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The Positive Impact Weight Lifting Has on Blood Sugar 

April 27, 2022
Written by
Team NutriSense
Reviewed by
Amanda D.
CD, RDN

The bodybuilding craze of the 1960s built a lasting image around weight lifting that still scares some people away from their local gym. Think Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gold's Gym, Pumping Iron. But weight lifting (that is, lifting weights for exercise, not "weightlifting," the Olympic sport of lifting weights) doesn't have to be about weightlifting awards and becoming Mr. Universe. 

The truth is that weight lifting can benefit your body inside and out, help you lose weight, and help you maintain and manage various health conditions. From controlling your blood sugar to increased mobility, let's explore what you stand to gain and how to get started with weight lifting. 

6 Benefits of Weight Lifting for People Controlling their Blood Sugar Control 

How would you define weight lifting? Most people will likely describe rows of heavy barbells, complicated equipment, and men as large as school buses wearing sleeveless shirts. 

While that image may accurately portray the most extreme weight lifters, practically anyone with access to some weights can pursue weight lifting. 

Regardless of your age, size, or body composition, your body will use your muscles to help you move. As such an important, integral part of your body and its systems, training your muscles yields many health benefits many people might find surprising. Here are just a few. 

1) Lifting Weights Improves Blood Sugar Control 

Most pertinent to those living with conditions like prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, or anyone who needs to regulate their blood sugar, is the benefit lifting weights has on these levels. 

As some research finds, strength training exercises like weight lifting can be beneficial for those with type 2 diabetes. You may notice increased control over your blood sugar levels in response to weight lifting. 

As you exercise, your body uses your blood sugar to fuel the physical activity you're putting it through. The more fuel you burn up, the more room you’re making for your body to take the edge off sugar spikes and otherwise flatten the bumps in your sugar levels throughout the day. 

2) Encourages Weight Loss (Physically and Mentally) 

It shouldn’t surprise you that routine exercise promotes weight loss over time. Any physical activity, including weight lifting, demands energy expenditure to fuel that activity, and calories are the metric used to calculate that energy. 

Burning more calories than you consume through your diet can translate into weight loss. The logic may sound simple, but consistently adjusting your lifestyle to include exercise can be challenging. 

Overcoming that challenge is worth it, though. Losing excess weight, and keeping it off, pays dividends to your overall wellbeing. But the benefits don’t stop with your body! Weight lifting can help shed mental and physical weight, as more studies and research show that your mood may improve after working out. 

3) Can Improve Insulin Sensitivity 

Insulin resistance is one of the significant risks leading to a diagnosis of prediabetes or diabetes. If you’re resistant to the insulin your body releases, you have a more challenging time putting your blood sugar to work. This excess sugar can lead to diabetes and other related complications. 

Thankfully, it’s now well understood that exercise improves insulin sensitivity, even right after exercise. While all exercise is generally beneficial to your overall blood sugar and insulin maintenance, focus on your particular insulin needs when engaging in weight lifting. 

Weight lifting is an anaerobic exercise (your muscles are active in short bursts, compared to sustained usage like running), which means glucose is the main energy source here. This is unlike aerobic exercise, which uses more oxygen and fat as the main energy source. 

Because the more intense the anaerobic session, the more glucose breakdown you may see from the demands of the physical activity, this may lead to an increase in your blood sugar. 

4) Can Increase Glucose Storage 

Your muscles store a lot of glucose. The bigger they are, the more blood glucose they can hold after exercise, improving your carbohydrate tolerability. To benefit from this, you don’t have to struggle for big bodybuilder muscles: even a simple routine will yield valuable results. We outline an example of such a routine later in this article. 

5) Helps Target Dangerous Belly Fat 

Evidence continues to grow that belly fat is particularly harmful compared to fat around other body areas. It's known as visceral fat, and it typically collects deep within your core beyond the subcutaneous fat you see on the surface. 

Researchers claim the danger stems from how the belly fat surrounds your organs, correlating to various increased risk factors for your health. Following guides for six-pack abs and performing hundreds of crunches may not be as helpful as you’d think since this fat is beneath the muscles associated with those exercises. 

Weight lifting and basic strength training may be a more prudent use of your time and sweat. After all, visceral belly fat typically responds just as well to generalized exercise as the rest of your body. 

