Insulin resistance is a dangerous physiologic condition in which your cells don’t readily bind to the hormone insulin and blood sugar levels get out of control. It brings with it several unwanted conditions including obesity, fatigue, and heart disease.
Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas in response to a rise in blood sugar. Its main role is to regulate the amount of nutrients circulating in the bloodstream. When you eat a meal, the amount of sugar (glucose) in your blood stream increases. Insulin binds with your cells to store the glucose either in muscle as glycogen (the energy source for the muscle) or as fat.
In certain situations, the cells become resistant to insulin. When this happens, the body will pump out more insulin in an effort to bring blood sugar levels down. This is an essential physiological effect because very high amounts of sugar in the blood can have harmful effects, causing damage to organs, inducing a coma, or potentially leading to death if untreated.
When you have high blood sugar, the pancreas may not be able to keep up anymore. The cells in the pancreas can become damaged. This leads to decreased insulin production and can progress to diabetes.
The cause of insulin resistance is not completely understood, however, scientists theorize that the primary factors causing it are obesity, lack of physical activity, and inflammation.
Many practitioners in mainstream health care just accept insulin resistance as a fact of life, but this is a terrible mistake. With the following lifestyle and dietary habits, it’s completely possible to reverse insulin resistance and achieve peak metabolic health.
Tip #1: Perform A Strength Training Program
There’s abundant evidence that exercise improves insulin health. You’ll get the greatest impact from lifting moderately heavy weights (65 to 85 percent of maximal for 8 to 15 reps). This type of training increases muscle mass, which means more insulin receptors and a greater storage tank for carbs.
Tip #2: Avoid Sitting For Long Periods
Sitting for long periods reduces insulin sensitivity even if you work out frequently and do everything else on this list right. For example, just 3 days of physical inactivity in young, active people caused insulin sensitivity to plummet and the participants gained belly fat. You don’t have to run around the block. Just get up and walk around a bit every 30 to 60 minutes.
Tip #3: Do Conditioning
Both interval and endurance training will improve insulin sensitivity, but only in trained muscle. So, if you’re running or doing bike sprints, you’ll be fairly insulin sensitive in leg musculature, but less so in the upper body. That’s why it’s important to start with total body strength training and use conditioning to give you that extra edge.
Tip #4: Go High In Protein & Fat
Research consistently shows that diets lower in carbohydrates but higher in protein and fat improve insulin sensitivity because they moderate blood glucose levels. This reduces carb cravings and allows you to stay steadier and on an even keel with your eating instead of bingeing on carbs due to blood sugar spikes and valleys.
Tip #5: Optimize Carb Intake
If you’re sedentary and overweight, you probably have a high degree of insulin resistance. Optimal carb intake will likely be in the low range—around 50 grams a day. For others who exercise regularly, 100 to 200 grams of carbs a day is probably ideal until you reach a healthy body fat percentage.
Tip #6: Avoid Refined Carbs & Added Sugar
Sugar and refined carbs have one thing in common: They both spike blood glucose, which results in too much insulin being released. Then, once the insulin mops up all the glucose, you crave more sugar or carbs. Over time, the cells don’t respond to insulin as well and resistance sets in.
#7: Eat More Vegetables
The number one thing lacking in most people’s diets are vegetables: We’re talking leafy greens, peppers, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, cauliflower, eggplant, and so on—not French fries or tomato sauce! It’s not just that veggies are low in calories. Rather, they contain fiber and antioxidants that slow the blood sugar response and automatically make your cells more sensitive to insulin.
#8: Get Enough Magnesium
Magnesium is the mineral of insulin sensitivity because it exerts positive effects on the insulin receptors in each cell of the body. In one trial of overweight people, taking 365 mg of magnesium for 6 months significantly improved insulin sensitivity, glucose tolerance, and blood pressure by the end of the study.
#9: Get Enough Sleep
Following just one night of poor sleep, insulin sensitivity is reduced because the stress hormone cortisol is elevated. This causes us to crave higher carb foods, but when we eat them, we often feel worse afterward because glucose tolerance is reduced. Anytime you can’t get enough sleep, be especially cautious with food choices and do everything you can to improve insulin sensitivity.
#10: Avoid Eating Late At Night
The foods people eat late tend to be higher carb foods, elevating insulin, which ends up throwing off our circadian rhythms. High insulin inhibits good sleep because melatonin, the sleep hormone, is only released after insulin falls. Short-term, you get one restless night, but long-term late night eating can completely jack up hormone balance.