View Full Version : Performance for a diabetic on very low carbs

Nick Wilson
03-22-2008, 11:03 AM

First post here, sorry for the length! Iíve been lurking on this forum and at Crossfit.com for a long time and learned a lot already, and wanted a bit of potential advice regarding carbohydrate intake.

Iím a 32 year old male, 6í 3Ē and 200lbs with about 15-18% body fat. Iím not particularly fit at the moment, but Iím working hard to rectify that with a mixture of a Starting Strength program and a couple of metcon workouts per week. Iím also a type 1 diabetic.

I recently read Bernsteinís writings on diabetic control, and I adopted his diet a fortnight ago with excellent results; my bloods have been the best Iíve ever seen, consistently in the normal range throughout the day and night. This diet means Iím getting 30g of carbs most days; the only way I go above that amount is if I go hypo and need carbs to raise my bloods. Iím eating mainly Paleo, although I still eat a small amount of cheese and have an occasional diet coke; but the vast majority of my food is from fish and meat, non-starchy veg, olive oil, and small amounts of nuts and seeds.

Iíve been reading a lot of the posts on here about athletic performance while in a state of ketosis, and the general consensus seems to be that anything hitting the glycolitic pathway is likely to be severely hampered (with shorter efforts and longer efforts relatively unaffected once you adapt, which takes a few weeks only). Obviously, a lot of Crossfit workouts fall into this criteria, and Iíve already noticed that Iím completely drained in these workouts (while my strength workouts have continued to improve).

Now my main focus right now is on improving my diabetic control, and if performance must be a consequence then so be it. However, if itís possible to get the benefit of good blood control and improved performance then Iíll take it! So I have a couple of questions:

- If I were to add carbs to my post-workout feed after every metcon workout, how much carbohydrate would I likely need to add in order to see any benefit? Iím asking because I believe I could add a small amount of carb post-workout without my bloods spiking too high; but Iíd be reluctant to try more than 20-30g or so.
- If I donít do this, would it help to leave longer periods between metcon workouts? I donít know how much muscle glycogen can be replaced on a very low carb diet; presumably some via gluconeogenesis? Would I likely need to wait 2 days, or 3, or 4, or 100 between metcon workouts for stores to be sufficiently replenished to perform well? Will this even work at all?

Basically, this is all kind of new to me and Iím looking for some advice on the best way to proceed. Iím committed to a low carb diet, but Iíd also like to make a good fist of improving my Crossfit times, and Iím just wondering what youíd advise. My diabetic team at the clinic are unable to offer any advice or help whatsoever; they seem to think that as long as my A1c's are below 7% I don't need to change anything, which isn't much use to me.

Finally, let me stress that Iím not going to take anything anyone posts as medical advice or blindly follow your recommendations; anything I try will be implemented carefully. Iím just after some theoretical information so I can make a judgement call myself on what to try.

Thanks loads in advance, and also for all the great info on the site in general.


Mike ODonnell
03-22-2008, 12:29 PM
Type I or II diabetes?

Jay Cohen
03-22-2008, 01:57 PM
Iím also a type 1 diabetic.


Mike, you're slipping.

Mike ODonnell
03-22-2008, 03:13 PM
Mike, you're slipping.

Opps....missed that the first time through.

Obviously you have a difference in what defines performance when you talk about strength and metcon workouts. As you have probably seen on here people with strength backgrounds seem to perform better at the metcon based workouts. If you are a diabetic you have to go by what you can safely do....not what other people are doing. So if that means only 1 metcon a week...or scaling down metcons to your pace then you have to take control of it.

Personally I would say skip the pwo drinks at all costs and stick to smaller meals of whole based slow absorption paleo carbs with protein in the pwo window of 2-3 hours. You can replenish muscle glycogen over days, but you are really not going to burn all your stores with one quick workout. That and if you are on a higher fat diet then you can burn more fat as fuel as well.

When in doubt, start slow on the metcons and test your recovery ability. Remember if you improve your strength your other metcons will also improve in the long run. You have to go with what you can safely recover from but a higher fat diet with low carbs is always a good strategy.