6) Weight Training Helps Prevent Against Diabetes

By improving your body’s management and tolerances of blood sugar, you’re building a foundation for altogether preventing diabetes, even if you’ve already been diagnosed with prediabetes.

As some research shows, regular weight training can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. 

Other Benefits of Lifting Weights 

Benefits to your health are far and wide beyond what weight lifting can do for your blood. Your overall health has everything to gain from routine weight lifting, including: 

  • Increased muscle mass, helping to make moving through your daily tasks easier.
  • Increased longevity.
  • Improved mobility and the ability to get up and stay up and active for longer.
  • Improved flexibility, enabling you to keep doing the things you love and avoid injury.
  • Stronger and more protected joints, reducing chances of pain and stiffness. 

Risks of Weight Lifting 

Even though it's healthy, no physical activity comes risk-free. It's always a good idea to consult with your doctor before exploring any new type of exercise, especially if you have diabetes. 

For one, working out has a direct impact on your blood sugar during exercise, immediately, and even for hours afterward. 

So, it’s essential to start slow and keep track of your sugar levels as you get into the habit of weight lifting. We mentioned weight lifting might raise your blood sugar, which can pose a risk to your health if your levels were already high when you began your exercise for the day. 

It's a good idea to avoid exercise for the moment if your blood sugar is outside of normal ranges (for your specific body and age—remember that this differs). You may also want to stop and reevaluate your routine if you’ve recently taken medication for diabetes treatment such as insulin, or anything that may stimulate insulin release, increasing your risk of hypoglycemia. 

There are other, more typical risks to keep in mind that have simple counter-strategies, such as: 

  • You should stretch and warm up to avoid injury.
  • It's a good idea for any exercise to avoid overexertion. 
  • Staying hydrated is essential, exercise or no exercise. 

Sample Weight Training Workout Plan + Tips to Getting Started

With any exercise goal, consistency is the cornerstone for success, and it helps to have at least a simple plan to help build the habit. We think the following workout plan provides a confident way to dip your toes into the waters of weight lifting. It may be helpful to consult with a personal trainer who has experience with weight training to ensure proper form and reduce your risk of injury. 

Remember that any exercise is good, so if you find it challenging to keep up with this plan, you can break it down into even more manageable, bite-sized chunks! 

Day 1: Upper Body 

Stretch! Stretching is one of the simplest methods of avoiding exercise-related injury and increasing mobility. Consider adding it to your daily routine, even when you’re not working out. 

We recommend picking and choosing different stretches to kick off your particular weightlifting routine. After stretching, follow this workout. Feel free to add, remove, or change it up to meet your needs! 

  • Front raises: Three sets of 16 repetitions 
  • Shoulder press: Three sets of 15 repetitions 
  • Pushups: Three sets of 10 repetitions 
  • Chest flys: Three sets of 12 repetitions 
  • Tricep dips: Three sets of 12 repetitions 

Day 2: Arm and Back Muscles 

It’s important to balance which muscles you target when weight lifting on consecutive days. So on this day, focus on your biceps, triceps, and back muscles. 

  • Stretch 
  • Bicep curls: 12 repetitions 
  • Kneeling one-arm rows: 10 repetitions 
  • Hammer curls: 12 repetitions
  • Lat pull-down (or pull-ups): 10 repetitions 
  • Repeat the routine twice more  

Day 3: Legs and Core 

Many people neglect to work their core, believing it’s only helpful to train those muscles to gain beach body abs. They end up missing out on the additional support those muscles provide, relieving your back muscles and spine of the weight of the upper body, increasing flexibility, and staving off dreaded back pain. 

  • Stretch 
  • Side plank, once per side of the body: 10 to 30 seconds 
  • Toe taps: 10 to 20 repetitions 
  • Plank lift: 10 to 30 seconds 
  • Standing calf raise: Up to three sets 
  • Wall sit: Up to 120 seconds 
  • Squats: Three sets of 15 

Rest Day 

It might sound counterintuitive to give yourself a break when you want to reap the benefits of all that exercise. Still, it’s important to give your body and muscles a chance to recover. 

Muscles are broken down during exercise and grow as the fibers are rebuilt. That rebuilding happens during your rest days and denying your muscles that resting period may hinder rather than help your progress. 

