Diabetes and Resistance Training

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease in which the body’s inability to produce any or enough insulin causes an increase in sugar (glucose) in the blood.  In type I diabetes the cells that create insulin from the pancreas are destroyed by the body’s own immune system.  In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas is able to produce insulin, but either in not enough amounts or the cells are unable to use the insulin to help blood sugar enter the cell for energy production.   

Why Do Blood Glucose Levels Go Up after Physical Activity?

The body’s muscles respond to exercise by increasing their need for more energy (to do the work) or what we call glucose (blood sugar).  The muscles send signals to the liver which then increases the amount of glucose that is released into your bloodstream.  Now you have more glucose or sugar circulating in your bloodstream trying to enter the muscles cells but in the case of a diabetic, the lack of or ineffectiveness of the insulin causes blood sugar levels to rise or spike post workout.  


The major benefits of resistance training in people with diabetes include improved cholesterol levels, increased heart function (less stress), decreased blood pressure (less stress), improved insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control, and improved muscular strength, power, and endurance with increased bone strength.  Two studies were conducted, one had participants complete a 3-month resistance training program that consisted of 2 days a week of full body circuit training.  The researchers found that circuit training for 3 months was responsible for improvements in blood sugar control due to the increase in muscle size and use.  Another study showed that those who participated in strength training 5 x per week for 4-6 weeks using a high volume – moderate intensity training routine showed increase in the rate of blood sugar entering into the body’s cells after training.  This study showed insulin sensitivity improved by 50%.  Overall, a strength training program makes your body more sensitive to insulin and can lower your blood glucose levels.   Elite Nutrition and Performance has strength training programs available to help you control your diabetes.  


Tips to Safely Exercise and Minimize Risk of Hypoglycemia

In most cases a diabetic who begins physical activity will need to be monitoring his or her blood glucose levels closely.  I recommend testing your blood glucose levels 30-60 minutes before exercise and immediately after exercise.  If your blood glucose is lower than 100, consume 15-20 grams of a quick acting carbohydrate such as OJ or half banana.  If after exercise and your blood sugar levels are spiked greater than 250, provide yourself with your corrected insulin dosage prescribed by your doctor.  


Type 1 – If blood sugar levels are greater than 250, test again in 10 minutes and if the number has dropped, you may begin with the training session.  If your blood sugar remains at 250 or higher, do not begin the training session and take insulin to lower blood sugar level below 250.

Type 2 – Do not exercise if blood sugar levels are greater than 350.

Want to start a weight training program, but metabolic restrictions leave you apprehensive ? Sign up with ENP and we have a staff that may be able to proivde you with the work out plan you need.

Sean Vander Veer Elite Nutrition and Performance RD

Sean Vander Veer RD, LD



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