One of the best kept secrets of the fitness world is that insulin health is the most underrated factors in fat loss and getting an awesome physique.
Insulin is a very anabolic hormone and it will drive nutrients into muscle cells. In an insulin resistant state you are much more likely to store the food you eat as fat. When you are insulin resistant, results will be slow and you won’t change your body as dramatically or as quickly as someone who is more insulin sensitive.
There are two ways to improve insulin sensitivity: Strength training and diet. First, strength training has a profoundly beneficial influence on insulin sensitivity and because it increases the receptivity of the muscles to insulin, increasing their demand for glucose.
Second, smart nutrition will improve insulin sensitivity, and one of the best ways to do this is to eat meals that are slowly digested so that glucose or sugar is released into your blood very gradually. This steady, moderate release of glucose allows for an equally moderate release of the hormone insulin from the pancreas—remember the function of insulin is to shuttle energy into your cells.
Insulin also aids in getting the nutrients necessary for protein synthesis and muscle development into the muscle cells, which is the reason it can help you build muscle if you use insulin to your advantage.
Foods that are low-glycemic, such as meat, nuts, and green vegetables, result in this ideal, moderate release of glucose and insulin. In contrast, higher glycemic foods, such as grains, refined or processed foods, and some fruits, will be digested very rapidly and raise your blood sugar with a bang. This leads to a lot of insulin being released all at once, and unless you’ve just done a very strenuous workout that used up all your stored energy, a greater percentage of the glucose will be stored as fat.
It also means there will be excess insulin floating around, which causes inflammation, basically damaging the cells. However, if you moderate your glycemic response correctly, your body will work like clockwork, ensuring that the food you eat is stored as energy in the muscle and used in your brain to enable optimal cognitive function.
Research shows that this method works: A recent study tested the effect of having people eat either low- or high-glycemic diets for a month. The low-glycemic diet resulted in a 43 percent lower glucose level and a 27 percent lower insulin level during the four hours after the meal.
The extreme solution to managing your glycemic load is to eliminate ALL high-glycemic foods. However, it’s useful to have some tools so that you aren’t overly restricted, or if you use "cheat" meals.
For instance, foods that effectively lower the glycemic response include dark red, blue, and purple fruits (blueberries, cherries, blackberries, strawberries), certain fats (omega-3s DHA and EPA, or coconut oil), and herbs such as fenugreek. Use these foods by eating them with higher glycemic foods because the body ends up requiring less insulin to get the job done, leading to less damage from the high carbohydrate load. The following are some additional ways of managing the glycemic response:
• Pair berries with oatmeal or whole wheat toast with sugar free blueberry jam.
• If you choose to eat bread, look for non-gluten grain versions cooked with the herb fenugreek. Research shows this meal improves the blood sugar response of diabetics.
• Use cinnamon to improve insulin sensitivity—mix it with yogurt and add berries because dairy is very insulogenic.
• Cook with coconut oil or other beneficial fats when preparing higher carb foods to minimize the glycemic load. Or if you don’t have control over the fat used to prepare food, take fish oil with your meal to manage your insulin.
Deng, R., A Review of the Hypoglycemic Effects of Five Commonly Used Herbal Food Supplements. Recent Patents in Food and Nutritional Agriculture. 2012. 4(1), 50-60.