Body Building

By Mark Nicholis
I 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!
My 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!
Since 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 all.
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 :~)
So. Four 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.
Since 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.
I have 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
I 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 points.
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.
Lunch 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 of Humalog.
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.
Evening, 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
My 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 response…..
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
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
Triceps workouts 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
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.
Saturday 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.
I 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.
I 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.
Basically 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.

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