Gaining muscle and bodybuilding with diabetes can make you happier and healthier. Here are some training, diet and supplement tips to get started.

Bodybuilding with Diabetes

Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you can certainly still build and retain muscle. It all comes down to consistent exercise, adopting a healthy lifestyle and paying careful attention to your blood sugar levels. Once you have that down, muscle maintenance and bodybuilding with diabetes becomes second nature.

​And of course, the journey isn’t always easy – diabetic joint pain, muscle aches and fatigue are a real thing. But you can overcome this through regular strength training, a protein-rich diet and health supplements. We’ve got all the info you need to get started and become the best version of yourself.

How to Build Muscle with Diabetes | Diabetic Muscle Building Meal Plans and Diet | Diabetic Workout Supplements | Famous Diabetic Bodybuilders | Frequently Asked Questions | Related Articles

More key tips for building muscle with diabetes :

1. Strength training

Strength training or resistance training entails physical activities that improve strength and endurance. Typically, it involves lifting weights/heavy objects or using resistance bands. Aim for two to three weekly strength training sessions that last around 30 minutes. This should greatly improve your muscle mass, bone strength, and joint health.

Strength training can also dramatically improve your blood glucose levels as the muscle cells and tissues are primed to absorb excess glucose in the blood, preventing hyperglycemia (high sugar levels). Fun fact: muscle tissue is the storage house for glucose in the body.

Learn more about weight lifting with diabetes to bulk up, become leaner and improve your overall well-being.

2. Bodyweight training

Using your own body weight, you can improve a range of biomotor capabilities including strength, power, endurance, speed, flexibility, coordination, and balance. Being able to lift your own body weight is a clear indication that you are ready to start a weight training journey with less risk of injury – perhaps start out with squats. High-fat levels also strongly correlate to the onset of type 2 diabetes. This means fat loss through bodyweight training is more likely to prevent and control the condition.

3. Maintain exercise frequency

In studies that investigate strength training for specific muscle groups, significant results were noticed in people who train twice a week or more. This means that you should strive for at least two high-intensity workouts per week, even if it’s for a shorter period. You can also add extra reps to your workout to maintain lean muscle mass.

4. Varied exercise intensity

The intensity of your bodybuilding exercise sessions is just as important as frequency. Intensity refers to the amount of energy required to fulfil the task. For example, light-intensity exercise entails a leisurely walk. On the other hand, vigorous-intensity exercise is running or several reps of heavy lifting.

5. Warm-ups and stretching

Warm-up exercises improve performance up to 79% of the time. It’s best to do a bit of cardio followed by warm-up exercises that match the kind of workout you’ll be completing. So, if you’re about to complete 20 reps lifting 50kg, warm up by lifting 20kg to slowly activate the correct muscle groups. Then, proceed to stretch after muscle training to prevent muscle soreness and speed up recovery time.

6. Take rest days

When you take a rest day, it gives your muscles time to replenish glycogen, allowing them to heal and grow. This will result in improved performance when you get back into the gym after a day or two.

 There’s plenty of information out there about bodybuilding and diabetes respectively. However, our goal is to highlight the relationship that they have with each other. Bodybuilding, muscle, and strength training have the potential to reduce the debilitating effects of diabetes – keeping your mind and body healthy. Strong muscles collect oxygen and ​nutrients from the blood much more efficiently which in turn minimizes diabetic myopathy/muscle tiredness.

Type 1 diabetes bodybuilding

For type 1 diabetics, the pancreas completely stops producing insulin. It’s an irreversible autoimmune disease that typically develops in childhood. In order to take on type 1 diabetes bodybuilding, you’ll need to strategically schedule insulin injections. Test for high or low blood sugar levels 10 to 15 minutes before working out. You will probably need less insulin during and after training sessions. Nevertheless, remember to consult your doctor before adjusting insulin dosages to account for bodybuilding.

Type 2 diabetes bodybuilding

Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which the body is unable to produce or properly use insulin. It’s a co-morbidity, which means obesity or being overweight is often the cause of the condition. Type 2 diabetes bodybuilding is all about bulking up with enough calories to promote muscle growth, especially since type 2s are prone to losing muscle mass. Typically, you should reduce your insulin intake before exercise and fuel up by increasing carb and protein intake. From there, exercise and strength training will help to control your blood sugar levels.

