By Mark Nicholis
was diagnosed with type1, late onset diabetes on Feb 7th 2000. This was
quite a blow for me as I had been competing in National and
International Natural Bodybuilding competitions since 1995 and was
doing quite well. I won Mr. Wales in 95 and came second to the overall
winner in the British Championships final that same year. In subsequent
years, I won regional heats and once again won Mr. Wales, but was
always in the top three in the British finals, never quite attaining
that coveted top spot! I had just competed in the British, European and
World championships in 1999 and placed in the top 3 in all. On top of
that, I was due to get married in September of 2000. Being more than a
little bit vain, I was blown away with the news that I was diabetic and
immediately thought of myself as a failure. I was especially worried
about the possible long term effects of bad insulin management and
about the fact that without insulin injections I would eventually die!
condition was brought to my attention at a fitness exhibition in High
Wycombe where I met a guy who I had not seen for a while. He commented
on how lean and thin I was. I thought it was due to my metabolism
having sped up so much over the past year as a direct result of my
intense dieting and training regime. I then saw a poster on a stand,
which asked "are you experiencing any or all of these symptoms." Among
these were constant thirst - I had been thirsty all the time and was
drinking a lot of orange juice, which obviously didn't help me!;
excessive urination - which I put down to all the drinking; blurred
vision - which I only got after coming off my depletion diet; dramatic
weight loss - this was worrying me; and itchy crotch - which I
definitely did not have! I was advised to see a doctor as I'd had a lot
of these symptoms for the past 8 months or so!! Although I did not
think for one minute that I could be diabetic, I decided to get it
checked out to be safe - after all, my weight had gone from an always
stable 13st or more to a skinny 11st... and there you go. Read
the poster on the Sunday and was diagnosed and shipped of to hospital
on the Monday to start taking my injections. My sugar level was off the
scale; I've no idea how long it had been like this for, but I had had
all the symptoms since around May 1999. They'd come on just after my
first competition of that year, in Spain.
I immediately thought
that I'd brought this upon myself with the REALLY strict dieting regime
that I had been following in the competitions I'd been competing in. In
the last one I was in - the Worlds - I had to get down to 11st 7Ibs,
which was very difficult indeed and was achieved by starvation to some
extent, intense training and fluid loss. I was assured this was not the
cause, but I still wonder; even if it helped bring it on... Maybe I
was just more susceptible…
After a good deal of moping,
crying and general despondency, I finally decided to snap out of it and
get my life back to normal as much as possible. My first target was to
control my blood sugar. I started on Humalin-i, but found this too
restrictive in that I was tied down to eating at a certain time of day.
And I was having trouble keeping my sugar levels consistent. After a
couple of weeks, I was moved to Humalog during the day and Humalin-i
over night. I've been on this ever since, although at one point I was
able to drop my night time injection as I was getting too many hypos!
I'll come on to this later.
I began training again after about
a week - getting back into it gradually. I found that I was getting a
HUGE lactic acid build up after a minimal number of repetitions on any
given exercise. Although I was getting a good pump, it was way too
early and I was not getting much physical benefit from the exercise at
all. After a couple of weeks, I was back into the swing of things and
was making good progress. The one thing that did surprise me was how
quickly I put the weight back on again! I went from 11st to 13st within
2 weeks and did find it difficult to reach certain areas of my anatomy
due to being very stiff and tight!! Too much too quick!
then, it's been all good, really, except for one hiccup. I managed to
get back in to reasonable shape for my stag do and wedding and in the
space of those 8 months managed to get my sugar levels consistent. I
was worried about going abroad - for the wedding and honeymoon - and
having to depend on the Insulin and refrigeration etc. in hot
countries, but all my worries were unfounded. There were no problems at
In early 2004, I was able to take an injection with my
last carbohydrate based meal at say 6PM and not take another injection
until the next morning, as late as 9AM; missing out the night time
injection of Humalin-i completely. In the morning, my levels were
normally still between 5 and 8. That's well over 12 hours without an
injection... I've been told that I could take a combination of
tablets and injections, but I think I'll stay on Insulin. I've been
told that I'd have to go back on the Insulin anyway at some point in
the future. My only bug bear with the injections is that they cause the
injection site to go rather puffy, even though I rub it after each stab
and change the site regularly! Again, being more than a little vain, I
hate this! This is why I inject into my thighs these days. My tummy was
getting puffy and obscuring my abs! I've had no problems with using my
thighs and don't mind if they're a little puffy :~)
years on and I've learnt a lot about my body and about the way it
reacts etc. etc. I'd now like to share my regime and experiences with
you, which includes diet and exercise and how it affects my levels.
the birth of our gorgeous son and daughter, Coby & Kianah, I have
had to change the way I exercise to fit in better with family life.
