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February 14, 2003

Meal Planning, Food and Diet

Question from Maryland, USA:

I am 17 years old, have type 1 diabetes, and I work out lifting weights about five times a week for 90-150 minutes. I check my blood sugar seven times, and my hemoglobin A1c is never above 6.7%. I have read that athletes in training need 1gram of protein per pound of body weight which means I need about 188 grams of protein per day when bodybuilding I am looking to build a substantial amount of muscle. Right now, I try to consume as much possible protein a day without eating lots of red meat so I am taking whey protein drinks, cheeses, some meat, milk, pasta, breads and fruits while drinking about six to eight glasses of water. I don't plan to reduce my carbs too much, but the best way to rebuild muscle is buy the intake of protein, vitamins, and minerals. I am now drinking whey protein shakes that have a little bit of glutamine in them. One dose per day of 3 carbs. and 50 gram of protein right after I work out. Then I also have my three meals and snacks. Would added protein shakes hurt my kidneys in any way?


There are lots of myths about how much extra protein is needed to make muscles bigger and stronger. The big fallacy, of course, is that the body knows how to convert carbs to protein. If there is sufficient insulin, naturally or — for people with diabetes — if they take the correct amount of insulin and control glucose levels, then the body makes protein. If the muscle is “pushed,” it gets bigger and stronger as a result of having sufficient insulin and general calorie intake. So, extra protein is unlikely needed in any human being as long as nutrition is reasonable.

In folks with diabetes, the other issue has to do with kidney function. Extra protein intake has been implicated in hypertension and kidney damage. So, most diabetes specialists would recommend not having extra protein as a way to help kidney function. Anabolic steroids (testosterone like hormones and growth hormone) are both illegally available for boosting muscle mass and both work but with a high cost in side effects. Both have some other negative issues in people with diabetes because of cardiovascular and lipid side effects so both are not recommended.

The safest answer for you and anyone else who wants to work out and get bigger/stronger: work out, optimize glucose control and insulin availability to achieve such control, do not add extra protein of any kind nor any steroids or other (prescription or naturopathic) hormones so that there is no added risk for future heart, blood vessel, blood pressure or kidney problems.