Strength Training as a Diabetic

by  in Build muscle, Training

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Using strength training as part of a daily routine Jay has found that the medication required for treating his diabetes is a lot more effective.  His insulin sensitivity has improved by reducing his body fat, which in turn has reduced his need to take as much medication.

Jay began working for Real Athletic Workouts (RAW) Personal training in 2013. Originally from Cardiff in Wales he attended The University of Glamorgan where he met his girlfriend Sisi. After graduation they decided to relocate to Hong Kong. We sat down with him to ask a few question about what it is like to be a diabetic athlete.


Jeremy: How did you find out you were type one diabetic?

Jay: My family has a history of type one diabetes, so my parents spotted the symptoms quite quickly, very early actually, so I was lucky not to have experienced some of the complications associated with prolonged high blood sugar. The symptoms I experienced included extreme thirst and going to the bathroom constantly. I was very weak all the time and was losing a lot of muscle mass (total of about 10kg). Even so I was pushing my body through training and competing in martial arts tournaments.


Jeremy: What is Diabetes?

Jay: Diabetes is a condition that disables the body’s ability to make or recognise the hormone insulin. This means that without frequent injections I can’t generate energy from the food I eat and if left unattended can have serious healthy implications

There are two main diabetic conditions, type 1 and 2. Type 1 is generally an auto-immune condition that develops in children and young adults and type 2 (the more common) is a metabolic disorder, which usually the result of a few poor lifestyle choices. While both are different the general treatment protocol for both can be similar.


Jeremy: How does your diabetes affect your daily eating habits?

Jay: In the beginning it is difficult and you need to get organised. Based on my own experience, I’ve found that as a diabetic I operate better on a lower carbohydrate and higher fat and protein diet, compared to general healthy recommendations. I pay particular attention to the times I eat my food, saving my carbohydrates for when my body actually requires them. On top of that managing my condition is a lot easier when I follow a routine. Having scheduled workouts and meal times in place keeps my conditioning running smoothly. With regards too food selection, a ‘whole food’, ‘paleo’ style diet is optimal.


Jeremy: What adjustments have you made in terms of nutrition in order to improve body composition?

Jay: Too improve body composition; you need to get food smart. Do your homework of different types of food. In the beginning, I highly recommend keeping a food diary. This advice is for diabetics and non-diabetics alike. The diary allows me to see exactly how much I’m eating, instead of guessing. You can find apps and other tools to help you keep track of what works and what doesn’t work for you and then making any necessary adjustments. Once you know your body better and have more of a ‘food education’ staying lean and healthy will become a lot easier.

With regards to food, I find that eating whole foods and avoiding process foods is the best way to manage my blood glucose levels. This is important for everyone, not just diagnosed diabetics. By making meals with a healthy combination of protein, fats and low GI/GL carbohydrates, the release of glucose into the blood stream is slowed down and makes working out medication easier.


Jeremy: What other benefits have you gained from training?

Jay: Adding lean muscle mass and reducing body fat means my body is more sensitive to the insulin. This has reduced my need to take as much as I did when I did not have strength training as part of my daily routine. This means my body is more likely to store the energy created from food as glycogen, in the muscles and liver, than converting it into triglycerides and creating new fat cells. Weight training and being active in general is a must for anyone with diabetes. 


Jeremy: How has working at RAW provided the kind of environment needed in order to reach your goals?

Jay: RAW personal training is home to the most qualified personal trainers in Hong Kong. Being surrounded by high standards makes you constantly raise your game, not only in terms of consistent client satisfaction but also in being the best you can be.

For me, the most important and fulfilling aspect of working at RAW is the shared and consistent enthusiasm for education. RAW has the biggest priority on health and fitness education of any gym I’ve ever been part of.

I’m proud and grateful for the opportunity that RAW has provided me to learn from some of the most experienced in the industry. RAW has brought in some of the world’s best strength coaches and nutrition specialists to work directly with the RAW team, whom have helped me understand and manage my condition better.

Working here is the biggest positive factor for both my personal and professional development as a Personal Trainer/ Strength Coach.



The results and testimonials from clients shown on our website are the result of time spent following the exercise and nutrition plans set out by our Personal Trainers.  Results may vary between clients and cannot be guaranteed.

RAW Personal TrainingStrength Training as a Diabetic