“Building muscles was my life changer” How Frank Karg works out with type 1
Sales company managing director Frank Karg, 53, wants other people with diabetes to know the health benefits of weight lifting
Tell us about your childhood.
I’m the youngest of seven and I grew up in Ohio, US. Me and my eldest brother Dan, who has since passed, were diagnosed with type 1 – him when he was four and me when I was 10. My brother had been dealing with diabetes for 17 years already so I was able to ask him – and the doctors – a lot of questions. My mother prepared me for the future by teaching me how to cook nutritious meals.
How did you deal with diabetes in your teens?
I had some control but wanted more. I was physically active – I loved tennis and scuba diving – but my blood glucose levels (BGLs) fluctuated a lot.
How did you get your BGLs under control?
It happened when I started lifting weights regularly at university in 1982. As I trained and gained muscle, my BGLs came into more acceptable ranges. I read a study about the fastest ways to build muscle fibre. That’s what changed everything for me.
What did your research lead you to?
I read about specific lifts that help you gain muscle mass the quickest, and about how the body stores glucose (glycogen) in the muscle fibres and the liver. I was excited and wanted to spread this message. Just last year I created some videos with simple exercises that are available on my website buildingmusclestohelp.com – to help people with diabetes.
Life is full of challenges, how do you manage that?
I met my Australian wife Katrina on holiday in Rome in 1997, and we moved from the USA to Brisbane in 2005. She tragically passed away in 2015 after complications of sclerosing peritonitis (a rare inflammatory condition). Dan had passed away in 2010 after two kidney transplants and losing them was
devastating. I managed my BGLs during those times by keeping a close eye on them, adjusting my insulin accordingly and I also continued lifting weights.
What support do you have?
My son James, who is 18. We’re a great father and son team. He, my friends and neighbours know what to do if I go into insulin shock – give me some Coca-Cola. Thankfully, they haven’t had to do that.
How has your health affected your son?
My attention to my health has influenced him. He doesn’t have diabetes but he eats nutritious food and lifts weights with me.
How is your health now?
My kidneys are good and I have no signs of neuropathy or impotency. I’ve worked hard to keep my diabetes in control and rarely have any troubles with it. I put my good health down to building muscle mass and eating well. I’m also careful to manage my medication well.
You love to exercise, how often do you workout?
I lift weights once or twice a week, play tennis once a week, cycle when I get the chance, and I love to scuba dive. People with diabetes who are regularly physically active more easily metabolise glucose and often require less daily insulin.
What’s your advice for other people with type 1 diabetes?
Build your muscles, eat properly and exercise. Walking is good for your heart and lifting weights is great for your diabetes. I’ve worked hard to keep my diabetes under control and have done a good job since I was 18 and started lifting weights.
In terms of food, I usually have a protein shake with apple juice after lifting weights, playing tennis or cycling.
I built my website to try and help people with diabetes in Australia. In my opinion more muscle equals more control. In general I’d say eat properly and exercise at least twice a week.