Can You Be a High-Performance Athlete With Diabetes Maia’s Story

Article written and reviewed by Cyrus Khambatta, PhD and Robby Barbaro, MPH
Published June 27, 2022

What if a small decision could take you from heavy insulin resistance, constant blood glucose spikes, and struggles with energy, to eating all the carbohydrates you wanted, cutting your insulin use by a third, and taking back an athletic life?

Well, for Maia, this was reality! A small change, and a two week phase of “I guess I’ll try it” turned into a life completely transformed, full of outdoor trail running, backcountry skiing, and most importantly – no limits. 

Read on to learn more about Maia’s amazing story!

Trying to Get Back to Life After a Diagnosis

Maia was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 18, and while it was a shock to her, the best piece of advice she got was “the quicker you got back to your old life, the quicker things would feel normal.”

So within 2 weeks she was back in a ski race, trying to figure out what to eat and not eat, how much insulin to take, all while balancing adrenaline, stress, and other hormones all at the same time.

To anyone who’s lived with type 1 diabetes, this can sound familiar. There can be an incredibly strong feeling of “I just want my life back” despite the big curveball you’ve been dealt, and if you don’t get lucky with your doctor and endocrinologist, it might lead to some decisions that might adversely affect your health, rather than help it. 

It was like this for Maia, who was told to switch to a keto diet, limit her carbohydrates to 20g a day, and figure out how to maintain her life along the way. And as so many people who have been prescribed keto can share, the results were less than ideal. 

Every time Maia exercised, she struggled with crazy blood sugar fluctuations. She developed amenorrhea (loss of your period), and on a routine checkup was informed that her liver was very overburdened, despite the fact that she wasn’t a heavy drinker.

It was clear that things needed to change. 

A Two Week Change That Turned to Much More

Facing liver complications at a young age, Maia began searching for natural ways to improve her liver health, and stumbled upon the work of Anthony William, who prescribed 9 days of eating just raw fruits and vegetables as a liver cleanse. 

Maia tried it, and everything changed. The 9 day prescription became two weeks, and Maia realized that she had more energy for sports and daily life, and a more stable blood glucose, all while eating 5x the amount of carbs she’d been eating before. 

Her insulin requirements had dropped too, and Maia decided right there to quit keto, and quit animal products for good. 

Discover Mastering Diabetes 

The next few months were a period of learning for Maia, who continued to research the ways that she could use a plant-based diet to live better with type 1 diabetes. And one game-changing moment for her came during an all-night study marathon for finals. 

Despite the looming challenge of tests the next day, Maia read the entire Mastering Diabetes book in one sitting, and discovered some crucial misunderstandings she’d been living with. 

She noted that doctors (MDs) are not required to take nutrition, which can lead to some confusing recommendations when it comes to diabetes. And she also found a stroke of sense about eating a high fat diet. 

As a researcher at UCSF, Maia spotted a quote that stuck with her. 

“In a lab, if you want to induce insulin resistance in rats, you feed them a high fat diet. I was studying exactly that, and when I read that from Cyrus I went ‘oh yeah, of course it would work the same with people.’”

Maia’s results on the final the next day were just fine, and the real, life-changing results came in the coming months. 

Living Life to the Fullest

Today, Maia has returned to her incredibly active lifestyle, where she skis and trail runs just like before she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Now, the only difference is that she chops up a couple apples or pieces of fruit to bring with her along the way. 

And her results have made such a difference for her that she wants to spread the news as much as possible, despite the fact that she acknowledges roadblocks like misinformation, the addictive nature of dairy, processed foods, and animal products, and the power of these money making industries. 

“I don’t like living in a way where I say ‘you can’t have this, or you can’t have that,’” Maia says. Instead, she wants to believe like she’s just choosing the foods that are right for her. 

“It’s not a diet with a capital D,” she continues. “It’s just some good choices to make.”

An Amazing Feeling

And as Maia is the first to tell you, the amazing results she’s seen have been all the convincing she’s needed. She eats 5x as many carbohydrates, and uses a third of the insulin. Her amenorrhea went away, and now she’s full of energy. 

To others, Maia offers a message of encouragement. 

“You’ve gotta find the drive and inspiration to do this for a good reason,” she explains. “Not for a bad one. It doesn’t have to always be restrictive.”

After all, Maia tried just two weeks of fruits and vegetables and dropped animal products forever. 

“It might change your blood sugar, but if it’s not going to work for your lifestyle, it doesn’t work,” she finishes. “But I can say it definitely worked for me.”

And if that sounds like something you might be interested in, keep reading! There's a reason that so many people are talking about their "A1c Miracle". It's because this method really works.

We have a range of programs from group coaching to private coaching, which can all help you take control of your life. In order to find out which option is best for you, we suggest booking a free discovery call. Simply click the link right here and you’ll be directed to a page where you book a time that works for you and speak with a member of the Mastering Diabetes team!

About the author 

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD and Robby Barbaro, MPH

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD, and Robby Barbaro, MPH are the coauthors of the New York Times bestselling book Mastering Diabetes: The Revolutionary Method to Reverse Insulin Resistance Permanently in Type 1, Type 1.5, Type 2, Prediabetes, and Gestational Diabetes. They are the cofounders of Mastering Diabetes, a coaching platform that teaches people how to reverse insulin resistance via low-fat, plant-based, whole-food nutrition. Cyrus has been living with type 1 diabetes since 2002, and has an undergraduate degree from Stanford University and a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry from UC Berkeley. Robby was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2000, and has been living a plant-based lifestyle since 2006. He worked at Forks Over Knives for 6 years, and earned a Master’s in Public Health in 2019.