Working with weight training as a Type One Diabetic

I have been a type 1 DIABETIC FOR 27 years, and recently have explored the field of weight training or resistance training, and have got some wonderful results, as with this type of training it improves our insulin sensitivity, the more muscles we develop, the more flexibility we have with what we eat… my question is regarding insulin spikes , and the physiology of it pertaining to diabetics, as a type one diabetic we do not get insulin spikes… so the whole mechanism of weight trainers , must be different for us…just looking for some input… also how we process foods and how our body will store some things for fat , and others get processed to the muscles…it all depends on our sugar level and how even or off it is , will depend on how much energy gets stored for fat … looking for feedback…

I took up weight training a few years ago. Dr. Bernstein is a big fan of weight training, even suggesting that you use “drop set,” a farily advanced technique. But as a whole the medical community does not understand it and has not studied it very well. I think that the idea that you need insulin spikes to weight train and obtain benefits from it is not true. One should certainly lift heavy weights, but as a diabetic, you also need to carefully manage pre and postworkout nutrition and insulin. There are discussions of diabetes in forums like as well as in other forums. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.

Hi There,

Sorry it took so long to reply , but I have been having computer trouble… regarding weight training, I too feell the way you do, in that with or without insulin spikes, people inflicted with type one diabetes should maintain some degree of weight training, as I stated it does improve insulin sensitivity , which will help control your sugar levels, and also a total sense of well being , as i get no better nights sleep , then after a solid hour or so on the weight pile, i also find adding some cardio, directly after weight training does help with the fat burning… as with diabetics our problem seems to be when our sugar goes to a ceratin level, our body in turn starts saving carbs , and stores them for fat , that is why it is essential to run our sugars at a almost normal level, if at all possible

My newest endeavor is that I would like to add creatine to the arena, Creatine works to help transport carbs to the muscles, so by doing that it should have a win win affect for diabetics, just have to make sure it does not put any additional stress on the Kidneys or liver

I regularly use 5g/day of creatine monohydrate, just pure form. I add it to my protein shake in the morning. I’ve not found any evidence that creatine is harmful. Of all the funny supplement stuff on the market, creatine seems to have the best science behind it. It does increase your weight training performance and it is safe. Should you have ongoing kidney failure or liver problems, it would be wise to consult with your doctor before starting it.

"Strong people are harder to kill than weak people, and more useful in general."
Mark Rippetoe

Very good

Thank you

Hey Magic,

I too am a type 1 diabetic that regularly lifts and has tried numerous supplements.

An interesting phenomena that can occur when a type 1 diabetic only weight trains and avoids cardio/interval training within a workout session is a blood sugar spike post workout. Many studies have shown that glycogens (the carbohydrates stored in muscle tissue) are pushed out and expelled from muscles during intense weight lifting sessions and consequently enter back into the blood stream.

To combat this effect, I include simple jump rope and bag work into my weight sessions after every third set. It helps me to keep blood glucose levels balanced during intense workouts and burn extra calories. Kinda like a modified boxer workout.

As far as supplements, I’ve had no diabetes related effects in response to using protein, creatine, n.o. products, glutamine, and CLA. Many of the early creatine adopters that suffered renal issues and other side-effects were MLB players who were also notoriously heavy androgenic and anabolic steroid abusers. I would definitely recommend avoiding the “loading” phase with creatine due to gastric issues, and stick to a high-quality monohydrate. You should also keep your Dr. abreast of what you’re taking.

Best of luck!


You description of “Glycogen being pushed out of the muscles” had me on the floor experiencing “gastic issues.” Any pointers to studies would be appreciated. Pictures would be even better.