I've found, at the same time, that this new regime is more suited to me
as a diabetic, especially for weight control. And I certainly believe
that exercising intensely, a few short times a week, helps maintain
more stable sugar levels. I'm not sure if all types of exercise will
influence the levels in the same way, but medium to heavy resistance
training coupled with some CV work certainly helps keep my levels
stable. At present, I rarely test at over 6 units in the morning or
evening unless I've missed an injection! Even after my last jab at 6PM
the night before. I do wonder if the heavier type of exercise
stimulates hormone release and therefore helps produce some of my own
insulin; who knows. However, I do need my night time jab again at
present; more on this is a moment. My HBA1C readings are exemplary and
are always - to date - not far over 5 each yearly test.
in the past tested my blood sugar level before and after training, but
once I found a trend, I did not feel the need to do it that often any
longer. Basically, it goes up by about 1.2 points after a session. I
believe this is due to the bursty nature of my resistance exercises. It
will, however, drop after prolonged light exercise, which is normal. I
only test my levels in the morning and sometimes - if I feel I need to
- in the evenings (once a day usually).
NOTE: For the record, I
have never taken steroids, but have taken protein supplements and some
mineral-based supplements including Creatine, ZMA and Argenine (Amino
Acid) for many years. I gave up ALL the supplements in early 2004,
including the protein, to see what effect it would have. I still take a
multi vitamin and mineral, plus 1000mg Vit C, though. I did seem to
lose some power and stamina at first, about 20% I believe, but have
regained some of this, maybe 5%. I've not lost any weight, but have not
made much progress without the protein supplements. Hence, I started
taking MetRX, but nothing else, in December 2005.
This is my routine as of January 2006
Monday to Friday
get up at either 04:45 or 05:45 and get straight into a basic gym in my
garage. I do just 10 minutes on cross trainer, as that's all I have at
present, and then move on to sit-ups, side bends and lower back work on
the roman chair. I do an many reps as I can, except for side bends, of
which I do 400. Then I do some stretching for around 10 minutes. This
is all I do in the morning. This kick starts my metabolism, limbers me
up and get me ready for the day. I then have some cereal, normally
rolled oats and grape nuts with cold, skimmed milk or All Bran with
cold skimmed milk; no sugar! I take a multi vitamin plus 1000mg Vit C
and two MSM, Glucosamine, Chondroitin tablets and some Flaxseed oil. I
will then do a blood test and would expect to be between 3.8 and 5.4
points, normally. I will take an injection of 9 units from a 3ml
cartridge and add or remove unit for every point I am above or below 5
An hour or so later, I will have either 4 scrambled eggs or a MetRX.
Mid morning I will have a snack. Normally I'll eat apples, bananas or oranges with some sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
time, I'll have what ever I like, but keep off too much cheese and
fatty foods. I'll have moderate complex cabs - large potato for
instance - with veg and protein - oily fish like Salmon in a favourite
or Tuna, lean beef, chicken etc. I'll normally take around 8-10 units
If I have any carbs snacks in between lunch and
dinner such as another potato or pasta for instance, I will have
another injection, but will reduce the amount by around 30% due to the
overlap with the former injection. I never have injections with any of
my other snacks.
Mid afternoon, I'll have more fruit.
I'll do my workout, whether it's before or after dinner. This will
increase my metabolic rate and sustain it for an extended period.
Before bed, I will take around 10-14 units of Humalin-i
So in general, I try to:
- keep my carbs low, but change it from day to day
eat very little complex carbs after 6PM and eat light. I'll take around
5 units of Humalog. For example, 2 slices of toast or a little pasta at
6PM and then fish and vegetables at 8PM
- keep fats to a minimum
- eat oily fish and take an Omega-X supplement
Workouts - note that I will review and change the exercises and the
order in which I do them on a regular basis to promote a better
Monday - Chest
First a warm up of dumbbell
pressing and flying for 3 sets of 30 reps (20 and 10 respectively). I
then move on to heavy (ish) dumbbell pressing for 3 or 4 sets depending
on how I'm feeling. I'll then do 3 or 4 sets of heavy flying. Then 3 or
4 sets of pullovers. I'll finish off with some press ups for a pump. I
try to keep the rest periods reasonably consistent and fairly short;
between 30 and 60 secs. This gives me a better pump, better results
where shape and size are concerned and stresses my lungs and
cardiovascular system more, which can only be good. The whole workout
is intense, should take no more than 40 minutes.
Tuesday - Shoulders
get exercised through the week anyway when doing chest, back and arms,
so don't need an exhaustive workout in my opinion. Still, I warm up
with 4 sets of lateral raises for as many reps as I can do; usually
around 40 on the first set culminating in only 20 on the final set.
