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New diet a big help with Demon's diabetes battle

Jack Fitzpatrick of the Demons in action during the Melbourne Demons training session at Gosch's Paddock, Melbourne on November 21, 2014. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Jack Fitzpatrick is enjoying a simpler life due to a new diet
The simplest way of putting it is that I've gone from having four injections of insulin a day to one
Jack Fitzpatrick

MELBOURNE’S new dietary regime has changed not only Jack Fitzpatrick's football performance, but also his life.

Fitzpatrick, diagnosed with type one diabetes in 2012, believes Melbourne’s low carbohydrate/high-fat diet – in contrast to the carbohydrate-heavy diet generally favoured by modern athletes – has helped him train at a higher intensity for longer.

After a period of adaptation, which Fitzpatrick estimates took up to a month, the young forward has cut down on his insulin reliance and is starting to lead a more 'normal' life.

Until now, Fitzpatrick has had to inject insulin into his body with every meal he eats.

He will still need to closely monitor his blood sugar levels, even during games, but the general convenience of his life has improved dramatically.

"The simplest way of putting it is that I've gone from having four injections of insulin a day to one," Fitzpatrick told AFL.com.au.

"It restores life to how it was three years ago before I was diagnosed."

Fitzpatrick was one of the first players to trial the diet after club doctor Zeeshan Arain suggested it might have a positive impact on his health.

However, Arain warned Fitzpatrick it would take some time for his body to adjust.

He began following the diet in the off-season, going "cold turkey" on foods containing carbohydrates and sugars.

Initially, Fitzpatrick lost quite a bit of weight, experienced some dizzy spells and also broke out into cold sweats.

But Arain prepared him for that and eventually, after a period of around a month, his body adapted to the diet - Fitzpatrick's blood sugar levels began to level out and he was feeling fit and healthy again.

By relying on fat as his main source of fuel, Fitzpatrick can spare glucose for certain organs in his body and he's less likely to have a hypoglycemic episode.

"I'm at the stage now where my condition is really well controlled and it's certainly starting to help with my performance," Fitzpatrick said.

"It took a bit of perseverance but I'm pretty glad I've stuck with it (the diet)."

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As he approaches his fifth season in the League, the 23-year-old is aware 2015 is pivotal for him considering he is out-of-contract at the end of this year.

"I've got the belief that I can really contribute to this club," Fitzpatrick said.

"I'm a big believer in, especially after becoming a diabetic, controlling what you can control.

"So if I can control what I can, and that's my performance, then that stuff will look after itself."

Fitzpatrick, who has booted 22 goals in 19 career games, will by vying for the forward/ruck spot in Paul Roos' side.

The 200cm, 99kg big man has the versatility to slot in alongside Jesse Hogan and Chris Dawes up forward and also provide support to either Mark Jamar or Max Gawn in the ruck.

"I'm feeling good and I'm feeling strong and I reckon when I'm playing well I do feel like I'm in our best 22," Fitzpatrick said.

"My job is to keep that form up and to force the coaches to pick me."