Insulin – the fattening hormone?
Insulin – fattening hormone?
Is insulin making you gain weight?
Insulin our “sugar transport hormone” is an important companion when it comes to health, weight loss, cravings, etc. Surely you have heard of type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, etc. What it’s all about and how you can manage this hormone via your lifestyle and habits, you’ll find out in today’s article. There are many myths and conspiracy theories when it comes to insulin. Especially the topic of fat loss and insulin seems to cause considerable confusion.
Low Carb vs. High Carb!
What can be observed a bit is that there are, in a way, two camps – one is the low carb and keto camp, which believes insulin and carbohydrates are responsible for all the ills in the world and the abstention of carbohydrates is the holy grail for health and fat loss. On the other hand, there is the high carb camp that thinks – insulin is nothing but another marketing gag, and last but not least, the calories count.
In any case, today we will find out together who is right and what you should pay particular attention to, so as not to push it too far with this hormone.
What is the role of insulin in our body?
First and foremost, it is important to clarify which task insulin has in our body and in which processes this hormone is specifically involved. The easiest way to explain the role of insulin is to look at the following example: imagine a transport service that will deliver your packages to you. In our case, the transport service is not called UPS but insulin – and insulin does not transport packets but sugar – or more precisely, glucose. While the delivery service delivers your packages from the packing station to your home, insulin transports the glucose from the BLOOD CIRCUIT to your CELLS for use as energy.
This is the main task of insulin – the transport of glucose from the bloodstream to our cells. I’ll talk later about why there are problems with this mechanism more often than expected.
All carbs are sugar!
So maybe you’re thinking: “Well, sugar, I really eat little to none, because I know that sugar is not necessarily good for my body!”
While I can only support this of course, you should be aware that carbohydrate-containing foods such as bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, etc. in their smallest form are nothing more than simple sugars (monosaccharides in the jargon).
Carbs in general have a different influence on our blood sugar levels. However starchy foods like potatoes or bread, in their smallest form are nothing else than sugar.
Starch means that they are composed of several attached sugar molecules – in technical terms they are called polysaccharides and any form of carbohydrate that has over 11 attached sugar molecules is a polysaccharide.
There are also oligosaccharides with 3-10 sugar molecules (such as peas or other legumes), disaccharides with 2 sugar molecules each (such as table sugar, or lactose) and then just the monosaccharides – such as fructose, or glucose.
While I do not want to overemphasize you here with technical terms, it is important for me that you understand that any form of carbohydrate is ultimately nothing more than simple sugar, sometimes with a larger or smaller string. Every time we eat carbohydrates insulin is called as a parcel service with new deliveries.
What happens in the body when we eat carbohydrates?
Now we are going on a little journey through our body and we look in detail at what happens in our body in relation to insulin, when we for example eat a nice portion of pasta.
We eat the pasta, our body dissects the starch contained in it into small sugar building blocks by means of enzymes, the so-called amylase. Then these small building blocks enter the bloodstream and the blood sugar rises. Since an elevated blood sugar level can harm nerve cells, eyes, even whole organs, the pancreas produces insulin to transport glucose into the cells.
Insulin grabs the sugar and transports it to the cells. Insulin connects at the so-called insulin receptors of the cells and delivers the sugar in the cells. The blood sugar is lowered due to the shipped sugar and thus everything is back to plan.
Actually, the whole thing sounds relatively simple and easy, right?
We eat carbohydrates – these are broken down – the blood sugar increases – insulin is released – sugar is transported – insulin docks at the insulin receptors of the cell, they accept the delivery and sugar lands in the cell.
When carbs become a problem …
Now the interesting question: If this should actually work in theory, why does it look so problematic for many people in practice?
The main problem, which affects many people, is a so-called state of insulin resistance – often never really diagnosed. Insulin resistance means that the bouncers on the cell, the insulin receptors, become insulin resistant to the transport service. This means that the receptors are no longer responsive to insulin with the sugar in the luggage.
It’s about as if instead of twice a week, suddenly the parcel service rings at your door 20 times a week. 20x a week a delivery service is at your door, who wants to make a delivery: for your neighbors in the house, for the opposite apartments, … At the beginning you will still accept one or the other package, but eventually you will think: “Dear parcel service – what is wrong with you?!”
The logical consequence of this will be that at some point you will cross over and keep the door closed. And every time it rings, you do not react anymore, just sit and think – let it ring.
So you become “transport service resistant”.
Exactly the same happens to a woman who gets texted by 20 men daily on Instagram, or Facebook- she will be “resistant to men.” Or think of a child being shouted at 24/7 by his mother. At first shocking, at some point habit for the child. The child becomes “mother resistant”.
Often a slow process!
Exactly the same happens in your body when you eat too much sugar and carbohydrates and at the same time have bad sleep habits, move little, and so on. All in all a few bad habits that you may eventually let sneak into your everyday life over a longer period of time.
At some point, the insulin receptors no longer respond to the signal of insulin, the sugar does not get a home and continues to circulate in your blood sugar ..
What is your body doing to correct this problem?
He produces more insulin! More insulin to somehow infiltrate the sugar into the cells. The question is, how useful is that?
How good is it for the mother screaming at her children – screaming even louder to finally listen to her? Right. Less meaningful.
Precisely for this reason, the body can, if insulin resistance exists not do much itself.
How do you know if you are insulin resistant?
