Firstly, I feel the need to say that I don’t support any single diet or method on its own and taken out of context. Diabetes is a common condition, however, the treatment for it is very person dependent. We as coaches have to take things like history, struggles, limitations, lifestyle, mindset and so much more into consideration before directing fellow diabetics down the best road for their success.
I’m writing this article as a diabetic coach providing general, and helpful tips and points that have been battle-tested through my 15+ years as a fitness professional with hundreds of client and my 24+ years as Type 1 Diabetic myself.
To sum this up we need to use nutrition and activity as equal if not more important priorities to our medication.
As diabetics, our medication is 100% needed to assist and ensure our glucose levels are in range. Our medications don’t have the power to do this if we as diabetics are missing the other two pieces of this puzzle.
Medication can’t work in a body that is under-active and without proper diabetic nutrition. This is the bottom line, no matter how we choose to look at it.
Your medication requirements just go up, heart health decreases, fat is gained, kidneys are affected by the increase in meds taken, our mental health and body become stressed due to this fact and complications become more of a possibility than ever – the list goes on.
Our medication is needed however, so is a good diet and activity plan. It’s a three-piece triangle of control.
First of all, it’s important to understand that diabetes is a metabolic condition where our body cannot tolerate carbohydrates.
Knowing this means you can’t manage diabetes well by feeding your body more and more carbs. I always say that carbs aren’t our enemy however, they aren’t our friends either – especially when the only tool we use to combat/ use them – is our medication.
Trying to manage diabetes by eating more and more carbohydrates and only using our medication as the “fix” is the same as trying to cure a drug addict of addiction by giving them more drugs.
Where your blood sugar control and your diet are concerned, remember that we are going to have sacrifice something somewhere – We’re diabetics, and that’s ok.
We need to be mindful of our diabetes and what it is. It is a beast, and we need to learn how to tame the beast.
Diabetes works on the simple logic that since your body has a carbohydrate intolerance, you should restrict its intake. Not delete the intake, just restrict it.
I like to use the example of earning money here, seeing as we all have to work for money in order to live and we can relate.
There is more than one way to earn more money each month. Two examples are: Either we charge more, or we can spend less. Both of these methods will ensure we have more money at the end of the month.
So which is better? Well, it depends on the individual, however, personally, I would choose to do both.
Low carb diets still have us eating about 50-70g of carbs per day. Just to put this into a relative term, 1 slice of bread, 1x apple or 1 glass of milk on average is 15g of carbs.
This is not to say you need to eat this amount. The point I am making is that a large number of my fellow diabetics think that low carb is far less than this per day.
This is where knowledge is power. Most think that low carb means go as low as possible as in zero… Also, a bad move, as this leads to a broken relationship with food and inconsistent methods that cannot be sustained long term.
To replace the restricted amount of carbs, you use good fats. Ideally, your daily intake of good fats should be 50-60% of your calorie requirement per day. The other 40 -50% should be half protein and half carbohydrate.
This isn’t high fats, low carbs or any of the other fads we hear of – this is just normal and effective dietary practice.
I get that carbs taste good. Enjoy them as long as your diabetes enjoys them too. Thats my approach for my personal diet.
You can test this for yourself, rather than taking my word for it.
For the next week, try different amounts of carbs per meal – e.g., 15g, 30g, & 60g, – and monitor the impact on your BG, mood, and energy levels over the next few hours following those meals.
This way, you will be able to test how your diabetes, your activity and your medication are doing and if your triangle of control is working in favour of your life as a diabetic.
By now we all know that I am a strength and conditioning coach by profession and a type 1 diabetic for almost as long as I have walked this earth.
As a Diabetic and as a gym owner, sports coach and competitive athlete, I can say with confidence that my diabetes is exponentially harder to control if I do not do some kind of activity each day.
My glucose levels remain well-controlled (I use the Dexcom G6), and have my graphs looking flat and controlled each day due to this fact.
This all changes every single day I don’t do some kind of planned activity. It is an immediate shift in the wrong direction.