However, it’s a good idea not to go into total couch potato mode. Your rest days are the perfect opportunity to keep your blood flowing and body accustomed to moving. 

A low-key day enjoying the outdoors, keeping up with a simple yoga practice, or just walking around your local farmers market are great ways to stay on the move. 

Tips for Your Routine

Start slow and stay slow! Feel out how many repetitions and how much weight is appropriate for you to lift. Everyone starts somewhere. While weightlifting, use slow, deliberate movements and avoid sudden, jerky motions. Your muscles will benefit much more from the exercise, and you will significantly reduce the risk of injury. 

Rest between sets, but not for too long. It’s necessary to catch your breath and regroup. But it’s also important to maintain your increased heart rate and keep your muscles warm. Recommendations on this vary, with some sources saying between 30 to 90 seconds here is ideal  to induce muscle hypertrophy but also two to five minutes for max strength development. Remember, this will change according to your needs so consult an expert to find the perfect fit for you. 

Modify each exercise to match your skill level. Some exercises, like pushups, can be modified to shift your weight to make things more or less difficult. 

Use what’s available. If you have access to a gym full of machines, that’s fantastic. But you can do most of these exercises with a simple set of free weights, resistance bands, or even just your body weight.

  • After stretching, focus on your warm-up! Warm muscles are less injury-prone. A light, quick cardio routine and some jumping jacks can do the trick. 
  • Cool down! Allow your heart rate to return to normal by gradually easing it down through some more light cardio. 
  • Don’t worry if you miss a day! Even pro athletes forget. And sometimes, you just don’t have time or need to take a break. 
  • When in doubt, ask someone. If you aren’t sure how to perform an exercise, it's much better to ask a professional how to do it rather than risk pulling a muscle.

Here’s chart to pin up to remind you what you should do on each of the three days you weight lift. It’s a good idea to stretch often (consider stretching before this routine begins on day one) and remember to rest on day four! 

Monitor Your Glucose Levels with NutriSense 

Adopting weight lifting into your lifestyle is a simple, easy way to drastically improve your blood sugar levels and ultimately help your outlook with controlling diabetes. Throughout your exercise journey, monitor your blood sugar for patterns to help guide your workout routine to ensure you stay safe while maximizing the benefits. 

Tracking your blood sugar levels helps you see how food, sleep, diet, and other lifestyle factors affect your health. With a subscription to NutriSense, you can use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to track and monitor your levels in real-time. You also have access to your data in an innovative mobile app and your own credentialed dietitian or nutritionist to help you read and understand the data.

Click here to listen to the podcast.
Listen to the full podcast:
The Positive Impact Weight Lifting Has on Blood Sugar 
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A Simple & Effective Tool To Help Balance Your Hormones Stat
A Simple & Effective Tool To Help Balance Your Hormones Stat

Catherine Staffieri discusses the impact of glucose on hormones, perimenopause and menopause, weight loss and the incredible benefits of using a CGM as a tool to help you feel your best.

Podcast
43
min
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The Benefits of Using CGMs in Your Health Coach Practice
The Benefits of Using CGMs in Your Health Coach Practice

To discuss how a health coach can incorporate this in their practice, Health Coach Academy invited Carlee Hayes to the show.

Story
12
min
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20 Mental Health and Wellness Podcasts Recommended by Dietitians
20 Mental Health and Wellness Podcasts Recommended by Dietitians

This week, we’ve compiled some of our favorite podcasts that go beyond nutrition. Here are 20 wellness-focused podcasts to add to your queue.

Story
12
min
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Are BCAAs Worth It? The Bottom Line on Branched-Chain Amino Acids
Are BCAAs Worth It? The Bottom Line on Branched-Chain Amino Acids

Are BCAAs worth it? This post digs into 30+ years of research to answer this question. The answer may surprise you.

Story
8
min
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Science Backed Tips for Menopause-Related Weight Gain
Science Backed Tips for Menopause-Related Weight Gain

Menopause can be a difficult journey, so we've compiled some of the most effective, science backed tips to help you with menopause-related weight gain.

Story
8
min
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Help Dad Stay Healthy this Father's Day
Help Dad Stay Healthy this Father's Day

Father’s Day is around the corner, and whether you’re celebrating your dad, a father figure, or another cherished loved one, helping them take care of their health can be the ultimate gift.

