My name is Brendan Beaulieu. I’m a 23 year old network analyst and I’ve been training for about 2.5 years. I’ve also had type 1 diabetes for roughly 15 years now.
The first picture is me when I was 17. I was 5’9″, about 165 lbs and basically the epitome of geek. If you looked “geek” up in the dictionary my mug would be right there. I took computer repair and networking courses in high school, built my own computer (and broke it), and gamed all night. Once I graduated high school I immediately started working for a telecom company. Basically my idea of a crazy Saturday night was buying some Diet Mountain Dew and having a LAN party in my parents’ basement. Here’s the thing though – I’m still that kid except I’m 23 now and I lift. I’m still obsessed with technology, I still work in the IT field, and I still love to game. In popular culture, geeks and bros would never be seen together, but in the real world the two lifestyles mesh pretty damn well.
So, how does a guy like that start lifting? There are a couple reasons – I was depressed and I was losing control of my type 1 diabetes. It was a vicious circle. The more my health nosedived the more depressed I became and vice versa and it also didn’t help that I had been through a rough break up. That may not be such a big deal looking back, but at 18 it was pretty devastating and I never really bounced back. On top of that my weight shot up to an unhealthy 185 lbs. At some point, my friends and family managed to convince me to take my health more seriously, so I reluctantly signed up for a gym membership, hopped on the treadmill, and tried to watch my diet. As some of you may have guessed, it didn’t work. I hated running on the treadmill (yeah I have asthma btw), and I honestly knew very little about nutrition besides the fact that I had to shoot up when I ate some carbs. My glucose levels were still bouncing up and down and I didn’t feel any better mentally.
I stopped going to the gym altogether until a friend of mine offered to show me the ropes and go lift with me. I hadn’t ever considered lifting in my life and held the mentality that anyone who lifts is just a narcissistic dumb ass. I essentially assumed the bro stereotype was fact. Either way, I reluctantly agreed to hit the weights simply because I didn’t have any better ideas myself to improve my situation. The first day sucked REALLY hard. Well, more like the day after the first day. I was so damn sore and had no clue why anyone would willingly do this to their own body, but my friend was still around to make sure I kept with it.
After the first couple weeks of doing a basic push/pull bodybuilding split, I started to see results; not anything anyone would notice just by looking at me, but very little things that only I’d be able to notice. My glucose levels were stabilizing and my belly had shrunk a bit. I was finally seeing the fruits of my labor and I had this intense feeling of accomplishment that’s really difficult to describe. Overall, I just felt happy and it made those two weeks of struggle more than worth it in my eyes.
Eventually my friend let me take the reins and we stopped hitting the gym together. I became obsessed with constructing my own regimens and learning about nutrition. The more I learned, the better my condition became. Every time I hit a PR, it felt like I leveled up but only better because it was real life and the better I ate, the more I was rewarded with good glucose levels and successful visits with my endocrinologist. I slowly became happier with myself and thus my confidence rose.
The second picture is me after roughly 2.5 years. I now weigh in at 210lbs but my body fat is lower than when I first started. I took my squat from 135lb to 435, a 205lb deadlift to 515, and a 105lb bench to 315. My A1c (a general measure of your blood glucose control) dropped from 11 to a 6.5. I can’t remember the last time I needed my rescue inhaler. And while we all have our moments, I’m noticeably happier than I was 2.5 years ago.
This lifestyle essentially showed me the potential I have. Instead of drowning myself in nervous sweat, I walk into job interviews KNOWING the damn job belongs to me. Instead of shying away from social gatherings, I now welcome them because I know I’ll be liked as long as I put myself out there. And this goes without saying, but I look a helluva lot better than I used to. I actually enjoy going to the beach now which is pretty neat.
What this story shows is that lifting CAN be for everyone. It is solely responsible for tremendous improvements in my health and making me a much happier person.
It wasn’t for a long time and really got me down, but now my disorder is what drives me to train harder because the harder I train, the better my glucose levels are. It’s also nice to show my doctor that just because you have type 1 diabetes, doesn’t mean you can’t be active. It may be a challenge, but it’s not insurmountable.
Jason Poston is a huge influence for me. Early on in life, he was diagnosed with keratoconus which made him blind, then after that he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. He has overcome both, though, and now he’s a top physique competitor. He was able to tackle those setbacks head-on and come out a winner.
There’s one song that hits really close to home for me. It’s called Internal Cannon by a band called August Burns Red. It’s all about the journey of being in a dark place but still being able to overcome that darkness with hard work and dedication.
It took a lot of trial and error to figure out exactly what my diet should be macro-wise. I’ve had to count carbs for the past 15 years now due to my condition so that part was easy. What was difficult was figuring out where exactly I need to be with my protein and fats. While I don’t religiously count my macros, I’ve found that about 160-180g protein, 2-300g quality carbs (potatoes, rice, etc), and 60-70g fat is optimal for me for a fairly clean bulk. Once cutting time arrives, it’s just a matter of dropping the carbs and fat a bit and increasing protein.
I also really try to avoid anything but staples like creatine and BCAAs. Pre-workouts were nice for a little while, but they ended up being more of a placebo for me. When I took them, I felt that I was going to have a damn good workout, but it wasn’t because of them specifically. Once I convinced myself that I didn’t need them and stopped, my workouts didn’t suffer at all and my sleep actually improved since I wasn’t jacked up on caffeine all the time.
This is absolutely the beginning for me. In the future, given I keep improving my physique and keep getting stronger, I want to be able to compete in both bodybuilding shows and powerlifting meets. I think with some more time and training I will absolutely get there.