoes combined with vegetables such as green beans and broccoli should be the main carbohydrate staples. Lean sources of protein such as chicken, turkey, egg whites, lean red meats, tuna and atlantic salmon (which is higher in fats but they are essential fats) are awesome sources of protein. Small amounts of good fats such as those founds in fish like salmon (fish oils), flaxseed oil and extra virgin olive oil help also increase insulin sensitivity and control blood sugar. I like to use a 40% carb, 40% protein, 20% good fats diet and also it is key that instead of infrequent large meals, the diet is made up of smaller more frequent meals. For more information on this subject take a look at my sample bodybuilding diets.
  4. Certain Bodybuilding Supplements Help Increase Insulin Efficiency and Glucose Disposal: Successful bodybuilding requires optimal insulin sensitivity and utilization of nutrients. Because of this, bodybuilders use supplements that optimize the insulin metabolism. A good list of supplements that accomplish that are listed below:
    • Alpha Lipoic Acid: Awesome at increasing insulin sensitivity. I always take 400 mg with post workout carbohydrate/protein shake.
    • Chromium Picolinate: Very good for increasing insulin sensitivity as well, for keeping blood sugar stable and also helps the pancreas work better. I always take 200 mg with post workout carbohydrate/protein shake or at breakfast on off days.
    • Gymnema Sylvestre Leaf Extract: Good for balancing blood sugar. I recommend 400mg three times a day.
    • Vanadyl Sulfate: Call me old school but this supplement was highly popular in the early 90s in bodybuilding circles for its properties as an insulin mimiker and its ability for better glucose utilization. It faded off sometime in the mid-90s but this supplement has proven its efficacy time after time. I continue to use it to this day taking 7.5mg with each meal that contains carbohydrates.
    • Vitamin C: Oddly enough, Vitamin C in conjunction with Vitamin E helps to lower blood glucose levels. In addition, Vitamin C also helps to protect the kidneys as well. I typically take 1000mg three times a day for the effects mentioned above and also due to its ability to reduce cortisol 
  5. The Rest Required For Optimal Bodybuilding Results Preserves Efficient Insulin Uptake: Research indicates that lack of sleep kills insulin sensitivity so much so that "in healthy young men with no risk factor, in one week, we had them in a pre-diabetic state," says researcher Dr. Eve Van Cauter when referring to a study she conducted on the effects of sleep deprivation. What happens is that without sleep, the central nervous system becomes more active, something that inhibits the pancreas from producing adequate insulin.


It is important to point out that certain precautions are required for a person that practices bodybuilding with diabetes:

  1. Please check your blood sugar before and after the activity: Too high or too low of a blood sugar prior to exercise may warrant you waiting until it normalizes a bit. Wait until your blood sugar is between 100 and 120 mg/dl.
  2. Avoid exercising under extreme temperatures: A temperature between 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit is best to execute exercise. Temperature plays a role in how the body handles blood sugar so a moderate temperature works best for the diabetic bodybuilder.
  3. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water before, during and after the activity to control your body's temperature from rising too high which in turn prevents large blood sugar fluctuations.
  4. Keep a snack handy: Something as simple as 3 glucose tablets followed by a protein bar can be essential for you if you start feeling hypoglycemic (low in blood sugar). Symptoms of hypoglycemia are manifested by feelings of hunger, being shaky, lightheaded, confused, irritable and sweaty. If you experience this during exercise, stop and have some simple sugars (like the 3 glucose tabs) and a protein bar 10 minutes after in order to attempt to stabilize the blood sugar. Then rest for 15 minutes or so and re-test your blood glucose levels. If below 100 mg/dl, do not resume exercise.
  5. Have a post workout meal consisting of complex carbs and protein: All bodybuilders who know what they are doing know the importance of post workout nutrition. Right after the workout, the body needs to replenish its glycogen stores and amino acid pools in order to begin the recovery, repair and growth processes. For the diabetic bodybuilder, another reason to have the post workout meal is to avoid a post workout blood sugar low caused by the increased uptake of glucose by the muscles that will come right after the workout is finished as the body is scrambling to replenish glycogen.


I hope that if you are not bodybuilding and suffer from diabetes, after reading this article you decide to get started on the bodybuilding lifestyle. If you are already a bodybuilder, then make sure that you tell anyone who suffers from this terrible disease that bodybuilding can be a powerful ally in dealing with their illness.