Even just being active by walking or increasing the amount of total activity I do, has a daily positive effect on my glucose levels. It doesn’t always need to be a gym routine (in fact, overall activity is far more important that 1 hour in a gym).
This applies to all diabetics as it is just how the body works.
We become more sensitive to the insulin in our bloodstream, regardless of being type 1 or type 2.
Type 2’s have insulin in a body that doesn’t have the ability to use it properly. Type 1’s have a manual process and need to administer insulin from an external source. Pre-Diabetics are displaying signs of a body that is becoming resistant to insulin. Being overweight is the number 1 cause of becoming insulin resistant. We become overweight from less activity and poor nutritional habits (8/10 times).
The more active we are the better our body is able to use and absorb insulin – regardless of where it comes from.
Activity and exercise create a demand for carbs, which our body struggles to tolerate and breakdown anyway. This leads to us becoming so much more able to breakdown carbs and glucose(same thing), without relying on so much insulin or medication being given.
Activity, improves blood flow, heart health and circulation, which is something that is negatively affected just by being a diabetic.
Your glucose ranges will be far more stable and your emotional and mental well-being is also lifted when you are better at your diabetes. Stress, overwhelm and being unhappy in your own skin cause poor glucose control – not just sugars and carbs.
Increased activity ticks every single one of the boxes.
If we put this activity, together with a nutritional plan of action that you enjoy, can sustain and feel happy about, you will notice that your life with diabetes is far less overwhelming and stressful.
Once we put these methods together with our medication we have a complete triangle of control that takes us from a life of surviving with diabetes, to a life of thriving with diabetes.
After all of this, it’s time to put the final piece in place – Your support system.
As diabetics, we can all relate to the fact that we face hundreds of decisions per day, week, and month – more than the average person.
Each decision either takes us closer or further away from a life of good control and diabetic freedom.
Most diabetics have 2 goals in mind:
1) Fat loss and
2) Glucose control.
These are blanket goals as they each have endless benefits to us as diabetics. However, Fat loss and diabetic control are two very different sides to the same coin.
What we do for better blood sugars isn’t the same as what we have to do for fat loss.
Lower carb is generally always better for blood sugars, purely because as diabetics, we are carb intolerant and by consuming fewer carbs (which are sugars), we put less strain on our endocrine system.
For fat loss- regardless of calories coming from carbs, fats, chocolate or veggies- if the amount of calories consumed are greater than the amount we burn per day through activity – fat gain will occur, guaranteed 100% of the time.
Fat gain causes, poor diabetic control because being overweight causes us to be more resistant to insulin.
Same coin – two different approaches needed if we want to achieve both goals (glucose control + fat loss).
This is where having a diabetic coach & mentor becomes such a good idea. Having someone to assist you with all of these daily decisions is where the game really starts to change for us as diabetics.
I used to have a client (an attorney), that would do personal training with me and on her first day she said this:
“I spend all day reading and making decisions. I don’t want to think about what I need to do here or count my reps. That’s all for you to do”.
Just because we use a diabetic coach, doesn’t mean we can’t do it ourselves. The question is, 1) Can you?, and 2) Do you want to do it yourself?
Life is busy, and our plates are full (no pun intended). Even world-class athletes have coaches and trainers. They are far more athletic and able than the coach – however, they have other concerns to be thinking about as athletes.
If you want to start a 3-week training program that delivers your workouts 3x per week, provides you with nutritional guides and plans all tied together with support and a direct line to me: Click HERE and sign up for my free 3-week training and nutrition plan.
If you’d like to know more about my Carb Counting Masterclass for Diabetics you can do so by clicking here. The Diabetic Athletic Carb Counting Masterclass will explain what carb counting is, why we carb count as diabetics and how you can figure out your own insulin to carb ratios.
To see more about the Diabetic Athletic 10-week program for diabetics you can visit https://www.diabeticathletic.com. This is the ultimate program for diabetics and is backed by a 100% money-back guarantee. You have nothing to lose other than your unwanted body fat, your high glucose ranges and your diabetic overwhelm.