Transform Your Body in as Little as 6 Weeks with a Muscle-Building Plan That ​Actually Works

Diabetic Muscle Building Meal Plans and Diet

A vital aspect of building muscle is planning meals and maintaining a protein-rich diet. Most importantly, you’ll need to make sure that you’re consuming more calories than you can burn. Start out with 300-500 calories more than your equilibrium and track progress.

If you end up putting on a little too much fat, slightly decrease your calorie intake. That way, you’ll be able to bulk up and build muscle. Essentially, you need to build and store new proteins faster than your body breaks down old proteins. The diabetic bodybuilding diet is filled with protein because large amounts of carbs and fruit tend to spike sugar levels.

Discover the answer to an age-old question: Is protein good for diabetes?

In terms of meal planning, it’s best to decide exactly what you’ll be eating for the week and purchase the relevant groceries. For some people, it helps to spend a few hours preparing all the meals at once. That way, you won’t have to worry about choosing the right foods each day as it’s all planned out. Follow a meal prep and eating schedule that seamlessly fits into your daily routine.

Meal planning and sticking to a low-carb protein diet can also help you gain a better understanding of the amount of sugar in the food you consume — check food labels and adjust accordingly.

The Diabetic Athletic Recipe Collection is the perfect starting point for delicious recipes to keep you healthy.

Examples of Muscle Building Meals for Diabetics

There are plenty of delicious, healthy, and protein-rich meals for diabetics. Here are a few quick and affordable options to include in your next meal plan:

1. Protein pancakes

Blend up oats, raw egg whites, honey and a dash of milk before frying the mixture as a pancake. From there, spread a nut butter of choice and cinnamon on your pancakes, roll them up, and enjoy.

2. Chicken and veggie wraps

Cut up some cooked and seasoned chicken breasts along with fresh and ready-to-eat vegetables. Then, roll the chicken and veggies into a flour wrap and add a sauce of your choice (tzatziki is a delicious and healthy option!).

3. Salmon with rice and broccoli

Season your salmon and bake in the oven for 15 min at 400°F (200°C) – make sure the salmon is lightly browned before removing it. While the salmon is cooking, you can steam/boil the rice and broccoli to be served on the side. If broccoli isn’t your thing, asparagus or salad pairs really well with salmon too.

More Key Tips for a Diabetic Bodybuilding Diet

  • ​Drink 2-3 liters of water to stay hydrated (especially in hot weather conditions)
  • Eat whole foods with healthy fats such as avocado, nuts and seeds to absorb vitamins
  • Bulk up on lean protein such as red meat and fish for greater muscle mass
  • Don’t overconsume food and beverages with no nutritional value as it has no benefits for your body (e.g.,soda, candy, etc.)
  • Look out for hidden sugars in processed foods as you may unknowingly increase your sugar intake
  • Eat more fiber to improve digestion and feel lighter when lifting (wholegrains are perfect)

Diabetic Workout Supplements

From protein shakes to creatine, there are plenty of diabetic workout supplements on the market. Research has shown that taking carbohydrate and protein-rich supplements 30-60 minutes before working out will maximize your ability to synthesize protein and build muscle. It’s fuel for a killer workout!

However, when it comes to workout and muscle-building supplements, you should always proceed with caution. We recommend consulting a doctor, healthcare professional or qualified fitness coach to gain a detailed understanding of how your chosen supplements might affect T1D or T2D. On the other hand, remember that you don’t actually need to take any supplements to build muscle as a diabetic — especially if you’re eating a protein-filled diet. Nevertheless, supplements can make it easier to get enough protein for your muscle building goals. After all, it can be challenging to reach the required protein intake on calories alone.

Did you know? If you eat a meal with 70 grams of carbohydrates, the required dose of rapid-acting insulin is likely to be 7 units. This means you typically need 1 unit of insulin for every 10 grams of carbs.

After consulting a healthcare professional or qualified fitness coach, diabetics can potentially take the muscle and bodybuilding supplements mentioned below. However, it is not recommended to take more than one supplement at ​a time to enhance performance and results.

