Diabetes and Weight Lifting

Hey Guys,

I am trying to write a paper about the effects of weight lifting on diabetes, blood sugar etc. I am a diabetic myself but have only been lifting for about 9 months. Any personal stories, articles, or books that you think could help me would be great. Thanks so much.


Hi Marlee,


Richard Bernstein is a huge proponent of weight lifting for both type 1 and type 2 diabetics. below is an excerpt from his book. 


Of course, diabetics need to have their eyes checked because of the potential that strenuous exercise can further damage vessels in the eyes.

I lift weights and it tends to lower my blood glucose levels. But, I'm on a low carb diet and I know that has a huge impact on how my body deals with exercise.

Bernstein excerpt:




Hi Marlee,

I lift weights every other day in my workout routine.  The other days, I do cardio stuff.  But, I incorporate calisthenics on my cardio days.  I've always noticed that on the days I lift weights, I will get lows hours after my workout.  This is b/c weight lifting like a metabolism booster, helping you burn calories even when you're not exercising.  I've had to compensate this by eating more complex carbs after I workout and decreasing my bolus for the meal/snack, compared with cardio workouts where the lows tend to drop either during or right after the workout, you can decrease your basal rate during the workout and then eat a power bar either before or after the workout.

To answer the question:  When I lift I find it MUCH easier to anticipate how I may react to carbs and the amount of insulin I need to counteract.  It is extremely noticeable for myself how much of an affect lifting has with my control ability.  I use less insulin for the same amount of carbs that would typically require 1U/10g carb on average.

I have a question myself:  I am lifting more so now for mass growth.  Unfortunately as you all know that this requires to eat MORE.  Unfortunately that relates to more insulin.  The downside is fat accumulation on the mid-section where I inject the Novolog.  Of course, if I do mad cardio then it comes down but on the other hand I loose the mass.  Has anyone any comments on how to properly gain mass and also how to shed that insulin fat patch on the mid???

Hi Phill,

When you eat more, are you eating more protein and complex carbs?  Eating more protein shouldn't affect your sugars by much and eating complex carbs should help with the insulin intake.  Since complex carbs tend to curve over a longer period of time, you probably don't need to intake more novolog, but increase your longer acting insulin dose.  Ask your doctor about this first.  Taking in more short acting insulin is what causes you to accumulate fat faster.  You can also try injecting the novolog in your thigh and hip areas instead, or rotating your injection sites between your abdomen and thighs/hips.  Maybe ask some trainers what they suggest too.

Hey Scrappy,

Yeah, I am definitely eating more carbs but I know this is bad to say, no I am not boning up on the complex carbs.  Honestly, I am not very good at meal planning.  Most of the time I just eat normally and try to increase protein intake. 

I had no idea you could take the Novolog in your thigh/hip, I thought it strictly had to be abdominal.  What if you dont have any fat there?  honestly, the only fat really on my body is on my abdomen from 2yrs of Novolog rotations.

Currently I am already taking 21U of Lantus at night to keep a good baseline.  So I think I am going to give the thigh/hip thing a shot for a couple of meals and see how I do.  Thanks for that suggestion.

Plus at the age of 31, I am not sure how much increase I can really put on??

Oh!  That could very well be a contributor to the fat gain.  Yes, definitely try to eat more complex carbs instead.  It doesn't always have to be Whole Wheat, although that is always a better choice than White...even Multi Grain is a better choice.  Also, try some high fiber foods.  Well, when I used to use Novolog, my doctor said I could inject it in either my abdomen or thigh/hip areas.  He said that as long as I get it in the subcutaneous area, it will be fine.  So, you may have to go at a sharper angle if your thigh/hip areas are more lean.  The only thing with putting it in the hip/thigh areas is that it does not absorb as fast as the abdomen, so you may have to take your injection like 30 mins. prior to meals as apposed to the 15 mins. prior.  But as always, talk to your doctor before making any changes that are completely different than your normal routine.  These suggestions I have made are only from my own personal experience and from what my doctor has recommended to me.

I've been weight training with a personal trainer since june. I've noticed that it has helped me level out my sugars, i've dropped some weight but gained muscle as well.

I don't take my insulin less than 90-60mins before a session(which lasts an hour) and I eat a protein snack after. I always check before and after as well, and usually have a small snack about 60mins before hand depending on the time of day.

If I take insulin before my session, depending on what we are focusing on that week, I'll change areas. I normally use my stomach, but when we focus on upper body(we usually do excerises for upper and lower..but focus on one mainly each session and he's good about letting me know what we'll be working on the next session) then I'll take it in my thigh. If we are focusing on lower body, i'll do it in my stomach. It helps keep my blood sugars from dropping during or after the session.

I am a little confused about something.  For as long as I know, where your calories came from is what was important.  For example, 1,000 calories from protein was most definitely better than 1,000 calories from fat.  But after having an arguement with someone about this I need to ask...  If you are burning 1,000 calories throughout the day theorectical for conversation sake, then does it really matter where those calories are coming from?  Especially when you are a physically active person?


