Most of us know a little bit about insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas, but few are aware of the important role it has to play when it comes to weight gain.
Weight gain and obesity are essentially a hormonal imbalance caused by too much insulin. The key to successful weight loss is restoring insulin levels.
Did you know insulin is hard at work in your body every time you eat?
It starts with carbohydrates
Next time you sit down at the dinner table, carbohydrates from your meal will be broken down by your body into smaller units of glucose (sugar). It doesn’t matter if you eat pasta, grains, starchy tubers, candy, cereal, or fruit: these carb-dense foods are ALL broken down into tiny molecules of glucose. These sugar molecules will make their way into your blood and insulin will get called to the scene to deal with the new energy delivery.
There can only be 4g of sugar in the blood at any given time, so insulin’s job is to store away the sugar from your meal in its proper places. Insulin is like a store owner who has just received new stock and wants to put everything away in its rightful spot before customers show up.
Where does insulin put away the glucose molecules?
Insulin begins by checking if our cells need energy. Our cells have special insulin receptors on them. The insulin latches on to these receptors and it opens up a little door that allows the cell to gobble up some glucose. Thanks to this glucose, our cells have the energy they need to do things like move and heat the body, maintain blood pressure, pump blood through the heart, replace hair and nails, and help us think clearly. This is known as the basal metabolic rate (BMR). It’s the energy our body uses to carry out all of its functions.
What happens once all the cells have been ‘fed’?
If there is some glucose left in the blood, insulin still has some ‘cleaning up’ to do. Remember, there can only be 4g (1tsp) of glucose in the blood at any given time. Like a dutiful store owner, insulin wants the glucose out of the aisles and onto the shelves (out of the blood and into storage!). The cells of the body have been topped up but don’t worry, insulin has two storage solutions for the leftover glucose. Insulin will store the sugar that remains as GLYCOGEN or FAT so it can be used later.
Glycogen: it’s like having an energy bar on hand in your purse
The first storage spot for excess glucose will be as glycogen in the liver and muscles. Next time you need energy, you can tap into this special *reservoir* easily. Glycogen is like putting an energy bar into your purse. You can put it in and take it out with ease. Once you reach for it and bite into it, it delivers a burst of energy to your body. However, the space in your purse is limited. You can only put in so many energy bars before the purse fills up. The same thing happens with glycogen stores. They get full quickly.
What happens when the space for glycogen runs out?
When glycogen stores become full, insulin tells the liver to turn the extra glucose into fat (lipogenesis). The liver begins making fat from the glucose molecules and then sends it off to be stored in our body in the form of ‘body fat’. This ‘fat’ makes its way under the skin, around other organs, or in the liver. The formation of this new fat is why we pack on the pounds when we overeat carbs. There is unlimited space for fat to be stored, but it’s harder for the body to convert it back into glucose (energy) once it is needed again.
If Insulin Could Talk…
In the same way a store owner wants to keep his shelves stocked, insulin wants to keep our fat in storage. If insulin could talk it would say:
“Hey body! There is plenty of energy available. We don’t need all this extra glucose, so turn it into fat and keep it in storage until I’m gone”.
As long as insulin is hanging around, its message to STORE FAT dominates and we keep gaining weight.
To start burning fat, we need to lower insulin so the body can tap into fat stores for energy. We also need to diminish glycogen stores so the body has no other choice than to use the stored fat for energy.
How can I balance my insulin levels to help with weight loss?
To balance insulin levels, it’s important to focus on 2 things: WHAT you eat and WHEN you eat.
WHEN (Meal timing)
Insulin is released in response to food. When you’re not eating, your insulin levels drop (at night, between meals, while fasting…). If you eat 6x a day, and keep munching late into the night, you are constantly stimulating insulin. If insulin is constantly powered up, so is your fat-STORAGE machinery.
WHAT (Consider your body’s hormonal response to foods)
Some foods stimulate blood sugar more than others, and blood sugar prompts insulin release. Think of it this way, the higher your blood sugar, the more ‘energy’ there is for insulin to ‘put away’, so more insulin is required. Refined grains and sugars raise insulin quickly, while dietary fat has the least impact on insulin. Whole-foods will have lower effects on insulin overall.
Bottom line: Eat a whole-foods based diet and limit foods like grains and sugar. You might also want to try eating your meals within a particular window of time each day or implementing intermittent fasting so insulin doesn’t always come racing to the scene.
In order to achieve lasting weight loss, the idea is not to balance calories as we were led to believe for so many years, but to balance our hormone insulin.
When you work with a practitioner who helps you implement strategies that lower insulin, you won’t have to restrict your calories and you will experience weight loss that lasts. When you lower your insulin, the body can switch from burning calories from food to tapping into those hard-to-reach fat stores with ease.
Need help with weight loss?
Ditching refined carbs and grains will lower insulin levels and this will help with weight loss. However, saying good-bye to our daily indulgences of candy, cookies, cake, chips, sodas, or even things like bread and fruits can be hard to do! To address this issue, I have designed a week-long interactive online program that will fully equip you to make empowering food choices from here on out. You’ll never have to succumb to the sneaky claws of sugar again.
August 17, 2019 will be the launch of my 7-Day Sugar Detox Program during which we will learn how to outsmart our sugar and carb cravings. Imagine being able to BREAK FREE from the hold sugar has on you AND being in total control of your food choices! This program will get you there.
Although it is only one week long, the tips and techniques you will learn will last you a LIFETIME! If you’d like to join the 7-day detox crew, you can reserve your spot right here.