What is Insulin and How does it Affect Blood Sugar and Fat Loss?
It seems everyone concentrates on the role diet and exercise play in our health and wellbeing, but skip over the very important role that hormones play. In this article i’m going to be discussing the hormone insulin, what it is, how it relates to diabetes, and how it can be manipulated to help us lose fat and live longer.
What is Insulin and How Does it Relate to Diabetes?
Insulin is a hormone that helps us absorb nutrients from our food. Whenever we eat carbs (and a little bit when we eat protein) the amount of sugar in our blood increases, and the pancreas releases insulin to help take the sugar out of the bloodstream and into our organs (mostly the liver and muscle cells) where it can be used for energy.
Diabetes is a disease that occurs when that insulin response doesn’t work properly and sugar piles up in the blood with nowhere to go. This can result in problems including vision loss, hearing loss, high blood pressure, and gum disease.
There are two main kinds of diabetes: Type 1 occurs when the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Type 2 occurs when insulin is produced but the body doesn’t respond to it in the right way. Some have estimated that a third of Americans born in 2000 will develop the disease when a lot of the time, it can be prevented. How? Let’s talk insulin sensitivity.
What is Insulin Sensitivity?
Doing a lot of something can make you less sensitive to its effects, right? Drinking coffee all the time can dull the caffeine, regular drinkers find they need more beers to get drunk than they used to, and so on. In kind of the same way, eating carbs too often (especially simple ones, like sugars), can make us less sensitive to insulin (or more “insulin resistant”) When that happens, we need to produce more insulin than we should need to in order to keep blood sugar stable. That’s bad. If insulin sensitivity becomes poor, we have trouble digesting carbs and absorbing nutrients, and we gain weight. If it’s really bad for a long time, the pancreas needs to make more and more insulin because we’re so insensitive to it. Eventually, it gets exhausted and stops being able to release the hormone properly, and that’s when type 2 diabetes occurs.
6 Ways to Improve Insulin Sensitivity
If insulin sensitivity is of concern, it’s not hard to get it tested, just ask a doctor for a fasting plasma glucose test. Maximizing insulin sensitivity should be a priority for anyone interested in improving their health and minimizing their diabetes risk. Here are 6 tips to make that happen.
Personal Trainer Tip #1
Exercise Regularly: Exercising 3-4 times a week can improve nearly every health marker there is, and insulin sensitivity is no exception.
Personal Trainer Tip #2
Get Plenty of Sleep: Getting adequate sleep is crucial to keep the body functioning smoothly, and that includes hormone production
Personal Trainer Tip #3
Eat Fewer Carbohydrates, especially simple carbs: Eating lots of carbs makes us produce a lot of insulin, so it’s best to follow a diet that’s low in simple and processed carbs.
Personal Trainer Tip #4
Eat Slow-Digesting Foods: When foods digest slowly, the sugars take longer to hit the bloodstream, and insulin is released more gradually. Healthy fats, fiber, and protein are all great examples and should make up a significant portion of our diets.
Personal Trainer Tip #5
Drink Green Tea: Drinking plenty of green tea has been shown to significantly reduce blood sugar concentrations, but ditch the milk. It can undermine tea’s circulatory benefits.
Personal Trainer Tip #6
Keep Body Fat Low: However it’s achieved, simply being lean can improve insulin sensitivity. There’s never been a better reason to train for fat loss!
Written By: Shannon Benedetto ACSM-cpt