Story
10
min
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11 Great Low-Carb Snacks to Add to Your Diet [+ 5 Recipes our Dietitians Love]
11 Great Low-Carb Snacks to Add to Your Diet [+ 5 Recipes our Dietitians Love]

Here's a helpful list of some of our favorite low-carb snacks that can help you keep your diet varied and full of healthy nutrients.

Story
7
min
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Low Glycemic Index Recipe Ideas Everyone Will Enjoy
Low Glycemic Index Recipe Ideas Everyone Will Enjoy

Whether you're looking for low GI summer snacks or healthy sweet treats, this post has got you covered. Here are tasty low glycemic index recipes everyone will enjoy!

Story
8
min
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Do Grapes Raise Blood Sugar Levels?
Do Grapes Raise Blood Sugar Levels?

Wondering if grapes are safe for people with diabetes to include in their diet? Read on to find out.

Story
7
min
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The Relationship Between Cholesterol and Blood Sugar
The Relationship Between Cholesterol and Blood Sugar

Cholesterol plays a very important role in the human body, contributing to the structure of the cells, helping with vitamin D synthesis, and also promoting the production of steroid and sex hormones, like cortisol, aldosterone, testosterone, and estrogen. But how exactly is cholesterol connected to blood glucose levels?

Story
11
min
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20 Questions to Ask Your CGM Provider (with Kara Collier)
20 Questions to Ask Your CGM Provider (with Kara Collier)

We sat down with Kara Collier, our co-founder and VP of Health here at NutriSense, to take a closer look at how CGMs work and what you need to know about these devices before using one.

Story
7
min
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Are Carbs and Sugar the Same? 
Are Carbs and Sugar the Same? 

Are carbs and sugar the same? In this post, we break down the key differences between the two and share the benefits of complex carbohydrates.

Story
9
min
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Best Recovery Breakfasts to Beat Post-Workout DOMS
Best Recovery Breakfasts to Beat Post-Workout DOMS

Read on to learn more about DOMS, how long it can last, and then pick from our list of the best breakfasts to help beat that post-workout soreness, support muscle building, and encourage fat loss.

Story
13
min
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7 Plant-Derived Supplements to Help Lower Blood Sugar
7 Plant-Derived Supplements to Help Lower Blood Sugar

When it comes to lowering blood sugar levels, not all supplements are created equal. From ginseng to aloe vera, here are some of the best supplements to help avoid high blood sugar and encourage blood sugar control.

Story
8
min
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Is Bloating After Surgery Normal?
Is Bloating After Surgery Normal?

Bloating that results from a surgery can sometimes be an unexpected part of the recovery process. Is there anything you can do to reduce bloating or prevent it from happening? And what causes this bloating anyway? Read on to find the answer to these questions and much more to help you combat your post-surgery swelling. 

Story
9
min
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Is Fiber a Carb? 
Is Fiber a Carb? 

Learn why fiber is classified as a carb and how to increase your intake of this health promoting nutrient.

Story
9
min
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Living with Autoimmune Conditions: Parkinson’s Disease 
Living with Autoimmune Conditions: Parkinson’s Disease 

Did you know Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease? Read on to learn what it's like living with PD plus discover treatment options.

Story
10
min
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An Expert Breaks Down 11 Viral Health Trends
An Expert Breaks Down 11 Viral Health Trends

From rosemary water to dry scooping, should you be trying every new trend that hits TikTok? How can you tell which ones may help and which ones to steer clear of?

Story
8
min
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Does Eating Too Much Sugar Affect Your Skin?
Does Eating Too Much Sugar Affect Your Skin?

As great as sugar tastes, including too much of it in your diet can lead to certain health problems. Read on to learn more about the role sugar plays in keeping your skin healthy.

Story
9
min
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14 Health and Nutrition Podcasts Recommended by Dietitians
14 Health and Nutrition Podcasts Recommended by Dietitians

Read on to see which podcasts our dietitians recommend if you’re interested in learning more about nutrition and health.

Story
7
min
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Does Nicotine Affect Blood Glucose?
Does Nicotine Affect Blood Glucose?

Nicotine is a chemical in tobacco that can affect your health in various ways. Read our article to learn how it impacts blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity.

