Recent insights, tips, and strategies I want you to know.
I’m back with Part 2 of my 3 part mini-series about a few key hormones that affect fat loss and body composition.
Last time we talked, I gave you some insight into what happens with chronically high cortisol, and I gave you some very specific strategies to lower your cortisol to a more optimal level for fat-burning.
Read about that HERE if you happened to miss it.
Today, we’re all about insulin: the 'love handle hormone'.
We'll talk what it is, why it gets sh*t on in the fat loss community, and how to better manage insulin levels to work for you.
Insulin is the 'love handle hormone' because it is becoming increasingly more evident that the collection of fat around the midline, the 'spare tire/love handle' area, is due to a decrease in insulin sensitivity.
First, before we get into insulin sensitivity, a quick background on insulin.
**If you don’t want the science-y stuff and want to get straight to the “What should I do?” part, then just skip to the bottom and get to work!**
But if you’re like me, and you like to get more educated on how your body works, then read on, mi amigo.
so, insulin...what's that exactly?
It’s a hormone that’s released by the pancreas when there is a rise of glucose in our blood. This glucose comes from the foods you eat (mainly carbohydrates), and is necessary for energy production.
Ever see a 2 year old eat a handful of skittles? That’s elevated blood sugar and energy production in full effect.
Insulin basically tells your cells to open up and let the glucose in, so it can help you do stuff, like run, lift, and get your everyday tasks done.
And because your body is super smart, your pancreas will release just enough insulin to match the amount of glucose in your blood.
This, of course, is the ideal way in which the insulin/glucose relationship works.
When glucose and insulin are happily working together, all is right in the world (that is your body) and insulin isn't the big scary monster that some people feel it is.
But when the pancreas stops working as efficiently, then, well...
...Then we gots problems.
Once the engine that is the pancreas stops pumping out enough insulin, you'll have a build-up of glucose in your blood. You either become resistant to the insulin or insulin production stops completely.
With this glucose floatin’ around your bloodstream with nowhere to go, you don’t get the energy production you need to thrive and the glucose that is in your blood builds up to potentially toxic levels.
Now, this article isn’t about how to avoid diabetes necessarily, it’s about to how to keep insulin levels in check to avoid fat gain and enhance fat burning. So let’s shift our focus.
insulin under control = avoid fat gain & optimize fat-burning.
For simplicity, let's assume that your pancreas is working just fine and you don’t have any medical conditions.
We now know that insulin is good to help glucose get into your cells for energy production. We also know that insulin rises after you eat, especially after eating carbohydrates.
Knowing this, how can you keep insulin under control to optimize fat burning and limit the insulin spikes leading to potential fat storage?
First, take a look at the types of foods.
Processed foods, that come in a box, a bag, are stored in the middle aisles of the grocery store, or have ingredients you can’t pronounce, are huge culprits of quickly spiking insulin levels.
Because these foods go through a lot of processing in factories around the world, they are broken down during processing, so your body doesn’t have to work very hard to digest them. This raises your blood sugar levels higher and faster.
Obvious processed foods would be cookies, crackers, chips, sauces, frozen dinners, etc. Not-so-obvious ones would be breads, cereals, pastas, and pre-cooked (boxed) proteins.
When you eat whole foods with minimal processing, even if higher in carbohydrates, it retains more nutrients and your body takes longer to break this food down.
For example, which do you think breaks down faster into your system and spikes insulin levels higher: Apple sauce, or a whole apple? The apple sauce, of course.
This is why insulin, and insulin spikes, are harmful to your fat loss efforts.
Frequent insulin spikes make the pancreas work overtime and can eventually make glucose resistant to insulin, which leads to the build-up of excess glucose, which is then stored as fat.
This is why you will hear from many fat loss folks that insulin is the devil and carbohydrates spike your insulin and that's what makes you fat.
If you're now thinking that eating only proteins, fats, and vegetables are the way to go, to prevent this insulin rise, you're on the right track - but not getting the complete picture.
there's more: the timing.
Carbohydrates (that are high in fiber) are still good for you to eat. Potatoes, rice, quinoa, or whole oats are all great sources of energy that won’t give you the high and fast insulin surges like the processed versions.
The type of food you eat matters a ton. But you also want to be aware of the timing of your meals.
Remember how I said that frequent insulin spikes make the pancreas work overtime? Well, spreading out your meals will help your body keep the insulin/glucose balance and stay insulin sensitive (this is good).
So, with respect to meal timing, here's an easy place to start: Only eat when you're actually hungry.
I know, strange concept.
But here's what you can try: Regardless of the time of day, only try to eat meals when you are physically hungry. If you wake up in the morning, and think you should eat breakfast, but aren't hungry, then skip it.
If you get home from work, and had a big lunch but it's around dinner time so you think you should eat, then skip it.
Use this scale to help decide if it's time to eat: When you're thinking about eating, ask yourself, on a scale from 1-10, "How hungry am I?"
If you're a 6 or lower, then wait an hour and reassess. If your at a 7, then go ahead and eat. Lotsa protein, veggies, and some healthy fats.
Then, try not to eat for another 4 or 5 hours. Being a little bit hungry is actually good for your fat loss efforts; it will allow your body to burn a bit more fat in between meals, let your digestive system rest, and become more insulin sensitive.
Lastly, with regards to meal timing and insulin, you're best to eat your starchy foods (potatoes, rice, quinoa, etc.) only after you have finished your workout for that day.
This will maximize your body's ability to utilize the incoming glucose and shuttle it to the now-recovering muscle tissues.
If you haven't trained or aren't planning on it today, then skip the starchy foods and stick with protein, veggies, and fats for the day.
the skimmer's version wrap-up:
We got a little heavy with the biology side of things today, but to summarize everything nice and simple for you, follow this approach:
Follow those 3 easy guidelines and it will help keep insulin at healthy levels and help your body to use it more efficiently - which helps you build more of your ideal body.
Comment below and let me know if I taught you anything today, and what your next meal is going to be!
Weight Loss Mini-Course