I had the pleasure in the last year to cross paths with Eric Pelletier, thanks to social media, and am thankful to see someone also living with type 1 diabetes and not being afraid to push their themselves physically and mentally to be in the best care of their ability. Today’s post captures an interview with Eric, and can be helpful to many others looking for inspiration and understanding on adapting to a healthy lifestyle for stable blood sugars and an optimal quality of life. Thank you for your time Eric!
Please tell us a little about yourself. From your social media updates, I see you are eating rather low carb and perhaps playing with some intermittent fasting (IF)?
You are correct I am still dabbling in IF and trying to maintain ketosis regularly. I also own Type 1 CrossFit in Wheeling, IL so it makes for a badass platform!
A little bit about me? Well I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at 28 days old. I am 26 now. For most of my life I was spoon fed a traditional diet (Food Pyramid) and put on an insulin sliding scales to maintain blood sugar levels. As a kid and through high school I was not very athletic; bowling. I was always afraid of what would happen if I went to hard and did not know how to manage my blood sugar levels.
Fast forward a few years, I began working at Naval Station Great Lakes in the Fitness Center and in this location I was introduced to CrossFit. When I heard about it I went home and read What Is Fitness and Foundations and it was like a light bulb clicked on. I was hooked as what I was reading made so much sense. Low carbohydrate diets, coupled with high skill movements, performed in a fashion that maximized results. Yep. I was hooked. 4 years later I am currently located at 9 Huntington Lane, Wheeling, Il, 60090 with Type 1 CrossFit.
What diets or food plans have you tried to control you blood sugar, and what has been the easiest and most successful? Why?
The easiest and most successful program sits beautifully inside my Diabetes management brainchild, but it is a diet void of food allergies or sensitivities, a diet that ensures maximum insulin sensitivity, and optimizes nutrient intake. If I remove things that cause problems in blood glucose levels/are inflammatory, minimize insulin needs, and eat vitamin and mineral rich foods, I don’t see how ANY case of diabetes is hard to manage. Think about this.
You only get one or a zero. Do you eat vegetables at every meal? Do you eat protein at every meal? Do you eat fat at every meal? Do you limit carbohydrates to post workout, primarily? Have you eliminated potentially problematic foods to see what happens? If you said no to any of these things, you are not doing what you could to optimize your health.
Personally I have also played with intermittent fasting as I find it quite fun, and very good at returning insulin sensitivity after maybe a tough training cycle or a bad eating day.
When you do intense workouts, such as Crossfit, how do you stabilize your blood sugar. Do you eat before/after and what do you do with your insulin dosages?
In my gym I always have juice on hand and insulin around. For me, as long as my blood sugar is in a good range, depending on what the workout is will depend on how I take care of it. Very short couplets get a nasty spike, so I bolus pre workout. Longer (15+) get a spike and then a drop so I will pace at about 80% and make sure to test immediately after to ensure I don’t drop too bad. Strength and skill pieces cause a drop due to the lack of “balls to the wall intensity.”
When you eat or have eaten a ketogenic-like diet, how is your insulin sensitivity affected?
Eating a ketogenic diet or IF, my insulin sensitivity is amazing! Here is a beautiful analogy! Spray perfume in a room and at first you smell it really strong right? After a few minutes you lose the sensitivity to smell it. In order to re-sensitize you have to either spray MORE or leave the room. In the case of the diabetic, MORE means more insulin which leads to fat gain, heart issues, and potentially many more issues. The other option is the remove the need to produce or TAKE insulin. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and in this case, growing fonder means increasing sensitivity Your body doesn’t realized the potency of what it had (good or bad) until it’s gone.
Before anyone else that has type 1 diabetes attempts a ketogenic diet, what do you first recommend before jumping in? For example, move to a moderately low-carb diet, and then tinker into ketosis, etc?
Be aware, your basal needs will drop DRAMATICALLY! Your body is at a baseline requirement level in relation to the current diet you have and what you are doing. If you make a dramatic change, it only stands to reason that your insulin needs need to change as well. I notice in online communities that this idea is overlooked. If your baseline levels are running lower (hypo), doesn’t it make sense to reduces your baseline insulin? Yes. My recommendation is to first and foremost, remove some potentially problematic foods. Wheat or dairy at first, and if you are eating sugar as a regular part of your diet, and not as a requirement to maintain a normal blood sugar, address that too. Remove one thing, adjust insulin, and repeat.
Kelly: As a dietitian working with many other patients with diabetes, changes need to be adapted slowly. It’s too hard to generalize what to do on a website, as we are all coming from different places. Work with a healthcare professional when making such changes. And of course, I am always happy to help.
As for food groups or ingredients, are there any certain things you avoid, such as gluten, soy, dairy, etc? How does the avoidance or inclusion of certain foods help manage your blood sugars?
Gluten is terrible. End of story. Dairy, even with no carbs in it (cheese) causes a huge spike. I also find that if I have a big meal with virtually no carbohydrates (save veggies) I have an automatic increase in insulin sensitivity, and by default, lower blood sugars.
Kelly: I want to also add, in case anyone with type 1 diabetes is reading this post, overall this is general information. When eating a low carb diet, which may not include many carbs per meal, you still need to cover your meal for protein can convert into sugar. Please work with your team, myself included, to assess what the best protocol is for you.
How have your labs changed since adjusting your diet to low-carb?
My labs have improved greatly. At one point in my life I have hit 11 on my A1C. Recently I was at 6.5. not too bad for a lifer with this!
Some final thoughts:
Fix your food first. Do not fall victim to the idea that exercise will fix it all. If you eat poorly so as to induce inflammation, insulin insensitivity, and lack vital nutrients, you do not need to exercise. It may actually make it all SO MUCH WORSE.
Ask yourself this, why are you eating so many carbohydrates when the result is the need for insulin. Insulin managements and blood glucose management are the hallmark of BOTH cases of Diabetes. Why would you eat in a way that induces complications to that maintenance That’s like being allergic to bees and kicking a bee hive. Not only is it crazy to do, but it does NOTHING to improve your health.