What if i were to let you in on a little secret? One so big that it will change the way you eat and think about meal composition forever?

Something so crucial to control, that it has the power to dismantle any fat loss effort? And it has to do with effectively managing your bodies insulin response to foods. What we are talking about here, the hormonal implications of nutrition programming for body composition, really is the biggest piece of the fat loss puzzle for most people.

OUR PRESENT SITUATION

Statistics presented by 'Diabetes Australia,' state that Diabetes is 'the fastest growing chronic condition in Australia,' with 280 people on average being newly diagnosed every day. It also goes on to state that 2 million Australians are being screened as pre-diabetics yearly, and are at a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Of these 2 million, it is reported that an astronomical 58% of all these cases that develop into full blown type 2 diabetes, are actually preventable.

For those unfamiliar, type 2 Diabetes is a degenerative condition caused primarily by poor dietary and lifestyle choices. Lack of exercise usually combined with a diet high in refined, processed foods and simple sugars combined are commonly the 'smoking gun' that leads to the development of an 'insulin resistant' state. Unless you are having your blood panels run regularly, insulin resistance goes largely undetected. However over time, it slowly creates a dramatic metabolic shift leading to unwanted weight gain and a downward spiral of other health complications.

Insulin resistance is also a precursor to a condition coined 'metabolic syndrome' or 'syndrome X.' Closely related to type 2 diabetes it affects 1 in 3 American adults. Metabolic syndrome is indicated if you have 3 or more of the following: insulin resistance, high BMI and elevated blood triglycerides. Once set in, the individual is a high risk target for the onset of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, non-alcohol related fatty liver disease and obesity. 

The good news is that this condition is reversible, the bad news is that the prevalence of insulin resistance and cases of metabolic syndrome are on the rise. The bottom line, is that a lifetime of poor food and lifestyle choices impairs insulin management making you sick, fat and it gets worse as you age.

WHAT IS INSULIN SENSITIVITY?

Insulin sensitivity is the term we use to describe our body's ability to optimally respond to insulin, a hormone secreted by the beta cells of the pancreas, which helps regulate our blood sugar. With the rise in popularity of low-carb dieting and the demonising of carbohydrates in general, it is insulin's role in relation to being responsible for lipogenesis, a term to describe 'fat storage,' which has caused it to gained notoriety. 

This is because insulin is released from the pancreas in the presence of glucose in the bloodstream, the body's primary fuel source. Insulin primes the cells of the body to pick up the glucose from the bloodstream to use as energy, and whatever cannot be utilised is then sent to the liver to be converted into triglycerides, circulate back through the bloodstream and be stored as fat around the body. Now despite its bad wrap, insulin in itself is not all bad. It plays a vital role in our bodies as an anabolic hormone, both signalling protein synthesis responsible for muscle growth and cell repair, and for regulating blood glucose levels. When kept in line, and by a diet chronically high carb/high sugar eating patterns constantly spiking insulin levels, you may be entering an insulin resistant state.

The takeaway here is that the more insulin sensitive you are, the less insulin that needs to be secreted in order to drive glucose uptake into your bodies cells, as they are more receptive. Insulin resistance is the opposite, and occurs when the body's cells become less responsive to insulin, which spurs the pancreas to keep secreting more and more insulin to acheive the same effect. In an insulin resistant state, this signalling pathway for cells to intake glucose is impaired, and consequently the pancreas begins to upregulate the production of insulin until it can produce no more. In the absence of insulin blood sugar levels rise and stay elevated as the cells are not absorbing glucose efficiently. Chronically high blood sugar levels are toxic to the individual and result in increased levels of inflammation and oxidative stress to the body, particularly to the liver and pancreas because they are under such heavy burden by hormone production and glucose metabolism. 

PROMOTING INSULIN SENSITIVITY

Insulin resistance and weight gain go hand in hand, and if you are looking to change your body composition efficiently, then focus on becoming as insulin sensitive as possible to spearhead your efforts in the gym.

Here is the golden rule: If you want to get lean, then focus on improving insulin sensitivity. If you want to build lean muscle mass, then focus on improving insulin sensitivity.

The reason behind this ideology is because the fatter you are, the greater your degree of insulin resistance. Science backs up the positive link between exercise, resistance training in particular, being ideal for eliciting hormonal responses and increases in muscle mitochondria favourable for energy production time and time again.

By far THE most effective thing that you can do in order to promote insulin sensitivity and become a fat burning machine, is to make some simple changes to your diet and lifestyle. Diet especially is key here. Learning to structure your eating habits and meal composition so that it is geared towards regulating blood sugar, stabilising energy levels, reducing inflammation and oxidative stress to the body, and improving liver detoxification is a great start! If insulin is not performing its function optimally and insulin resistance is playing a part then be sure to pay attention as well to strategies to support detoxification and combat inflammation of the liver and pancreas, so that they have an opportunity to regenerate and function properly.

DIETARY GUIDELINES FOR IMPROVING INSULIN SENSITIVITY

  • Span your meals evenly apart, preferably every 2-4 hours. This is primarily to increase feelings of satiety and to regulate blood sugar levels so that you have a constant source of energy without crashing throughout the day.
  • Consider a high fat/high protein meal at breakfast. Something such as 'Charles Poliquin's Meat & Nuts Breakfast'is IDEAL. 
  • There is also a strong emphasis here on eating adequate animal protein from organic and/or grass fed sources to stay fuller for longer, and improve liver detoxification via the constant flow of amino acids coming from your protein sources.
  • Incorporate plenty of fresh fish and omega 3 enriched eggs into your diet. The beneficial omega 3 fatty acids found in abundance in both of these foods are highly effective in lowering inflammation in the body, increasing insulin sensitivity and burning fat.
  • If you train (and you have truly earn't them) then I would highly recommend consuming your carbs around your training. Preferably after training, as during this post workout window your degree of insulin sensitivity is acutely heightened. Which basically means the glucose synthesised from the carbohydrates you eat during this time, will be a lot more likely to be utilised in replensishing muscle glycogen then they will being stored on your hips.
  • Carbs are not evil, but it is advisable that you control the glycemic load of your meals. Typically sticking to low GI options as they tend to be slower release unlike high GI foods which spike blood sugar sky high. Bear in mind that by combining foods with a very low glycemic index with others, it helps to lower ther overall glycemic load of your meals, meaning that blood sugar stays stable.
  • High GI foods should be avoided at all costs. Remember the mantra, "If it is sweet or made of wheat, DO NOT EAT!" This includes the foods that arnold schwarzenegger termed 'white death' which include all refined, processed white products such as white flour and white sugar.
  • Eat high fibre with every meal in the form of low GI vegetables including kale, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Lettuce, Green Beans, brussel sprouts etc. 
  • Cook with coconut or olive oil. Avoid vegetable, sunflower or safflower oil as these tend to oxidise and contribute towards inflammation in the body.
  • Fruit juices, dairy and alcohol should all be avoided for the most part. Instead opt for filtered or mineral water or herbal teas to improve liver detoxification such as dandelion root and green tea.

SUPPLEMENTATION TO PROMOTE INSULIN SENSITIVITY

  • Vitamin D: 5,000IU per day. Dosages can be higher or lower dependant upon level of deficiency.
  • High Strength Fish Oil : 1,000 to 4,000 mg a day. Improves insulin sensitivity, lowers cholesterol, and reduces inflammation.
  • Magnesium Glycinate: 200 to 300 mg a day but can be higher dependant on how deficient you are. helps with glucose metabolism.
  • Chromium (500 to 1,000 mcg day) is very important for proper sugar metabolism.
  • R-Alpha Lipoic Acid (300 mg twice a day), a powerful antioxidant that can reduce blood sugar significantly.
  • Fenugreek: 500mg to 1g daily can help regulate blood sugar levels and is especially effective in diabetics.

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PLEASE ENSURE THAT YOU CONSULT WITH A PHYSICIAN BEFORE COMMENCING ANY TYPE OF NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTATION TO DISCUSS WHETHER IT IS RIGHT FOR YOU AS SOMEOF THE NUTRIENTS LISTED CAN BE TOXIC IF TAKEN IN LARGE DOSES OVER TIME.


REFERENCES:

  • Diabetes Australia. 'Understanding Diabetes.' Retrieved from  http://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/Understanding-Diabetes
  • Jim Lavalle, R.Ph, C.C.N., N.D with Stacy Lundin Yale, R.N., B.S.N., 2004, 'Cracking The Metabolic Code' 
  • Eric T Trexler, Abbie E Smith-Ryan and Layne E Norton. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition , 2014, 11:7 doi:10.1186/1550-2783-11-7. Metabolic Adaptation To Weight Loss: Implications For The Athlete. Retrieved from http://www.jissn.com/content/11/1/7.
  • Eric E Noreen*, Michael J Sass, Megan L Crowe, Vanessa A Pabon, Josef Brandauer and  Lindsay K Averill, Effects of supplemental fish oil on resting metabolic rate, body composition, and salivary cortisol in healthy adults, Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2010, 7:31 doi:10.1186/1550-2783-7-31. Retrieved from: http://www.jissn.com/content/7/1/31
  • Bob Rountree MD, 04/03/2014, Metabolic Syndrome Webinar. Retrieved from: https://thorne.com/practitioners/resources/metabolic-syndrome-webinar

DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT PROVIDE ANY MEDICAL ADVICE. Information contained within this article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare practitioner or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. You should not use the information within this article for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. You should always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement or adopting any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, promptly contact your healthcare provider. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read in this article. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.