Type 1 diabetes and CrossFit

Our goal in CrossFit is to “increase work capacity across broad time and modal domains”, and CrossFit is doing a great job with that.

CrossFit is arguably the single best fitness program that has ever been created. Our goal in CrossFit is to “increase work capacity across broad time and modal domains”, and CrossFit is doing a great job with that. From the professional athletes at the CrossFit Games to the clients in your box, CrossFit is making people better. Similarly we also tell people that CrossFit is universally scalable. What this means is that we can adjust, modify and edit the workout/movements to suit whatever limitations you may have. This typically applies to physical limitations like endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, limb loss or tissue dysfunction. What happens when we try to “increase work capacity” with someone who’s physiology is so volatile. 

For someone with type 1 diabetes, the issue here is a problem of blood glucose management due to a lack of insulin secretion. For anyone with type 1 diabetes the trouble that has to be dealt with is keeping the blood glucose levels in line all day, everyday using insulin injections, intelligent diet, and smart training. What is seen is a lack of understanding when it comes to training type 1 diabetics and what to prescribe for them to eat. What we are going to do today is address the big concerns when it comes to dealing with type 1 and in the upcoming posts, detail them to make it easy to understand.

The first concern is insulin injections. For a type 1 diabetic, this is the single most important, lifesaving thing you can do. You could say it is more than life saving and say it is life sustaining for anyone with type 1. Without these injections, you will die. When it comes to management however, more is not better. Think about this and remember it can be applied to virtually any disease that is auto-immune is nature or causes an inflammatory response. First of all type 1 diabetes is a condition that needs insulin injections to control blood glucose levels, high blood glucose levels damage nearly every area of the body slowly, and high levels of insulin drive fat gain and inflammation. Now, what sense does it makes to prescribe a diet that causes and unnecessarily high level of insulin to be taken because of high carbohydrate consumption. Wouldn’t this further exacerbate the issue of control? Why would you do something to further complicate the inherent instability of the type 1 condition?

The second concern is CrossFit as it is typically adhered to. The point must made here that intense skill/strength work coupled with high intensity metabolic conditioning is fantastic and produces excellent fitness. What about for the type 1 diabetic? Would working through complex Gymnastics progressions, heavy Powerlifting and traditional single and triples in Olympic Weightlifting be ideal. The first 3 are phosphagen in nature and have a lowering effect of blood glucose levels, and the same is true of low intensity conditioning which is oxidative in nature. The problem lies in the gycolytic pathway were we have a blood glucose spike and instant rise in blood glucose levels. If we believe the idea from the first concern that management should not be complicated by nutrition, then shouldn’t we also believe that about training? Type 1 diabetics should be aiming at ideal blood glucose levels with minimal insulin requirements. Is it possible with high intensity couplets and triplets?


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