When a lot of people hear that I have diabetes the usual reaction is “But you’re not fat!”. Yes, fat people get diabetes, but theirs is type II diabetes, commonly caused by poor health and food management and cured by oral medication and a reversal of lifestyle. My diabetes, however, cannot be cured…yet.
When I was little, I would count down the days of the week until it got to Sunday, the day my brother and I would be given £2 to walk to the shop and get the newspaper, with any money left over being spent on those amazing little 1p sweets. I was born with a sweet tooth, and even in my days as a diabetic, my life is still fuelled by sugary treats…everyday is the weekend right?!
My diet has changed only minimally over the past ten years since diagnosis, partly because I gave up meat when I was 15 until I went to university at 18, and partly because I became a part-time athlete who needed to eat more of the good stuff.
Here are some facts you may not know about me:
- I used to think carbs were the enemy
- I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been
- I eat more meat now than I ever did (my brother was always the family carnivore)
- My two least favourite foods are broccoli and bananas, but I’ll consume both at least five days of the week
Diabetes doesn’t control me
I know that there will be some of you reading this, both diabetics and non-diabetics, who are questioning why these things or anything I’ve previously said are relevant. I also know that there will be some of you questioning why I have mentioned how much sugar I eat when my diabetic control at present is out of hand.
Well, here’s my view of things…I’m a human just like everyone else on this planet. I don’t have a working pancreas, and I never will do for the rest of my life. So I therefore see no reason that I shouldn’t be able to live my life just as all those other billions of people do. This has always been my opinion and it always will be. I can eat and drink whatever I want as long as I can administer the correct amount of insulin to regulate my Blood Glucose Measurements (BGM) as well as possible.
- Yes I eat cake (in large quantities)
- Yes I drink alcohol
- Yes I enjoy a cheeky Two-for-Tuesday
But the key, just as it is for everyone, is to enjoy all of these things in moderation. My issue with my diabetic control, however, does not stem from the food that I eat but the nature of the physical activity in which I participate, weightlifting.
The numbers game is different for me
So what does your training diary look like? Full of abbreviated words and random numbers? Yeah, mine too, but just maybe a little differently to yours. I have to eat between 15-30g of carbohydrate per 30 minutes of training before each session.
For me, that’s approximately 2-3 hours per session (15-30×6) and 90-150g of carbohydrate at least 2 hours before training. Have you ever tried to source 150g of good carbohydrate and then attempted to consume it all before turning into a whale? It’s really not the one!
And it’s okay, you can pick your chins up off the floor, it’s true 2 hours before a session is a long time in which one’s stomach can literally start to feel like it’s eating itself. What with work and morning training the 2 hour situation can sometimes become 3 and sometimes becomes 1, and every time my body reacts in a different ways whilst training.
I’ve never expected or desired pity or sympathy, but if you’ve never been in the situation where you’re facing an 85% lift and your blood sugars drops to 1.7mmol/l (extremely low) or you’ve had a solid heavy squat session and you’re reaching the 30s (coma territory!) then you will never understand what it’s like to be an athlete with diabetes and the struggles which are brought on by almost any trigger and completely unforeseen by the sufferer.
Management is a team effort
I’m lucky enough that when my blood sugar goes low I can feel it, my head starts to hurt, I yawn and my body feels tired. I’m also lucky enough that my coach is understanding of these situations and allows me to do whatever is required (run off to the gym office and grab some Moam stripes – survival rations) so I can get back on with my session as quickly as possible.
It’s a hard one to predict, because you can’t know where your BGM is sitting without testing your blood sugar multiple times a session. Quite frankly, if I’m feeling okay I only do one prior to training and one upon finishing. The most frustrating part of this, however, is that with every fluctuation in BGM my muscles become less efficient in working at maximal rate and until this is sorted I won’t know the full potential of my abilities in weightlifting.