T Nation

Powerlifting and Diabetes

Hey all, I’ve been lurking on here for quite a while, just never really had anything to say or talk about. Now, however, something has come up that I would like your take on. I’m 46 years old and have been powerlifting for about 5 years. I took it up after being exposed to it at a CrossFit place I was at for a while. I really grew to love the Big 3 and hate all the bodyweight stuff in CF, so I gravitated solely to PL. At about that same time, I was diagnosed as a Type II diabetic. I got it under control pretty quickly (within 6 months) using medication, diet, and exercise. I started competing this year and have really upped my training using a conjugate style program. Recently, however, my blood sugar has gotten out of control and I can’t seem to bring it back down. I wake up at 170-200 and stay in the 160’s to 170’s all day. The doctor upped my Glipizide to two pills at a time twice a day, but that has had little effect. My wife seems to think it’s a result of my lifting so hard more times a week than I was previously. I have another meet coming up on 08 December and I’m trying to qualify for Nationals in July, so I’ve been really putting in the work on my Max Effort days, as well as my Dynamic days. I noticed on here that there is a professional named Reed who is a diabetic and I was wondering if he (or anyone else, for that matter) has a take on this. Could my heavier lifting be adversely affecting my diabetes. My diet is pretty clean, with a lot of chicken and veggies being eaten, so I feel like I can rule that out. I’m just at a loss and my doctor is no help whatsoever with this. She doesn’t really understand what I do for exercise, she just wants to know how many days a week and for how long. Any words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated here. Thanks.


Nice to see that you have graduated from Crossfit and are power-lifting.

What does your diet look like daily?

My day looks something like this:

Breakfast- Protein shake made with 6 protein blend and whole milk, a handful of almonds

Snack- chicken thighs cooked with some spice and veggies (usually broccoli or spinach)

Lunch- more chicken thighs (I don’t really like chicken breasts) and veggies

Dinner- Usually dead animal of some kind with veggies and a carb of some type (potato, usually)

I’m 6’4" and weigh 330 lbs. I eat to maintain my strength, not to really bulk or cut. I don’t do that. I have a rather large frame, so I carry that weight decently.

I seriously doubt it. Exercise lowers risk of diabetes and helps stabilize blood sugar. Quit lifting and you will probably get sicker.

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This is definitely not helping your situation.

How long have you had diabetes? You are barely eating any carbs, your diet is probably not to blame unless you are lying.

x2 with this. Evn if tall 300+ lbs over 40 is no bueno. Get down to say ‘only’ 250 and you will feel soooo much better

Yeah, I imagine my weight is not helping the situation. I’ll be the first to admit that my discipline when it comes to cutting calories is not good. My doctor wants to put me on insulin at night to help with my morning numbers. I don’t want to do that, so I’m looking at everything else to figure out a better way. I guess I’m going to have to start logging my meals and really keep track of the calories. Probably wouldn’t hurt to mix in a little bike time on my off days, as well.

Just a thought…

Under stressful conditions, cortisol provides the body with glucose by tapping into protein stores via gluconeogenesis in the liver. This energy can help an individual fight or flee a stressor. However, elevated cortisol over the long term consistently produces glucose, leading to increased blood sugar levels.

The hard truth is that you should de-prioritize the numbers on your big lifts, and prioritize the number on the scale. Pick another measure for your athletic progress - dips, push ups, bodyweight rows, mile time - to keep you motivated in your workouts. If you drop 100 pounds, you will feel better, look better, and live a longer life. It’s not like you’re making a living in power lifting, so it’s simply not worth it to cut decades off your life.

My father was type one from the time he was 15 yrs old. He powerlifted competitively in his 20’s and continued to lift on and off his whole life. Heavy lifting would always have the opposite effect on him and drop his blood sugar. I would always make sure I had candy and juice with me just in case he got low.

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This is what needs to happen, I understand that. I’m withdrawing from my comp in December and focusing on dropping weight. I think I’m going to go back to 5/3/1 with an emphasis on some type of conditioning each day, such as rowing or stairs. I know you’re all right, I just haven’t looked at it like that for myself.


That’s exactly what I thought.

Focus on losing body fat, just getting smaller isn’t necessarily healthier. There is a correlation between increased muscle mass and reduced mortality rates (unless you are taking a bunch of steroids which are another concern). You don’t need to get weak as fuck and join a Zumba class, just spend a couple months doing high volume/higher rep work and do a bit of cardio/conditioning. Unless your heart is weak and your resting HR is high then going all out on conditioning isn’t going to help, 90% of it is diet.