The “personal training”, “fitness” and “gym” industries can give conflicting advice about many aspects of health and fitness. And helping a client with diabetes is one area where there can be confusion.
This article talks about some of the areas where personal trainers need to be careful when training clients with diabetes.
These are areas that some personal trainers or fitness coaches may not consider. Because they are different from the usual suggestions given in the fitness industry.
However, a client with diabetes is in a different situation from a fit healthy 25 year old athlete. These are the suggestions we use with our Genesis Gym Singapore personal training clients as well as the methods that work well when I give health talks at diabetes support groups.
- Don’t give high protein diets without considering the client’s blood sugar response to protein. One common mistake is that many personal trainers think that only carbohydrates change blood sugar levels. However, protein also stimulates insulin release. Take special note of a client’s response to a high protein diet if they have diabetes. Increased protein can help a client build muscle which is good for long term blood sugar management. But I suggest doing this increase very gradually.
- I would caution against very intense weight training or circuit training exercise that leaves the client huffing, puffing and gasping for air! This can elevate stress hormones to an unhealthy level for a person with diabetes. Under stress, more fat is used for fuel. This is not a good long term choice because a person with diabetes actually needs to learn to use more sugars as fuel to lower their blood sugar.
- Cardio exercise should be done at a low intensity. Not HIIT. Once you get a burning sensation in your legs or need to use your mouth to breathe, you are likely doing it too hard. This can lead to hypoglycemia that you are not ready for or high lactate which increases overall stress hormones (see point 2).
- Don’t use ketogenic diets long term. Ketogenic or high fat/low carb diets can give short term reduction in blood sugar. However, they can keep liver glycogen low for too long. This “low energy” signal leads to a slower metabolism and more difficulty maintaining a healthy weight in the long run.
- Focus on sleep quality. Not more workouts. Good sleep (7-9 hours, wake up feeling rested) does more for your blood sugar than extra exercise. If a personal trainer tries to sell you more “training sessions” instead of working on sleep quality that is not a sign that they really understand diabetes.
- Take special note of foot function for diabetic personal training clients. Diabetes is well known for causing trouble with extremities like the feet. Make sure clients spend time working on good foot habits and foot health. The video below a good place to start. Strong feet with good muscles and blood flow are less likely to suffer negative effects of diabetes or high blood sugar.
So (totally unbiased opinion! haha) if you are looking for the best personal trainers in Singapore for people who have high blood sugar or diabetes, please schedule a consultation at any of our Singapore personal training gyms and we will be glad to meet up to see how we can best work together with you and your doctor to give you safe, healthy, long-lasting fitness results.
-Jonathan Wong, Genesis Gym Founder