Exercise+Carb Loading (or: A Real-Life Science Project)

So I’ve been meaning to try to build some muscle for a while, but unfortunately dx/school/life sort of got in the way of that. Anyways after sort of getting the hang of being T1, I decided to try to get back to lifting heavy things and eating tons of carbs/protein/calories afterwards, which is a formula I have had astounding success with in the past. I’ve heard mixed things about carb-loading for type 1s and am curious if anyone has done it with success in the past (or has failed at it, that works too). FWIW I am trying to gain some weight (I’m 6’7", 192 lbs, very fast metabolism, highly insulin sensitive) just to preempt the “you might get fat” type commentary. I was 210/215 and quite strong a couple years ago (deadlifted close to 300, squatted a bit under my bodyweight, etc.) and am trying to get to about that point again, although probably with slightly less tolerance for the fat that sometimes comes with “lift lots and eat lots” strategies. I have no issue doing low carb stuff for periods of time (and will switch to LC if I feel like I’m getting too fat) but I think it’s a poor effort if I’m trying to build some muscle.

Anyways, the protocol today: Got home from work, BG at 71, ate a whole apple w/no bolus and ran an errand, came back and was at 126. Swung heavy things around for 35 minutes or so until I collapsed into the fetal position on the ground. Rested for a few minutes, checked BG, at 102. Just ate 3 steak fajitas with peppers/onions/guac and a medium-sized bolw of mint chip ice cream, with normal bolus. Will report back later with the first set of results.

I just started lifting again so I can have something to do on my days off from running. I don’t think I’m lifting enough to get huge. I’m looking more for tight and some core strength to help my posture on long runs.

So weight lifting does not appear to lower the blood sugar like biking or swimming? Or does it affect you afterwards. I will watch with interest your later report. If our DD started exercise, even walking, at 125, she would drop approximately 80 points in 45 minutes. Biking, swimming or trampoline much more. She is getting a spinner bike which claims to build muscle as well by varying the level of exertion needed to bike (mimics biking uphill, etc.) Would equate that to a combination of aerobic exercise plus a little weight training. I wonder what effect building muscle has on the immediate blood sugars and very importantly, the overnight blood sugars after this type of activity.

Update: at 9:45, 1 hour and 15 minutes after I had dinner, I was (a) unsure of my BG and (b) ravenously hungry. I checked, found that it was at 89 (not bad at all, but a bit worrisome that early out with 6 units on board. Had a PB sandwich with 2 pieces of Ezekiel bread and bolused (a little less than I thought I needed to counterbalance having insulin on board). At 11 PM I was at 94. I had a quarter of an apple and some PB, no bolus, to get some carbs and fat and smooth things out in time for bed. Was just 90 so more food for me before I pass out.

Moral of the story is that I need to have a bigger meal after I exercise to avoid having to break up my meal and stack insulin. On the plus side, I feel absolutely awesome and am looking forward to a great night of sleep. Eating a thousand-calorie dinner (probably more) and staying flat is also a big win. Tomorrow’s my rest day so I’ll pick up again on Wed.

I think strength training is great, I’ve been at it a few years. Eating is certainly critical to gains. I found the book “Nutrient Timing” by John Ivy quite helpful. The basic idea is that you should properly fuel your workouts with preworkout nutrition and then there is a “magic time” following your workout when you should eat (and properly bolus) to properly recover. You don’t become strong from lifting, you get strong recovering from lifting. I also found the book by Rippetoe, “Starting Strength” quite helpful with the lifts.

And I have to tell you, while you may have considered yourself “quite strong” a couple of years ago, with concerted effort, there is no reason you can’t easily aspire to squat 1.5x BW and deadlift 2X BW.

Weight lifting, being an anaerobic exercise is a glycogen depleting activity. Following training, your body can take up carbs readily. I try to eat a meal within two hours of workout, one that contains a measured amount of carbs. I bolus for those carbs, but less than usual as the exercise leaves me insulin sensitive.

