This is a tricky subject because so many myths abound regarding putting on and maintaining muscle mass. Women, especially, are fearful of looking manly and our culture today focuses largely on a slender, svelte physique. Maintaining a healthy amount of muscle mass is extremely beneficial for so many reasons, it’s difficult to list. Therefore, I’ll focus on the benefits to the t1 diabetic.
Put very simply, muscle requires calories to maintain and thus, acts as a sink for glucose. In addition, insulin is a hormone necessary for energy metabolism, but does not act independently of other hormones, like cortisol, growth hormone, and sex hormones. Maintaining a good amount of muscle mass can help balance and regulate your hormone profile resulting in more energy, better sleep and sexual function, improved body composition, and of course stellar glucose control.
When I was in college, I decided I was tired of being called “runt” by my teammates on the VA Tech swim team. After quitting the team my sophomore year, I dedicated myself to putting on as much muscle mass as possible. I learned that it’s not easy. First of all, I spend a considerable amount of time in the gym each day. Second, I learned that growing muscle mass requires an insane amount of food. Therefore, my intentions with this post are not to encourage anyone to adopt any crazy habits in order to become a raging testosterone saturated gym rat. Instead, I’d like to suggest a resistance weight training regimen that will hopefully result in the benefits listed above.
I have noticed that I can build a moderate amount of muscle and make strength gains without spending much time in any gym. One day a week, I lift heavy weights using compound movements like squats, deadliest, pull ups and presses. I 3 sets of 3 or 3 sets of 5. On a second day of each week, I do body weight exercises including box jumps, burps, pilates, and or Yoga. My primary sport is swimming which I do 4 times a week. So my goals in the weight room are to supplement my swimming while taking care not to overtrain. I am currently 5’10” and weigh 170 lb. I am lean and carry and good amount of muscle mass. This muscle helps keep my insulin levels low and reduces the blood glucose spikes that follow some meals.
For the ladies out there, building some muscle will not detract from your physique. It will enhance it. And don’t worry about bulking yup. It’s difficult to put on muscle. Adopting some weight training a couple of times a week into your exercise routine can help you meet other performance goals you might have as well.
Lastly, I’ve noticed that 45 minutes in the weight room does not alter BG levels too much in any direction. I’ve found that my BG will go up 10 to 15 points if at all.