Ketogenic Diabetic Athlete

#44 September 2017 Update on My T1D Management


This is a monthly update on my glycemic management of type 1 diabetes (T1DM) using Humalog and Lantus insulin injections with resistance exercise and a ketogenic real-food diet as described in my book, The Ketogenic Diet for Type 1 Diabetes also available on Amazon in print. My coauthor, Ellen Davis, over at the website and her team have come out with a new ketogenic meal planning tool. It’s called KetoPoints and it uses a points-based system to make ketogenic meal planning really easy. The app includes starter meals, five informative guides on getting started and staying on track, a step-by-step process for building each meal, cooking directions and more. In addition, new, personalized meals will be added to the program monthly. You can sign up for a 3 week challenge or go for a monthly subscription. I have not used the tool myself, but it may be helpful for those just getting started with a ketogenic diet.

I had stopped eating sweet potato (on August 24) to understand if the extra carbohydrate had a positive effect on my strength. On September 17, I set two personal bests in my weightlifting: a 165 lb. snatch and 215 lb. clean & jerk which occurred 6 months after my previous personal best of 209 lb. on March 26, 2017. During the remainder of September, my weightlifting results were better than when I was taking sweet potato. Thus, I feel that the extra 30 grams of carbohydrate was not helping my performance. In September, continued once daily weightlifting workouts with only two exercises per day lasting about 2 hours including warmup, rest between lifts, and cool down.

Glycemic Management Results for September 2017

My September glycemic results were noteworthy for low BG readings requiring a reduction in insulin doses during the month. Fortunately, I had no symptoms of hypoglycemia in September. Hypoglycemia in a person with T1DM who is conscientiously trying to control BG is a real danger that should be minimized. However in September, I had much more hypoglycemia than usual.

Below are my mean BG values, mean insulin doses, and BG frequency distribution for September 2017 compared to previous time periods. I have changed two columns to indicate the AUC mean BG and predicted HbA1c. AUC mean BG is the mean BG by calculating the area under the curve (AUC) of BG versus time. The predicted HbA1c uses the formula: AUC mean BG plus 88.55 divided 33.298. This formula is the least squares fit using my own personal mean BG versus measured HbA1c over many years. My particular HbA1c values are higher than many other individuals with the same mean BG. This is referred to as being a “high glycator.”

As presented in blog post #15 exogenous insulin cannot mimic normal insulin secretion, so persons with T1DM should not expect to have truly normal BG values at all times. They just need to be low enough to prevent long-term complications and not so low as to cause unpleasant hypoglycemic symptoms or less common but dangerous consequences including brain damage, seizure, injury, coma, or death. I have set my target BG range at 61-110 mg/dl because values in this range are not likely to lead to harm or complications of T1DM. Your target BG range should be determined with your physician because one size does not fit all. Normal BG is 96 ± 12 mg/dl (mean ± standard deviation (SD)) and coefficient of variation is 13% which is the weighted mean from these two studies (here  and here) of continuous glucose monitoring in healthy subjects. The standard deviation and coefficient of variation are measures of BG variability which I believe are important in T1DM. However, be advised that clinical outcomes in T1DM (i.e. microvascular and macrovascular complications) have only been documented to correlate with measures of mean BG, particularly HbA1c. This does not mean that BG variability is not important, but it just has not been documented to correlate with outcomes and complications of T1DM. Achieving a normal standard deviation or coefficient of variation in T1DM would be difficult, if not impossible, with current exogenous insulin therapy (injected or pumped). Monitoring the standard deviation and/or coefficient of variation and finding ways to improve them to the best of one’s ability is desirable in my opinion. Following a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet is one such method of reducing BG variability, mean BG, insulin doses, and hypoglycemia. A ketogenic diet may also provide an alternate/additional brain fuel in the form of ketones to protect the brain when BG does go low. The alternative energy that ketones supply to the brain may prevent or blunt the sympathoadrenal response to hypoglycemia which in turn reduces or eliminates the symptoms of and harm from hypoglycemia. This hypothesis needs to be tested before it can be stated as fact. Having BG close to normal most of the time (some of which are hypoglycemic) also minimizes the symptoms of mild hypoglycemia and potentially the harm from hypoglycemia as well due to lack of activation of the sympathetic nervous system and adrenal gland responses to hypoglycemia i.e. sympathoadrenal-induced fatal cardiac arrhythmia, see here.

Below are my BG readings along with the Humalog (rapid-acting insulin) doses in September 2017. You can see below that both the morning and evening meal-time doses had to be decreased due to low BG readings. Many of these low BG readings occurred during/after weightlifting which previously resulted in hyperglycemia. The point here is that a basal insulin dose that is higher than current needs can override any stress hormone response to intense resistance exercise. Those without diabetes can experience an increase in BG with intense exercise, see here.

The table below shows the BG variability results for current and previous time periods. The percentiles (10th, 25th, 75th, 90th) on the right show the spread of the BG readings about the median. The interquartile range, the difference between the 75th and 25th percentiles, is a measure of BG variability. In the middle of the table are the %Time in three BG ranges: %Time BG < 61 mg/dl (hypo) and the mean BG during that time, then %Time BG 61-110 mg/dl (target) and the mean BG during that time, and %Time BG > 110 mg/dl (hyper) and the mean BG during that time. The other measures of BG variability were defined and explained in blog post #10.

The daily insulin dose totals and BG readings are shown in the graphs below. You can see that I had to decrease my total insulin dose progressively during the month from 53 IU/day to 30 IU/day.

The daily insulin dose totals for 2017 are shown in the graph below. You can see an oscillatory pattern with a period of about 8 weeks. The cause for this is unclear at this point, but I am making changes in my insulin dosing procedures and will followup on this next month.

In October, I will continue olympic weightlifting every day with just two exercises per day.

My Thoughts About Management of Type 1 Diabetes With A Ketogenic Diet

My goal of glycemic management in T1DM with a ketogenic diet is to keep BG as close to normal i.e. 96 ± 12 mg/dl (mean ± SD) as is safely possible (i.e. avoiding hypoglycemia) to avoid diabetic complications, a reduction in lifespan, and unpleasant symptoms of as well as injury and death from hypoglycemia. For me, a well-formulated whole-food nutrient-dense ketogenic diet, daily exercise, frequent BG measurements, and lower insulin-analog doses (Humalog/Lantus) have improved my glycemic control, hypoglycemic reactions, and quality of life. My current version of ketogenic diet has changed slightly since I last wrote about it in detail in blog post #9.

My current diet looks like this.

What I Cook & Eat

What I Drink

Water (filtered by reverse osmosis), Unsweetened Tea & Coffee

What I Don’t Eat

What I Don’t Drink

When my entire diet is analyzed, 26% of my fat intake is from polyunsaturates (mainly from nuts and seeds), 56% is from monounsaturates, and 18% is from saturated fats. When my diet is broken down by macronutrients, I consume 170 grams of fat (or 68% of my total daily calories), 70 grams of carbohydrate, 30 grams of which is dietary fiber (or 12% of my total daily calories), and 110 grams of protein (or 20% of my total daily calories). In calories, it totals to 2,250 kcal/day.

My exercise regimen makes glycemic management more challenging, but I enjoy exercise and feel it has other health and lifespan-extending benefits. Hopefully, my BG values and variability as well as my lower insulin doses that result from my ketogenic diet and exercise are close enough to optimal to avoid any reduction in lifespan, diabetic complications, and harm from hypoglycemia, but only time will tell.