Then I move on to upright rows for 4 sets, using the EZ bar for around
12 reps per set. Then it's on to pressing above my head with the EZ bar
(I find it more comfortable) for around 10 reps per set for 4 sets
again. Sometimes, I'll add in some rear deltoid work, too, if I've the
energy left! That's shoulders completed. This does not take long at
all; around 25 minutes.
Wednesday - Triceps
consist of a lot of warming up as my elbows are sensitive after a lot
of heavy tricep training in previous years when I was bigger and
stronger. So I perform pushdowns with a V bar for 4 sets of 50 reps or
so. By the 4th set, I can only manage around 20 reps. Then I'll move on
to either close grip pressing for 4 sets or lying tricep extensions for
3 sets, depending on how my elbows are feeling (the extensions hurt the
elbows more). Then I'll perform some standing, behind the neck wide
grip extensions with the EZ bar for 3 sets. Then I'll perform some more
behind the neck extensions with a dumbbell, sitting on the bench for 3
sets and will do 1 set of bench dips to finish off with body weight for
a final pump. For these I hold the contraction for a count of 2 before
releasing for the next rep.
Thursday - Back
I'll warm up
with chin-ups for 3 sets of as many reps as I can manage. Then 3 sets
of wide grip pull downs to my chest of around 8 to 12 reps per set.
Then 3 sets of close grip pull downs to my chest for around 8 to 12
reps. Then 3 sets of T bar rows for around 16 reps per set.
Friday - Biceps
workouts at the moment consist of 3 sets of 60 to 100 reps warm up with
alternate dumbbell curls. Then 3 sets of curls for around 20 to 30 reps
with more weight. Then EZ bar curls for 3 sets of around 10 reps. I
then go for a pump with light weight in a seated position performing
strict parallel and then alternate dumbbell curls for 1 set to failure.
Some weeks I'll vary the above by simply adding in triple drop sets to shock my system and give me more of a cardio workout.
and Sunday is a day off, unless I've missed a workout of course. Some
days I'll weight train twice to catch up; morning and evening.
do push myself near to the limit on each set. Without hitting your
limits, you will not improve and you will gain much less from your
workouts. Of course, this goes for the cardio vascular exercise, too.
have to admit, I have not trained legs for some time; over a year!!
This is solely due to my recent bike accident. So now on to how this
affected my diabetic control!
On January 10th 2005, I collided
with a Volvo which pulled out in front of me. I broke a quarter of my
Tibial Plateau off and shattered another half of it, leaving me with
only 25% of it intact. Agony!! I also broke my wrist. I had an
operation 4 weeks later to screw it all back together again. Suffice to
say, I could not walk and could not do any form of weight training for
a long time. At the time, I did not need my night time injections.
After around 2 weeks, I noticed that I needed more insulin with each
meal. This requirement gradually increased until I needed to take
nearly double the amount. And I also needed to take over 20 units of
Humalin-i for night time. My mood became worse and any hypos I
experienced were more severe in so much as they caused me to be less
confident, more paranoid and generally have a feeling of real
sluggishness. I'd never experienced these pronounced symptoms before.
I had to refrain from exercising for around 5 months in total. During
the time, my weight increased, but not hugely, and my body fat levels
increased. I felt my general fitness levels decrease enormously. As
well as learn to walk again, I started training as soon as I could put
pressure on my previously broken leg. After a couple of weeks of
training I began to see a difference in levels and coping with the
changes required in management at this stage was very difficult since I
did have the option of leaving it as it was. However, I wanted to
return to my previous well managed state. This is also the reason why I
have not and cannot return to heavy squatting. In fact, I cannot do any
form of squatting at present.
So, around 8 months on from
walking again and training again, I am still taking the night time
injection, but much less. And my day time injections are a little above
what they used to be. The oddest thing is that my control is not as
good as it used to be. My levels are more erratic and I find it more
difficult to predict the amount of Insulin I need from meal to meal.
Whether this down to not being able to squat I am not sure, but
certainly, heavy squatting is a prime exercise for releasing hormones
in to the blood stream and could help keep sugar levels more consistent
than a combination of my other exercises.
Recently, an ex work
colleague died of a heart attack while out jogging! He was 40 and had
only just had a full medical, which he passed with flying colours. The
post mortem concluded that he had heart disease! Whether this was
hereditary or as a result of his lifestyle, I do not know, but I do
know that we as diabetics are much more susceptible to heat disease.
That's why I feel I must eat as well as I can and stay as fit as I can,
within reason. I don't like to think I'm obsessive, but want to give
myself the best chance I can so that I can see my children grow up and
hopefully enjoy grandchildren one day, too. Most of all, I enjoy my
exercise regime and still enjoy my food. I would certainly recommend
some form of exercise and a healthy, varied diet to all diabetics since
there are so many benefits to be had.
Good luck everyone.