Thanks for the post! I was hoping you’d chime in here. I always eat protein and often some carbs after I lift as I usually work out right before dinner, sometimes while dinner is cooking. I always think of it as “recover less painfully” more than “get huge”. I seem to see fairly quick results/ tightening etc. though and I really like the way running improves my sensation of smoothness while I’m running too.

Couple of things:

Your subject reads “carb-loading”, but carb-loading is a strategy for maximizing glycogen storage before competitive events. It’s a fairly involved process that requires days to complete.

Are you actually “carb-loading” for some particular event specifically, or are you talking about simply eating carbs post-workout on a regular basis?

I’m a “hyperactive” carb eater and I’m all for anybody who can manage their carb intake, activity, and BG levels. I think it’s quite doable with the proper planning. My current intake is between 200-300g a day. That, combined with proteins and fats in complete meals is what maintains both my muscle mass and the amount of activity I require to sustain my current weight. Carbs have always been the key for me to maintain my muscle mass. In the past, while competing, I’ve eaten up to 500-600g a day with good BG control.

As far as actual “carb-loading” goes, there’s an “old regimen” that I would never recommend for a T1. I think the newer regimen is a bit more forgiving, but I still don’t see how I could eat the required 900g of carbs over 24 hours without taking massive amounts of insulin, or exercising to control the spike which would defeat the purpose of the carb-load. You’d have to eat well over 1000g in 24 hours for a proper carb load.

Definitely keep us up to date if you give it a try.

Update: Post-prandial BG was 97 (after fajitas and ice cream, FFS!), fasting the next morning was 84. Yesterday was my rest day so not a lot to report. We had a surprise “staff development” event at the Sam Adams brewery, followed by dinner at a local pub, which sort of made it an interesting D day (unexpectedly went up 80 points in the 4 hours after a normal PP reading, I blame the fries) but was totally worth it (the beer, anyways, not really sure about the overpriced pub food).

Today has been awesome. Flatlined all day b/w 98 and 109, got home from a long day at work, and did heavy kettlebell swings/snatches/cleans for half an hour plus some conditioning stuff. Was 107 afterwards and refueled with a steak, a large roasted sweet potato, and a salad with arugula/blue cheese/heirloom tomatoes.

Tomorrow is get-ups, front squats, and probably some bodyweight stuff too. Will report tomorrow.

So how many carbs are you guys eating? I can sort of guess from your description (although are these fajitas w/ tortillas,which I’d guess if you were carb loading, maybe 10-15 each, depending on corn vs. flour, etc.) but am curious. I seem to run about 150/ day, sometimes more, sometimes less, usually about 40 before dinner and then 75 or so at dinner and a couple rounds of snacks between exercising and munchies after dinner. It’s not exactly low carb but its not exactly carb loading either? Or is it?

The fajitas meal ended up around 100 carbs once I figured in veggies and the, um, after-dish. I’m probably consuming 150-180ish a day at this point, but am sort of experimenting. My results seem to suggest that I’m safe with that amount as long as I bolus accurately.

Actually, tomorrow what I might do (for science, of course) is eat a ton of carbs for breakfast and PWO to test (a) what my BG looks like and (b) whether I feel like it enhances my workout performance/recovery. Generally when I need tons of carbs quickly I go for oatmeal/bananas/blueberries/peanut butter/chia seeds/whatever else I have on hand, so it looks like I know what I’m doing for breakfast.

I also seem to do ok with more carbs than low carbs but I have to qualify that with the fact that I don’t eat much during the day, more because I’m lazy and prefer not spending a lot of time running low or high @ work b/c my job can be a bit nutso. I also like to work out when I get home and like a flat trajectory going into a workout so I can be confident my inputs will process reasonably correctly so I can run well. Still, fajitas and ice cream sounds pretty good to me!

Carb loading is pretty old school. You liver and muscles can hold a very limited amount of glycogen, so extra carbs are stored as fat.

Read “Your Diabetes Experiment” by Ginger Vieira. She’s a powerlifter and Type 1 and has a good grasp of exercise and nutrition.