Insulin: The hormone that goes both ways

Today I’m going to talk about insulin, the body’s most bipolar hormone. This article was inspired by a friend, who recently reminded me of the extreme anabolic potential of dietary insulin manipulation. In the last weeks of my training, I have seen better results than I can ever remember, and the only change I made was that I added a portion of fruit before 2-3 of my daily meals. Sometimes, it actually is that easy.

Insulin is an incredibly important hormone for us to consider in our quest for physical advancement because it is so versatile. If you have a hard time gaining muscle, manipulating your insulin can become the secret to rapid mass gain. If you have trouble losing weight, insulin can help you melt stubborn fat off your body. But, if you use insulin wrong, like most of the modern world does, it can cause lethargy, depression, a plethora of illnesses and diseases, heart failure and death. Insulin is a double-edged sword, but we can all learn how to use it to our advantage.

For those trying to gain muscle mass, spiking insulin levels while insulin sensitivity is high, especially first thing in the morning and then again shortly after a workout, can provide a tremendous amount of anti-catabolism (stopping muscle breakdown) in the presence of amino acids (protein). Routinely spiking insulin in times of high-sensitivity, followed by an easily digestible lean protein source, will effectively lead to a large increase in muscle mass, assuming that you’re dedicated to an intense weight training program.

For the informed fitness enthusiast, we can take this one step further and create our own insulin friendly environment whenever we want to. We can increase our sensitivity with supplements, then spike our insulin with healthy high-glycemic foods right before a protein meal, which will result in an efficient transport system for nutrients to immediately begin repairing broken down muscle and building a new anabolic environment. I’ll get back to this soon, but first, let’s look at the ugly side of Insulin.

Insulin

“Hi, I’m Insulin. I can do whatever you want me to”

 

The good side of insulin is the understanding of how to exploit its times of sensitivity, so now let’s have a look at the other side, insulin resistance.

What causes insulin resistance? Well, one of the main contributing factors is the GI or glycemic index of food. Regular consumption of foods that have a high GI will consequently cause a large release of insulin, which will cause the insulin receptors to become less receptive. This is where you begin to run into chronic problems, such as:

  • Decreased fat usage
  • Increased fat storage
  • Decreased energy
  • Increased hunger frequency
  • Decreased growth hormone
  • Increased chance of coronary heart disease
  • Increased cortisol (more stress)
  • Increased aldosterone (meaning you’ll be bloated)
  • Light-headedness, and many more bad things

To prevent all of these bad things caused by insulin resistance, living with a diet consisting of fresh, never processed, low Glycemic Index carbs is the simple answer. There are a few reasons why reduced carbohydrate diets are so effective, one of the most important is the factor of its consistent low impact on blood sugar.

However, despite the fact that the nutrient which has the most impact on insulin is carbohydrates, there is a way to implement them into your diet so that they have beneficial effects on your body, without causing any negative insulin resistance issues.

Hot Dog Guy

Adding simple carbs into your diet? You’re doing it wrong.

 

If you really want to know how to best implement carbs into your diet, here is what you need to do:

  • Eat 30g complex carbs 1-2hrs before a workout
  • Eat 30g of high GI carbs immediately after a workout with protein
  • Eat 30g of veggies, twice at some point each day
  • Refer to my past article, A perfect day of eating.

Here’s an important note for someone trying to lose body fat: Having a significant amount of muscle tissue is a major advantage while pursuing a fat loss goal because muscle is very sensitive to insulin’s effects. Basically, if you want to lose fat and keep it off, the best approach would be to build a little more muscle first. With a more ideal proportion of muscle mass on anyone’s frame, it becomes much more manageable to stay lean all year ‘round.

Do you ever wonder why you see the same people walking on the elliptical machines for an hour each day or step-step-stepping around in group aerobic fitness classes 5 days a week for YEARS?? It’s because they have no muscle, and if they stop those classes, they’d be fat within a month. It’s a harsh but true reality. If you are one of those people, I urge you to retire your leggings and headband, and spend more time in the squat rack and free-weight section of the gym.

So, are you insulin resistant? Well, If you’re fat, then yes, you are insulin resistant. But you can always change that with a low GI, low carb diet that is properly balanced with lean proteins and healthy fats. You can even reverse diabetes with the right diet and training program.

Here’s the insulin tips that you should take from this article:

Specifically to gain muscle: For 4 weeks, try adding 30g of high GI carbs before each meal. I suggest 1 cup of fresh chopped pineapple or a grapefruit.

Specifically to lose fat: Make sure that all of your carbohydrate intake is from whole food, low GI complex carbs. The only high GI carb of your day should be immediately after training with a protein shake.

I’m going to leave my talk on Insulin there, because the basics are covered.

If you have any other questions on insulin management or manipulation, feel free to ask contact me!

 

Your challenge for the week: Add the 1 arm overhead squat to your training routine. It’s a better ab workout than all the sit-ups you could ever do in a lifetime.

Here’s how it’s done

kettlebell

For beginner or intermediate, stand with your legs shoulder width apart, feet slightly turned outwards.

  • Press a DB over your head (5lbs is a good start, you’ll be surprised how difficult this is)
  • Take a breath in as you begin your squat
  • Go all the way down to a full squat position, keeping 1 arm completely straight over your head, and push your other arm forward for balance
  • Exhale as you press upwards, always looking straight ahead and keeping your core tight (not as if you have an option, this exercise is all about your core strength)
  • Complete 8-10 reps per side, 3 sets

For advanced lifters, try the counter balance progression to this exercise.

  • Get yourself two dumbbells, one that weighs about 15 pounds and one that weighs 30.
  • Grab one dumbbell in each hand. Raise the lighter dumbbell straight overhead, lock the elbow, and keep it there for the duration of the set.
  • Let the other dumbbell hang straight down, also for the duration of the set.
  • Now simply begin squatting as low as you can go (without the weight hitting the floor, for you Orangutan arms out there)

Shoot for about 6 to 10 reps, then reverse the dumbbells and do another 6 to 10 reps.

The very act of keeping yourself erect is extremely tough on the core musculature. Quite simply, just about any movement that involves holding a weight overhead works the core muscles exceedingly well, but Single DB Overhead squats take core exercise to a different level as the offset weight distribution or second weight works as a counterbalance and tries to tip you over.

As you progress, remember to adhere to the 2 to 1 weight ratio. In other words, the weight of the hanging dumbbell should be twice as much as the weight of the overhead dumbbell.

Boom.

Now go get fit.