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What Foods Are Good for Building Muscle Mass If You Are Diabetic?

author image Jean Jenkins
Jean Jenkins has been writing professionally since 1994. She has written medical research materials for the American Parkinson's Association, the Colorado Neurological Institute and the Autism Society of America. Jenkins has specialized in neurology, labor and delivery, high-risk obstetrics and autism spectrum disorders. She holds a Bachelor of Science in nursing from the University of Colorado.
What Foods Are Good for Building Muscle Mass If You Are Diabetic?
Lean meats, cheese and eggs are excellent sources of protein. Photo Credit: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images

Diabetes is a complex disease that requires knowledge, skill and motivation to control it properly. Diabetes involves managing different food sources, exercise and body systems with careful balance. People with diabetes who want to build muscle mass have special challenges, but they are strongly encouraged to work out and build their muscles, according to "The Journal of the American Dietetic Association," JADA.

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doctor speaking with diabetic patient
doctor speaking with diabetic patient Photo Credit: AlexRaths/iStock/Getty Images

JADA author Craig Williams is a pharmacist who specializes in diabetes. He reports that the use of muscles has a great deal to do with how well the body uses blood glucose. "When insulin works properly, muscle tissue is the single biggest user of glucose in your body," says Williams. When insulin doesn't work properly and doesn't get used in muscles, it begins to accumulate in your bloodstream, raising glucose levels and contributing to deterioration of multiple body systems, such as nerves, eyesight and circulation. To help control your blood sugar, muscle use and muscle health are essential to people with diabetes.


insulin test
insulin test Photo Credit: Aiden Franklin/iStock/Getty Images

Type 1 diabetes is the insulin-dependent form. Type 2 Diabetes is insulin-resistant, meaning your body is unable to use your own insulin properly. In the United States, Type 2 diabetes is on the rise due to obesity that is near epidemic. Type 2 diabetics can't use insulin to break down glucose as a fuel source. Instead, the muscles seek to use fatty acids, and this worsens insulin resistance and increases the fat levels in the blood, a condition known as elevated fasting triglycerides. This is why it is crucial for people with diabetes to increase their lean protein intake, as well as complex carbohydrates, when building their muscle mass.


nutritionist speaking to diabetic
nutritionist speaking to diabetic Photo Credit: Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images

Because diabetes can also impair kidney function, it is important for diabetics to not overdo on proteins, which the kidneys must break down. The American Diabetes Association notes that some diabetics may be advised to go on a low protein diet. The National Kidney Foundation reports that while you need to eat protein to maintain good health, if you are diabetic you should not over-indulge. Speak to a dietician about a nutritional plan that will work for you without harming your kidneys.


bowl of brown rice
bowl of brown rice Photo Credit: Mathisa_s/iStock/Getty Images encourages complex carbohydrates for diabetes, reporting that complex carbs release energy slowly into the blood, rather than causing a spike in blood sugar as simple carbs can. Examples of complex carbs include sunflower seeds, whole oats, whole-meal pasta and brown rice. Diabetic Diet News recommends eating a small, high-protein, high-complex carb meal 30 to 60 minutes before exercise, then one immediately after. Be sure to check your sugars before and after the workout.


vegetarian soy burger
vegetarian soy burger Photo Credit: Pat_Hastings/iStock/Getty Images

According to the American Diabetes Association, people who want to build muscle should choose proteins that will not be high in calories or saturated fat. The best choices include lean beef, pork and veal, poultry with the skin off, fish such as cod, halibut, salmon and tuna, and soy-based burgers and chicken nuggets. Beans are often overlooked, but can be excellent sources of protein and fiber. Try black, lima or pinto beans several meals per week and you may see energy and muscle tone increase. Fat-free refried beans, lentils, and peas that are split, black-eyed or dried are all good choices.

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