  • Protein powders (e.g., whey-protein) to build muscle
  • Creatine to energize body cells and enhance performance
  • Post-workout supplements to heal your strained muscles
  • BCAAs (BranchedChain Amino Acids) to promote muscle growth and maintenance
  • Glutamine to regulate protein synthesis

Deepen your understanding of creatine and diabetes if you need more energy for weight training.

The diabetic body is governed by a different set of rules and requires a much more tactful approach to taking supplements than advised by most mainstream ​fitness media and coaches

Famous Diabetic Bodybuilders

Many famous diabetic bodybuilders can compete at the same level as people without the condition. They serve as proof that you can build muscle while carefully managing your blood sugar levels. The golden age of competitive bodybuilding was from 1940 to 1970 – a time when young men were bigger and stronger due to World War II.

Although you might not strive to be nearly as ripped as these professional bodybuilders, it helps to get a sense of what’s possible to inspire your journey.

Famous Diabetic Bodybuilders to Know

Anthony Bailes
​(Birth Date: June 8, 1977)

Anthony is a professional bodybuilder from the UK living with T1D. At 5 feet and 6 inches (167.5cm), he weighs 240 pounds (108kg).

Aiden Brodell
(Birth Date: March 23, 1995)

T1D bodybuilder, Aiden Brodell, is one of Britain’s top physique athletes and winner of UKBFF Junior Men’s Physique Champion 2015. At 5 feet and 5 inches (165cm), he weighs 187 pounds (85kg).

Colette Nelson
(Birth Date: April 5, 1974)

IFBB Pro and T1D bodybuilder, Colette Nelson, is known in the fitness world for encouraging muscle building among women. At 5 feet and 5 inches (165cm), she weighs 175 pounds (79kg).

The Final Verdict: Can Diabetics Build Muscle

If you haven’t figured it out already, diabetics can certainly build muscle! In fact, regular strength training exercises can do wonders for your muscle, joint, and bone health. As a result, you’ll be less prone to injury and experience better balance, coordination, and energy levels.

People who exercise frequently also tend to feel better and have a more positive outlook on life – a critical aspect of overcoming the mental hurdles associated with diabetes. And as an added bonus, gaining muscle and bodybuilding can lower your blood sugar levels, help you lose weight, and reduce the risk of heart disease. These benefits are phenomenal for anyone, and especially for those with diabetes.

As a diabetic trying to gain muscle, you’ll need to consider strength training, a protein-filled diet and healthy workout supplements to get the ball rolling. With Diabetic Athletic, you can kickstart that journey with professional advice, personalized coaching and performance-tracking products.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can building muscle reverse diabetes?

Muscle building cannot reverse diabetes as the condition currently has no cure. Nevertheless, building muscle can help to treat and control the condition. Strength and weight training enhance your muscle’s ability to absorb glucose, therefore, controlling blood sugar levels. Many weight trainers reduce their insulin intake after a few months of regular workouts.

Can bodybuilding cause diabetes?

Bodybuilding cannot exclusively cause diabetes. However, bodybuilders who choose to take Human Growth Hormones (HGH) can increase their risk of diabetes as it results in high blood sugar levels. Due to the potential risks, it is not advised to take HGH for muscle building, even though it is effective for burning body fat and fast recovery.

Can diabetics build muscle faster?

Building muscle through moderate strength training can reduce the severity of type 1 diabetes and limit the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, the process of building muscle must be paired with a healthy lifestyle and diet.

Can diabetics use insulin to gain muscle?

Diabetics can use insulin to gain muscle, however, it is certainly not recommended. Insulin is a major anabolic hormone known to support muscle growth. However, it’s important that diabetics only take insulin shots to manage blood sugar levels. Using the hormone for the sole purpose of muscle growth can have serious side effects like confusion, dizziness, seizures, and even death if taken in large amounts. Consult a healthcare professional before incorporating insulin shots into your exercise regime.

Related Article

Managing protein intake as a diabetic is important, especially if you want to get fit. Here’s everything you need to know about protein and diabetes.

Living with diabetic myopathy can be challenging, but you’re not alone. Learn all about it and discover practical strategies for coping and thriving.

Diabetics often experience joint pain that hinders health and exercise routines. Here’s everything you need to know about diabetes and joint pain.

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