Doug Burns, an athlete with type 1 diabetes, uses an insulin pump to manage his disease. Doug was diagnosed at the tender age of 7. At that time it was difficult to keep blood glucose in an acceptable range because home blood glucose meters were not available yet. He remembers going to his doctor’s office with a blood glucose as high as 1100 mg/dl. He was so thin from a number of occurrences of DKA his weight was only 53lbs at the age of 12!
Doug knew he needed to do something so he turned to lifting weights against his doctor’s initial wishes. Having blood sugars that high and lifting weights would have been dangerous so the first step was trying to get better control. He lived in rural Mississippi with literally no gyms to follow his passion so he decided to make his own. Using scrap metal for weights and a muscle magazine for guidance he started lifting weights to get away from his scrawny physique. He did not see results in the beginning perhaps due to his blood sugars being so out of whack. During this time home blood glucose meters became available giving him the added incentive to keep blood sugars within a safe range which also gave him more strength to lift weights.
Doug started to see positive results and began power lifting at age 16. Power lifting is weightlifting competition where individuals compete in three types of lifts, the squat, dead lift, and bench press. The winner is crowned by adding up the total amount of weight lifted on all three lifts. Self-assured he entered his first competition but placed dead last. Ever the optimist, Doug was excited to say he entered his first show and within one year he won his first competition. He also began breaking state, regional, and national records.
Not satisfied with the status quo Doug decided to explore body building. This type of lifting is geared more towards how the body looks rather than increasing strength. Both types have challenges when it comes to monitoring blood sugar. When lifting heavily for power lifting competitions high blood sugars were a concern due to increase adrenaline. Often times this high blood sugar came crashing down hours after heavy lifting. When training for a body building competition cutting weight was often a goal leading up to the event. Body builders typically want very low body fat to impress the judges. This type of training had its unique challenges with Doug’s diabetes. A partial example of a typical training week for a power lifter and a body builder are listed in the tables below: