Resistance Training with Type 1 Diabetes

Many people know or understand the benefits of resistance training for people who have type 2 diabetes or are pre-diabetic but what about Type 1 diabetes? A type 2 diabetic’s body produces insulin but becomes resistant to it. A type 2 diabetic supplements their insulin help regulate glucose levels. Resistance training and adding muscle can help the body become less resistant and become less dependent on external insulin. A type 1 diabetic does not produce any insulin at all. They usually use an insulin pump or give themselves injections to get it. This makes managing blood glucose levels a little more tricky, especially when exercising.

How does resistance training affect Type 1 Diabetics?

When you begin a strength training session, glycogen(stored glucose) is released directly into the bloodstream from the muscles in the form of glucose. The human body stores glycogen as a quick energy source for muscles when they need to suddenly contract. This initial glucose release causes an immediate spike in blood sugar levels, but is quickly converted to ATP(energy) and used for muscle contraction. You may actually see your blood glucose levels fall during a high intensity strength training session as blood glucose is converted to ATP for energy. As the session continues, muscles continue to release glycogen to the bloodstream as glucose and is used up. When you stop the strength training session your metabolism stays raised and will continue to release glycogen for energy. This is where your insulin dosage may need to be altered due to the increased blood glucose from the glycogen stores in your muscle.

Start resistance training as a Type 1 Diabetic

Research shows that exercise and specifically strength training is beneficial if not crucial to overall well-being in adults. Most adults don’t think about glucose being released into their bloodstream to energize them through their workout and then needing to supplement with insulin to balance out the glucose. This IS something a Type 1 diabetic thinks about. This article summarizes a few different studies on different resistance training types and intensities and how to manage glucose levels. The overarching theme on how to supplement glucose and insulin during workouts is – it depends. Variables such as sleep and nutrition the night prior, stress, day of nutrition, fitness level and so many more factors affect glucose and insulin levels.

Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Low-moderate intensity resistance exercise may require glucose supplementation with prolonged exercise due to glycogen stores running out
  • Short high intensity exercise may require glucose supplementation in the short-term but require insulin supplementation post-exercise due to increased glucose release

Essentially each person’s needs vary and you will have to monitor your own blood glucose and insulin as you begin a strength program. We recommend consulting with a medical professional before beginning a new exercise program. Once you begin, ease into the intensity of your exercise and track your blood glucose and insulin levels to find trends during and post exercise. This will help you better manage them in the long-term and maximize your results. If you have questions or want to learn more about strength training and Type 1 diabetes, schedule a FREE introductory session with us!

Written By: Morgan Maule