10 Tips for Diabetics to Build Muscle

Saravanan "Sharu" Hariram

August 3, 2023

November 14 is observed as World Diabetes Day. High time to better know this metabolic disease and learn how to live with it!

A person with diabetes has high blood glucose (blood sugar) either because the body’s insulin production is inadequate or because the body’s cells do not respond properly to insulin or both. There are two types – Type 1  is insulin dependent, which means you need to take it through injections, and Type 2 is insulin resistant, which means your body is unable to use the available insulin properly.

A person with diabetes will need to manage diet, exercise and body systems with utmost care to strike a balance. Apart from following specific diet tips, people must work out and build muscle for healthy maintenance of blood sugar levels.

  1. A customised workout and diet plan to build muscle works best, but the following guidelines may be helpful to anyone with diabetes:
  2. Check blood glucose levels before and immediately after the exercise session. It should not be too low or too high. Adjustments in the dosage of medicine or insulin may be required depending on those levels.
  3. Eat a small high-protein high-complex carbohydrate meal or a healthy pre-workout snack 30 to 60 minutes before exercise to keep you going.
  4. If you are new to strength training, start with at least 2 days of strength training each week. This must cover all major muscles of the body and intense enough to increase protein synthesis and build muscle.
  5. Those experienced with weights must focus on doing large muscle exercises such as squats, deadlifts, bench press, leg press, pull-ups, bent-over rows, shoulder press and dips. Add two or three sets of 8 or 12 repetitions to your workout, with about 60 seconds’ rest between sets.
  6. Always be prepared for the unexpected. Carry fast-acting high-sugar based snacks to the gym in case your blood sugar level drops during your workout.
  7. Depending on body weight, medications and individual goals, consume 45-75 grams of fibrous carbohydrates along with 20-30 grams of protein immediately after exercise.
  8. Always choose unprocessed good carbs from fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and whole-grain versions of bread, pasta and rice. Foods with good carbs generally have a lower glycemic index (GI), which means they tend to break down slowly to form glucose. They also have a high nutritional value and provide prolonged release of energy.
  9. Choose lean protein foods which are not high in calories and saturated fats. The ideal options would be skinless chicken, eggs, skimmed milk, fish (cod, halibut, tuna and salmon) and beans (soya, Lima and kidney beans). Lentils and peas are also good choices.
  10. Consume good fats from sources such as avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds.
  11. Increase your water intake to maintain ideal hydration levels and allow a 48-hour cooling period between strength training sessions to build more muscle.

About the Author

Saravanan “Sharu” Hariram is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer with a passion for bodybuilding. Combining his love for fitness with his career, Sharu did his certification in Sports Nutrition, and Rehabilitation and Healing Nutrition. Currently a Master Trainer with HealthifyMe, he specializes in Weight Management, Marathon Training, and Physical Rehabilitation. In his 20+ years of experience, Sharu has always maintained that one’s mind must have control over their body in order to lead a healthy life. At HealthifyMe, he continues to follow his passion while helping those around him realise their fitness goals.

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