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Building Muscle with Diabetes: Everything You Need to Know


Building Muscles with Diabetes: Everything You Need to Know

*Disclaimer: All the information in this blog is intended for informational and education purposes only.


Building muscle with diabetes can be challenging, but it is definitely possible with the right approach. In this blog post, we will cover the basics of building muscle with diabetes by providing you with the information you need to take the smart approach to building muscle and start making progress towards your fitness goals today.


What are the basics of building muscle with diabetes?

Maintaining consistency is key to building muscle with diabetes. This means regularly following a sleep schedule, prioritizing hydration, and ensuring sufficient protein intake, all of which are essential to achieving your desired results, preventing injuries, and developing overall healthy habits.


Importance of Sleep for Building Muscle

Getting enough sleep is essential for muscle recovery and growth for people with diabetes as it allows the body to repair and rebuild muscle tissue. In order to build muscle, it is important to consistently follow a sleep schedule with the aim of getting 8 hours of sleep each night and prioritizing quality sleep so your muscles have enough time to rest and recover.



Proper hydration is crucial for muscle growth, especially for people with diabetes. Adequate water intake can assist people with diabetes in reducing their blood glucose levels by diluting the sugar content in the bloodstream. Sufficient hydration can also aid in the transportation of nutrients and oxygen to the muscles, enabling their growth and repair. Consistent hydration can enhance overall performance, prevent cramps and injuries, and support optimal muscle growth. It is advised to drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise to ensure proper hydration levels are maintained.


Protein Intake

Adequate protein consumption is vital for muscle growth for people with diabetes as it provides the building blocks necessary for muscle repair and growth. To promote muscle growth and recovery, it is recommended to consume 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Protein intake can be influenced by activity level, weight, height, age, and other factors so it is important to work alongside your healthcare provider to determine your individual protein goal.


Importance of eating enough carbs, protein and fat for muscle growth with diabetes

Eating a well-balanced diet that is rich in protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates can help support muscle growth and recovery for people with diabetes. However, it is important to work with your healthcare team to determine the appropriate balance of macronutrients and calories for your specific needs. Consistently consuming enough protein and calories throughout the day can help maximize muscle growth and recovery.


High Protein Foods for Muscle Growth with Diabetes

Quality sources of protein for people with diabetes include lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, beans, and legumes. Vegetarians and vegans can obtain sufficient protein from sources such as tofu, tempeh, seitan, nuts and seeds.


Do diabetics need to take protein supplements?

People with diabetes do not necessarily need protein supplements to build muscle, as it is possible to meet their protein needs through a balanced diet. However, some people with diabetes may find it challenging to consume enough protein through food alone, especially if they have dietary restrictions or prefer to consume a vegetarian or vegan diet. In these cases, protein supplements can be a convenient and effective way to help meet protein needs and support muscle growth and recovery.


Best workouts for muscle growth for diabetes

Many people with diabetes make the error of reducing their calorie intake and performing excessive amounts of cardio in effort to tone their body. However, this can lead to muscle loss instead of muscle gain. If your goal is to tone your body and increase muscle mass, strength training and consuming enough calories is essential to achieve your desired results. It is recommended to work with a qualified fitness professional who can create a safe and effective workout plan tailored to your specific needs and fitness level.


Issues diabetics face when building muscle

People with diabetes can face several challenges when trying to build muscle. Some of the most common issues include:


Hypoglycemia with exercise

Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is a common concern for people with diabetes who exercise. When exercising, the body uses glucose for energy, which can cause blood sugar levels to drop and can be potentially dangerous for people with diabetes. To prevent hypoglycemia, it's important to monitor blood sugar levels before, during, and after exercise, and adjust insulin and/or carbohydrate intake as needed.


In some cases, it may be necessary to shorten workouts due to the risk of hypoglycemia. In order to reduce hypoglycemic episodes, it can be beneficial to gradually increase the duration and intensity of workouts and to carry a fast-acting carbohydrate source with you. Working closely with your healthcare team can also help make necessary adjustments and reduce the likelihood of hypoglycemic events during exercise. It's important to gradually increase the duration and intensity of workouts, and to have glucose or a carbohydrate source on hand in case blood sugar levels drop, and work with your healthcare team on making adjustments as needed to reduce hypoglycemia events during exercise.


Hyperglycemia with exercise

Hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, can also occur when working out with diabetes. When exercising, especially high-intensity or strength-based workouts, the body may release stress hormones during exercise that can raise blood sugar levels. People with diabetes who take insulin may need to adjust their insulin doses to avoid hyperglycemia during and after exercise. It is important to work with a healthcare team to determine the appropriate insulin doses for the type and duration of exercise being performed.


It is entirely possible to build muscle with diabetes, but it requires careful planning and management. People with diabetes must be mindful of their blood sugar levels and potential hypo- or hyperglycemic events when exercising, but with dedication and consistency individuals with diabetes can successfully build muscle and achieve their fitness goals.


For an inside look on how Lissie Poyner, host of Keeping it 100: Uncensored Diabetes Conversations Podcast, worked alongside a personal trainer to build muscle with type 1 diabetes listen to Episode #88:Building Muscle with Diabetes: Everything You Need to Know with Anthony Baklouk. Available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.



Related Blog Posts:

How to Manage Blood Sugars While Exercising with Type 1 Diabetes from a Certified Personal Trainer


Best Pre-Workout Meals and Snacks for Type 1 Diabetes