Story
9
min
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Why Everyone, Including Healthy People Should Use CGMs
Why Everyone, Including Healthy People Should Use CGMs

CGMs are now an excellent tool for anyone who wants to optimize their metabolic health. Read on to find out more about the benefits CGMs can have for healthy people!

Story
10
min
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Why Do People Need to Lose Weight Before Bariatric Surgery?
Why Do People Need to Lose Weight Before Bariatric Surgery?

Although bariatric surgery can be an effective way to lose weight and improve health for people who are obese, it’s a major decision. Find out what lifestyle changes you need to make before going under the knife.

Story
8
min
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NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Favorite Grilling Recipes
NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Favorite Grilling Recipes

Excited to fire up the grill this summer? Read on to learn if grilling is healthy for you plus check out the NutriSense Nutrition Team's favorite grilling recipes for the season.

Story
9
min
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How a Healthy Gut Improves Blood Sugar
How a Healthy Gut Improves Blood Sugar

Did you know that your gut health can impact your blood glucose levels? Explore ways to improve your gut health for optimal glucose levels.

Story
8
min
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Living With Autoimmune Conditions: Rheumatoid Arthritis
Living With Autoimmune Conditions: Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease that can cause swelling and joint pain. Learn more about how it develops and how other health conditions affect its onset.

Story
10
min
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13 Best Weight Loss Apps to Consider
13 Best Weight Loss Apps to Consider

We’ve hand-picked the best weight loss apps available. Here are the thirteen best weight loss apps.

Story
8
min
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What is Red Light Therapy?
What is Red Light Therapy?

An emerging treatment, red light therapy promises to prevent and treat the signs of aging and other skin issues. Read on to find out more.

Story
9
min
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Diets People are Most Likely to Give Up On [+Tips to Stick with Them]
Diets People are Most Likely to Give Up On [+Tips to Stick with Them]

Struggling to stick with a health-promoting diet? Here’s how to make it enjoyable so you can reap the benefits.

Podcast
85
min
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Kara Collier on Optimal Health Through Blood Sugar Regulation
Kara Collier on Optimal Health Through Blood Sugar Regulation

VP of Health and co-founder of NutriSense Kara Collier discusses reaching optimal health through blood sugar regulation, what a continuous glucose monitor is, and who might benefit from using it.

Podcast
16
min
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How to Turn Your Idea into a 120 Person Team with Dan Zavorotny
How to Turn Your Idea into a 120 Person Team with Dan Zavorotny

In this episode of Zero to CEO, Jason Sherman talks to Dan Zavorotny about how to turn your idea into a 120 person team in 2.5 years.

Story
7
min
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A Breakdown of Body Mass Index (BMI)
A Breakdown of Body Mass Index (BMI)

Body mass index is a term you may have seen tossed around quite a bit in the health world. You may know that it’s a way to measure body fat, but with so many new tests for measuring overall fitness and health, is BMI still reliable?

Story
8
min
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Glucose-Friendly Recipes to Enjoy This Memorial Day
Glucose-Friendly Recipes to Enjoy This Memorial Day

If you're watching your glucose levels, traditional BBQ staples may not be the best choice. Here are some recipes that will help you enjoy a Memorial Day meal without a blood sugar spike.

Story
8
min
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Taking Mental Health Online: Tips & Tools for Self-Care
Taking Mental Health Online: Tips & Tools for Self-Care

Mental health has a significant impact on your overall health; here are tips, tools, and apps to improve your mental wellbeing.

Story
8
min
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Can You Check Your Blood Sugar at Home Without a Meter
Can You Check Your Blood Sugar at Home Without a Meter

Living with diabetes can be a challenge, especially when it comes to keeping your blood sugar levels regulated. Learn if you can check your blood sugar at home without a meter.

Story
10
min
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NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Best Sunscreen for all Skin Types
NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Best Sunscreen for all Skin Types

With summer right around the corner, it’s time to make sure you have the tools you need to protect yourself from sunburn and sun damage. But how do you choose the right one for adequate sun protection?

Story
8
min
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Japanese Water Therapy & Weight Loss: What’s the Deal? 
Japanese Water Therapy & Weight Loss: What’s the Deal? 

Learn how Japanese water therapy can help with weight loss, energy levels, and detoxification.