Hey BSC,

Just to clarify, the wacky blood sugars associated with weight intensive routines can be chalked up to “Glycogen Depletion”. I don’t have time to link studies right now…still a work day. When saying “stored in muscle tissue” I’m not relegating that comment merely to skeletal muscle, but also organs. The brain, liver, red blood cells, and skeletal muscles all have a function to store glycogens for long-term energy release. Intense weight workouts can cause rapid conversion of glycogens into glucose as the body intrinsically calls for increased amounts of “fuel”. In us type-1s we conversely lack the natural ability to regulate any increased blood glucose levels without external insulin administration, i.e. our need for both basal and bolus doses. Glycogen depletion is essentially a bodily response to fatigue and stress and can be a real nightmare for us type-1 diabetics.


thanks matt

you have the right idea, as we with diabetes have an innate problem with keeping that stable sugar, so what I would do would be some circuit training, maybe three sets with out any rest and then take a 2 min break some water three more exercises really rips you , also doing some cardio in between would work as well… good stuff

Matt, I am just kidding with you. I am quite familiar with glycogen and what happens with exercise. Blood sugar rising during weight training is due to hepatic gluconeogenesis, not from the release of glycogen from muscles. Muscle cells cannot perform Glycogenolysis and release glucose into the bloodstream (although the liver can). The glycogen, which resides entirely within your muscle cells, is used to feed the ATP cycle. Extended exercise can deplete glycogen, your muscles contain perhaps 350-450 g. Weight training is not particularly glycogen depleting, it does however build up waste products, like lactic acid.

Weight training with low levels of insulin on board can result in elevated blood sugars. The weight training provides a stress, causing among other things a rise in cortisol and other hormones. This triggers your liver to produce blood sugar to fuel the “emergency”. By exercising with more insulin on board you may be able to suppress the dumping of blood sugar by your liver (insulin suppresses hepatic gluconeogenesis) . A good way to do this is to use preworkout nutrition and bolus before working out.

Sheri Colberg has some good explanations in her book “The Diabetic Athlete.” You can find furhter info on her site (

Sorry to josh with you, rolling on the floor in gastric distress. That was rude. Sorry.

Hi guys,

I do some weight training (T1), though certainly am not in your league.

Am curious about the suggestion of including cardio to keep BG balanced because cardio sends me high also. The more strenuous, the higher.

Someone else on TuD recently said that her diabetic nurse told her that high BG was from her muscles releasing “sugar” during exercise.

When I lift weights or participate in really intense cardio my blood sugar spikes into the 300s for no reason. I asked my endo and your muscles store glucose apparently (didnt know that!) and when you lift weights or any high intensity workout, you are making small rips in the muscle fibers, releasing the stored glucose. They advised me to temp increase basal rate 30 minutes before to get a head start on the spikes.

OMG. I’m on the floor laughing in gastric distress again! I really don’t know where this whole leaking glucose from the muscles started, but it is just not true. Yes, increase your basal to avert exercise induced highs, but it works because insulin suppresses your liver dump.

Some people find that they can bring down their exercise induced highs by low steady state cardio at the end of an exercise session. Try a 20 minute cool down on the treadmill, just walking, 2-3 mph.

I play basketball on weekends and find my BS will rise with exercise. It has to do with adrenaline and possibly the function of the pancreas signaling the brain to tell the liver you will need glucose. The problem is your pancreas can’t produce the insulin to go with the stored glucose and the BS rises. Watch any insulin you take as it will flow into your bloodstream quickly and seems to take less to get the job done. I have taken as little as 1 unit when I measure near 200. Also, it is not good to exercise when your BS is above 250. Stop and bring it down first.


Tried that. doesnt work. Do you know for a fact that it is not true? Can you provide proof of this?

I have to further reaffirm my recommendation of Sheri Colberg’s book. Buy it. But just so you know it is good, go look through it on google (…). Just browse through the chapter 2.

Second the recommendation. She provides a lot of tips, but also the reasons behind why certain things happen when mixing diabetes and exercise.

I’m not a weight guy just an older, woman who likes to keep fit and I do both cardio (run) and a weight lifting/cario workout. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a BS rise, it always drops quite far. I have to eat some sort of protien/ carb mix( like a protien bar) before to avoid walking away with a 30 or 40 BG. I’ve started to eat some protein after too but it seems to rise quite far after I adjust, almost like the rebound is more sensitive??

The few times I have tried exercise to bring a BG down, it has gone up instead. Really frustrating! now that the weather is better, I’ll exercise more (have a pedal machine) and I’ll have more data.


thanks for the feedback, I have read both of the books that colberg put out, she has some interesting points…