Diet Suggestions for Building Muscle when You Have Diabetes

The body has to store new protein more quickly than it breaks down already-stored protein to build muscle.

Since our body requires protein for many processes, such as hormone production, body building requires us to consume plenty of protein, about a gram of protein per pound of body weight.

Despite having diabetes, loading up on protein and engaging in regular exercise, particularly strength or power training, does build muscle — and muscle use has much to do with how effectively the body uses glucose. Working with your doctor, a dietician or a diabetes educator to establish a protein-rich, muscle-building diet and exercise routine is recommended.

Get Plenty of Protein and Unprocessed Carbs

Lean meats, fish, legumes and dairy products such as milk, eggs and cottage cheese are excellent sources of protein. People who are serious about building muscle may also supplement their diet with protein shakes.

Top quality whey-protein powders provide about 30 grams of protein per serving, and a host of vitamins and minerals. This is a healthier protein source than weight-gain supplements that are usually high in carbohydrates and sugar, especially if you are also trying to lose body fat.

After exercising, snacks and meals need to be high in carbohydrates as well as protein. Yet individuals with diabetes limit their consumption of carbs for blood sugar control. To resolve this dilemma, it is necessary to greatly reduce or eliminate processed carbohydrates from your diet (e.g., pasta, white bread, potatoes, white rice) and enjoy the unprocessed carbs found in vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole-grain breads and pastas, nuts and seeds.

Unprocessed, or good carbs, break down in the body slowly and are less likely to cause spikes in blood glucose.

Also Necessary: Water and Fats

Along with good protein and carbohydrate intake, body building requires you to drink an adequate amount of water, which makes sense since the body is 70 percent water. Each pound of muscle can hold up three pounds of the liquid, so when dehydrated our muscles really suffer.

Healthy fats, the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils, are also necessary for muscle growth. You can get these fats, including omega-3 fatty acids, by eating:

  • Fish (e.g., salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, herring)
  • Nuts (e.g., almonds, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, macadamia)
  • Seeds (e.g., pumpkin, flax, sesame)
  • Avocados, olives, and olive oil
  • Tofu
  • Peanut butter

Building muscle requires rest, too. Your muscles grow during down-time, not during workouts. If you are serious about muscle building, one suggestion is to let the body rest a minimum of three days each week.

Caution: Proteins, Kidneys and Diabetes

Our kidneys are responsible for breaking down the proteins in our diet, and having diabetes may impair kidney function. Some diabetics are told to limit their protein intake, lightening their kidney’s load. If this is true for you, work with your doctor or dietician to make sure you get enough protein to build healthy muscle, but are not burdening your kidneys with a protein overdose.

Sources: diabetes.co.uk and Livestrong
Photo credit: Port of San Diego / flickr

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