Now of course the two most relevant questions – how do you realize that you may have some form of insulin resistance and what can you do about it? First of all, the question of how you recognize that you have insulin resistance. Answer the following questions for you:
- Do you often crave something sweet after meals?
- Do you often have an afternoon low?
- Do you often feel that you are hypoglycemic?
- Do you often feel dizzy?
- Are you extremely tired after carbohydrate consumption?
- Is it difficult for you to skip meals?
- Are you always hungry and especially craving sweets?
These are possible symptoms that may indicate that you are insulin resistant. If you feel that the symptoms mentioned above are right for you, then you may well have work to do with your blood sugar management.
Also via the blood you can measure that quite well and that over the long time sugar the so-called HBA1C. If this is noticeably increased you have one more indicator that you have some form of insulin resistance.
What to do, when having to fight insulin resistance?
In any case, let’s see what lifestyle factors you can modulate to fight your insulin resistance.
4 tips regarding your diet:
# 1: reconsider carbohydrate consumption
First of all let’s talk about nutrition, first of all a logical question to you:
If you have problems with your carbohydrate metabolism, how useful is it to continue to fill most of your diet with carbohydrates? Right, less useful! That’s why I can only advise you, should you have any problems in this regard, in any case, try to lower the carbohydrate intake and increase healthy fats and proteins. Overall this will ensure that you have less blood sugar fluctuations and less insulin, because you have little sugar to transport. Although you will always produce little insulin with just about any meal, you won’t produce the amounts as in carbohydrate-heavy meals when the meals are rich in fat or protein.
# 2: Apple cider vinegar before meals
A simple and natural household trick is the use of apple cider vinegar: Use one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar before each carbohydrate meal to slow down blood sugar. It has been confirmed in various studies that apple cider vinegar is an absolute secret weapon in this regard. But I would not drink it, because that’s not the best for your teeth. I always drink my apple cider vinegar with about 100 ml of water a few minutes before the meal. Not the best taste, but definitely worth the outcome.
# 3: Chew 30x per bite!
Try to chew more often! A huge problem that far too many people have is inhaling food. There is no more time to enjoy the food, instead, there is a quick snack here. The scary thing is that many people do not chew more than ten times per bite. For your health optimal would be to chew your foods at least 30x per bite. This can also cause your blood sugar to rise more slowly, because not that much food arrives in your body at once.
# 4: Reduce Meal Frequency
Try to reduce your frequency of meals during the day, don’t snack every 2 hours, but rather eat two to three huge satiating meals throughout. This requires some practice in the beginning, but over time your body will adapt and get used to it.
The right workouts for insulin resistance:
Working out plays an equally important role when it comes to improving insulin sensitivity. I especially recommend resistance training (strength training), as this will produce the best effect. Endurance training like jogging, cycling, etc. is also movement and therefore not wrong. However, you will be able to achieve faster and better results with resistance training, i.e. training with weight bands, equipment, or your own body weight. The reason for this is that you really use your muscles during strength training. If you do this regularly, you improve the insulin sensitivity of your muscle cells, which means that muscle cells are more open for incoming sugar / carbohydrates. For this reason, I also have the rule of thumb: the more active and athletic you are, the more carbs you earn.
If you are not in a gym and have no weights at home, then try a terra band or miniband to do your own weight training.
Lack of sleep increases the risk of diabetes!
Another key ingredient in improving your insulin sensitivity is sleep. Here it has been found that one night of sleep deprivation (for example, instead of 8 hours only 5 hours) results in a poor insulin sensitivity. This means a reduced ability to handle carbohydrates the next day for your body.
Your lifestyle is the alpha and omega!
You can already see from my example that many methods and strategies can be introduced to fight insulin resistance. It was just a fraction of what you can do.
Unfortunately, it is often the case that when you go to the doctor and Diabetes type 2 is diagnosed, your lifestyle including nutrition, sleep, etc. is often ignored. Instead, in most cases you will be given medications that lower your blood sugar. That is, the real cause is not really diagnosed, but only the symptom is covered.
Medications do not treat the root cause!
For my part, I consider this approach to be sub-optimal, since in my view the lifestyle components – nutrition, sleep, sports, etc. should first be considered in order to achieve an improvement. Very often, people are prescribed metformin, which is a pharmaceutical to lower blood sugar. Unfortunately, this is often not without side effects and in many cases causes complications, such as severe digestive problems.
In my opinion, it is time to rethink and treat the root cause of the diseases. Of course, you sometimes need medications such as metformin, or insulin injections, but often you can counteract insulin resistance in a natural way equally positive. Of course, swallowing a pill is the most convenient way for many and many do not want to change their eating habits or other habits. On the other hand, there are people who are really willing to change things, and for those people, the above tips are definitely important.
Recognize type 2 diabetes in good time!
A big problem is that type 2 diabetes is very often diagnosed only years after an existing insulin resistance and it is therefore important to act in a timely manner. If you know someone who has problems with diabetes or insulin resistance, share this article with him to possibly give him new perspectives. Too many sufferers live a life-long misconception that type 2 diabetes is not curable. In my opinion, total nonsense, because if you know where the root cause lies, you can in most cases also ensure that you get back on your feet.
My appeal to you:
Pay close attention to the consumption of sugar, but of course also to the excessive consumption of carbohydrates in general. Carbohydrates at the right time, used by the right person, in the right dose, are absolutely advisable and certainly nothing bad. In excess, however, they should be treated with caution.
With that said – earn your carbohydrates and good luck with the implementation!