Question: Hi Alex. I am 52 yrs old, 5'7" and 165 lbs. I want to build a ripped physique, but don't necessarily want to grow really big. I just want a body with a defined muscle structure.
I understand, that to build more muscle, I need to increase my caloric intake. The problem is, I am a diabetic with a prescribed caloric requirement.
How can I possibly increase my muscle mass and yet, limit my caloric intake, which is designed to control my blood sugar? I hope you can enlighten me on this one. Thanks.
Answer: That's an interesting question you pose, Andrew. I'll do my best to answer it, but I am by no means an expert on diabetes.
So to be safe, please consult your doctor before implementing any of my suggestions regarding nutrition, training or otherwise.
Now, hopefully I can help you find a way to become leaner and more muscular. I'm guessing that your caloric intake is at least at maintenance level. That is, your bodyweight remains static over time when eating at this level.
Since you want to gain some muscle, it would be ideal if you could increase your caloric intake from its current level. You would only need to increase it by 250-500 calories over your current maintenance intake. Do you have any flexibility with your intake, or is it completely set in stone?...
...Check with your doc to see if there's some way you can safely increase your intake. Ask him or her if it's possible to increase your total caloric intake by eating greater quantities of foods that help to control your blood sugar (e.g. whole grains).
Additionally, since it is an established fact that weight training improves insulin sensitivity as well as blood sugar control, these benefits may cancel out any negatives from eating more calories. Again, though, that's something to go over with your doctor.
If it turns out that you can increase your caloric intake, then you are set to start gaining muscle and getting ripped just like any non-diabetic lifter would. It's only a matter of choosing an effective weight training routine and consistently putting in the hard work.
If, however, you aren't allowed to raise your calories at all, don't worry. All hope is not lost.
Since you said you really only care about getting a "body with a defined muscle structure," you can still make great progress towards this goal without a surplus of calories...
...You'd simply keep your caloric intake as is, and initiate your training regimen. By maintaining your current caloric intake, you would actually be in a slight deficit from the increased exercise activity.
Thus, you would begin to notice a gradual reduction in bodyfat.
Despite being in a slight caloric deficit, you would still experience a noticeable surge in strength over the first few months due to being a beginner. It's even possible that you experience some muscle growth during this early phase, as well (ahh yes, the beauty of newbie gains).
Of course, the most desirable scenario would be that in which you are able to increase your caloric intake by 250-500 calories over maintenance.
So I again urge you to contact your doctor about this now, so that you can start your transformation ASAP.