What Is The Deal With Insulin?

There is a flood of diets that focus on one goal – controlling insulin.

  • What is insulin?
  • Why do they make it such a big deal?
  • Is Insulin something i need to worry about when trying to lose fat?

Here is a simplified explanation keeping it as close as possible to the science:

When we eat, the food is turned into glucose (from carbs) and free fatty acids (from fat), and amino acids (from protein). Since protein and fat have no effect on insulin we focus our attention on carbs.

Glucose (from the carbs) enters the bloodstream after digestion and circulates so that muscle (and Liver to a smaller extent) can receive it and store it for energy. Insulin (a hormone) is released when the body senses the glucose in the blood to help the muscle take the glucose (sugar) from the blood via insulin receptors on the muscle walls into the muscles. Think of insulin as having a key that unlocks the muscle allowing glucose to enter the muscle cells.

Now this all takes place every time we eat carbs. Fat and protein have no affect on insulin.

Diabetics have a problem usually at the muscle wall preventing insulin from ‘opening the walls’ (via insulin receptors) to allow the glucose to enter the muscle. So glucose builds up in the circulating blood with no where to go. The body reacts by releasing MORE insulin in an attempt to remove the glucose from the blood.

When this happens insulin (being a storage hormone) also promotes fat to be stored in the fat cells. Hence high insulin in the blood causes fat storage instead of fat release. THIS IS THE REASON MANY DIETS TALK ABOUT INSULIN PREVENTING FAT LOSS.

But – this is not the full story.

First most of us are not pre-diabetics and if we are then we should be conscious of the above scenario and take actions to prevent large dumping of glucose into our bodies.

In a normal response to consuming carbs, you release insulin as mentioned, this allows glucose to be taken up by the muscles ready to be used for energy and insulin levels simply return back to normal again soon after eating. If this were not the case EVERYONE ON THE PLANET WOULD BE FAT from consuming carbs! Carbs are an important part of our diet and the quickest and easiest way to provide energy when needed.

What Should I Do?

There you have a simple brief on the job of insulin with regard to blood sugar. I could write a whole book on the ins and outs of this topic but for now, understand that YES too much glucose floating around the bloodstream looking for a home is a bad thing for fat loss and health (a quick look at the symptoms of uncontrolled diabetes will tell you that).

High levels of insulin (caused by persistent glucose in the blood) will facilitate fat storage so if you are experiencing negligible results from eating less calories than you use (see your SEE) then get your fasting blood sugar checked. If borderline/high, adopting more control on blood sugar may be your answer. For this reason I will be including tactics to achieve this BUT you most probably may find you get your results without having to lose the bread, pasta, rice and potatoes!

I leave it up to you as to how much you want to adopt a carb restricted plan as I encourage sensible self experimentation, but just know that if your fasting blood sugar is within normal limits you might not need to be so concerned.

As this is a hot topic and one I have mixed views about as it varies from person to person and can be manipulated tactically, I will be writing much more on this subject so make sure you stay tuned!