At age 40, I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. Up until that time I had eaten pretty much whatever I wanted. That’s probably one of the reasons I acquired this disease. In addition to eating a “normal North American diet” I had always used nutritional supplements (vitamins, whey protein, bcaa’s,) when I could since I was always training for some sport. Being diabetic now I try to watch what I eat (not always succeeding) and make sure what I eat is nutritionally sound.
Generally speaking diabetics should keep their intake of saturated fats to a minimum. Avoid trans fats and processed foods all together. Complex carbohydrates in most cases are usually better than simple sugars. Below is a simple guide to a diabetic’s nutrition plan.
Lean beef (Example: top sirloin), skinless chicken, skinless turkey, salmon and tuna are all good choices as long as they are baked or grilled. Eggs are a very good low cost source of protein. (I would recommend removing all or at least part of the yolk.) Low fat dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt) on occasion are also good sources of protein. Beans and nuts (almonds, walnuts) are good. There are many low sugar whey protein products on the market that are great for supplementing your diet as well.
Avoid frying food at all cost. Eat lean low fat cuts of meat. Always remove skin from poultry and fish and fat from beef and pork. Do not eat bacon or high fat dairy products.
Breads / Grains
Whole grains (rice, cereal, flour) are the way to go. Complex carbohydrates absorb more slowly than simple sugars. That’s always good for the diabetic. Foods like whole grain rice, whole grain bread, tortillas and sweet potatoes are good in moderation. These foods are high in essential vitamins, minerals and are a good source of fiber. Avoid white flour (white bread), processed sugar cereals, processed rice and French fries.
Vegetables / Fruits
Fresh vegetables (eaten raw, lightly steamed or grilled) such as broccoli, zucchini, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers and cabbage are great. Tomatoes, carats, potatoes are good as well in moderation since they are a little higher in carbohydrate content.
Note: Fresh raw vegetables are best. They maintain all their nutritional qualities because the cooking process (heat) destroys much of the nutritional value.
Fresh fruits eaten raw are packed with vitamins, mineral and fiber. Like vegetables, they are naturally low in fat. One exception would be the avocado which is high in a good unsaturated fat.
I would caution diabetics to be careful with fruit (especially fruit juices) because they contain a high amount of carbohydrates which a can affect your blood sugar.
Water is the most important nutrient of all. As a diabetic you can’t rely on sodas and high sugar sports drinks. A general recommendation is to drink eight glasses of water a day depending on body size (You may need more). Diabetics should pay special attention to their water intake. Adequate water intake reduces stress on kidney function and this is critical to the diabetic.
In closing, I would suggest a low fat diet including as many raw fresh vegetables and fruits as possible. I think the diabetic athlete should obtain a greater percentage of their protein intake from vegetable sources. Many times the athlete will ingest too much high fat meat in an attempt to keep their protein intake high. This can be very hard on your kidneys as well as your heart.
Certified Sports Nutritionist
Functional Strength Systems