In working with my trainer, it does not matter where your calories come from, whether it's chocolate, eggs, a bagel, or whatever.  When working out, your goal is to build a better body composition, so the best way to do that is to distribute your calories by eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day.  My trainer recommended eating: before bed, breakfast, before exercise, and after exercise as critical meals.  Of course snacks in between will be needed, but don't skip those 4 small meals. 

However, according to my doctor, gaining calories from healthier choices are not only better for your heart, but better for blood glucose control.  This is why I suggest eating more complex carbs and protein. 

I'll ask my trainer for a more clarified explanation of calorie intake, if you'd like.

Here is what I would like answered. I heard on "The Biggest Loser" last wk. that it was hard for those with diabetes to gain muscle weight. I sure hope this isn't true. My 14 yr. old is in weight training at school to get ready for football season this fall. Football is his love. The problem on top of having Type 1 diabetes is he also has Celiac disease. That in itself is a nightmare as far as getting the nutrients you need to get bigger, etc.... Does anyone have the answer to this?

Hey Lilthislilthat,

Have a look at this article:



I bet that guy would argue that even it's hard, it's not impossible!


Wow guys! Thank you all so much for your responses so far! I am so happy to see that this has sparked a discussion and now I KNOW that I can actually use this for my paper (yay!!!) And keep the information coming. The more i have the better!

Hey marlee,


I'm a type 1 diabetic (from www.diabeteens.com).  I am a personal trainer and yoga instructor, and I have been training in body building/ powerlifting for the past couple years. I will be competing in May in powerlifting and stand a pretty good chance of placing in the top 3 for my weight class.


Weightlifting has had a huge impact on my diabetes in a great way. The more muscle I build, the more sensitive to insulin I am and the less I need. I used to take 35 units of Lantus a day. I now take 21 units. I have more energy, I feel better, and I burn through food like a machine!



p.s. In response to the comment above about people with diabetes not being able to gain muscle...


NOT TRUE! I've gained about 15-20 pounds of muscle in the past 1 1/2 years and still going. It's all about exercising effectively, and eating right.



Hi Marlee,

I only have personal experiences and discussions/panels I've done with professional fitness/weighlifters that have diabetes:

Working out affects diabetes in many ways, but the two main ones are the differences between aerobic and anaerobic exercises. Workouts like running (aerobic) will lower the blood sugar because it uses the glucose in the blood to continuously feed the cells. The opposite of that is exercises like weightlifting, especially days when you do the big, major muscle groups. This is caused, in part, by 'squeezing' the glycogen out of the muscles during lifting exercises. One problem this causes is when someone sees a major post-lifing high, the first reaction is to correct that high with insulin, but anywhere from 2 - 12 hours after a high intensity workout that will come back to bite you as your body readjusts and the blood sugar will drop again as the energy starved muscles absorb that glycogen back into them. One fix could be (which has been covered by some above): if you are not using a pump, and are using a long acting insulin such as Lantus, you want to ask your health care team about cutting your long acting (lantus) dose pre-workout (my heavy workout days required only 50% of my lantus). As for pre-workout eating it varies for everyone. I was playing football in college when I was diagnosed and it took me a long time to get it down just right, but I figured out that if I drank a gatorade and ate a nutrigrain bar, I was good to go for a 3-4 hour workout, but everyone is different. Complex carbs pre-workout are great as they won't spike your sugar during your workout, and will take longer to digest.

However, any diabetic, especially anyone new and just figuring things out, must keep some type of sugar near by during intense workouts as a safety precaution. A dramatic low can hit you so fast you might not make it to the lockeroom or your car.

One place that is a great reference for anyone looking for Diabetes and workout info is DESA (Diabetes Exercise and Sports Association) at www.diabetes-exercise.org

I hope this helps. Any other questions just shoot them over to me and I'll help any way I can.


I have been involved in weight training on and off for 15-16 years. Pre diabetes I was a hard gainer, but now it is increasingly hard. The most I have been able to gain is approx. 10 pounds. Does anyone know any good books on nutrition for diabetics trying to pack on weight?

Thanks in advance.


I hear you.  I am interested in the same question.  I was a triathlete before hand, and am having the same problems with muscle development now.  Pass the info along if you find out will ya?!

Diabetes won't keep you from gaining muscle if you control it well and understand the important of when and why to eat carbs/take insulin and the other aspects of nutrition.


Two suggestions:

Check out Andrew Berry on www.diabeteens.com. He's my personal training and I've gained about 15 to 20 pounds of muscle as a female diabetic over the past year and a half. And he knows a lot about diabetes and nutrition.

You can send him a private message or post a question.



Awesome Ginger!!!

Thanks a bunch, I definitely am goin to check out those sites.  Can you provide a little insite as to how/when/why to eat carbs and take insulin?  I guess, mainly give an example of a good week of training.