Insulin DIRECTLY affects your weight, health, and shape. It’s a pain in the butt to describe and define every part of the process (I know because I was tested on it weekly until I got it!)
So here’s a quick and dirty introduction to insulin…
Sugar is very sharp. And when it bounces around in your bloodstream it can cause a lot of small cuts and scrapes. Platelets stick to the cuts and that is when you start to get blockages in your arteries.
Insulin is a storage hormone released by your pancreas. Your body wants to protect itself from all of the sharp little sugar crystals bouncing around so it unleashes the insulin.
The insulin then “sweeps up” all of the sugar and shoves it wherever there is any storage room. If your muscles and liver can’t store any more sugar, your liver converts all of the extra into triglycerides and sends it to fat cells for storage. (Like kicking all of the dirty laundry behind your door – pretty soon the pile gets HUGE!)
A LITTLE MORE…
Insulin really delivers nutrients to all cells, but we’re going to look at liver, muscle, and fat cells. When everything is working right, cell receptors use insulin as a sort of “key” to unlock gateways in cell membranes. With those gates open, nutrients can be stored and used in the cell, it also eliminates extra sugar from your bloodstream.
What happens when you follow the Standard American Diet (SAD) and eat too many grains and processed carbs? You produce too much insulin over time.
Remember when I said that there was only a little bit of storage room for sugar in your muscles and liver? Most people can only store 400grams. When that is “topped off,” any glucose in your blood that isn’t being used immediately (during a fitness bootcamp, for example) is converted into fat and stored.
With high insulin levels, your fat cells not only store extra glucose, they also store all of the fat you ate at your last meal. And here’s the kicker – HIGH INSULIN IS A SIGNAL FOR FAT CELLS TO HOLD ONTO FAT AND NOT RELEASE IT.
If you keep producing too much insulin, the pattern continues and you gain fat. A LOT of fat.
Then it happens: your cells start to become insulin resistant. (Especially if you don’t exercise) Insulin is a “key” to open gateways in cell membranes. But when you are insulin resistant, the KEY DOESN’T FIT!
Someone who doesn’t exercise never calls on their glycogen stores, so they constantly have a full tank of liver and muscle glycogen. With the lack of exercise their cells are very bad at burning and “restocking” energy from food, so all carbs and fats go directly to the liver to be turned into fat. Do not pass Go, Do not collect $200.
Soon, even fat cells resist more storage. And when that happens, you have no more defense against the havoc carbs will wreak on your body.
That is when diabetes, heart attacks, blindness, amputations, and other health disasters happen.
To burn stored glycogen and fat, the best thing to do is EXERCISE. Dietary changes alone won’t work at this point: The genes responsible for the “locks” in your cell membranes turn themselves off to protect against the insulin in your bloodstream.
When your liver becomes insulin resistant, your situation gets even worse. If glucose isn’t absorbed by your liver, some cells in your liver sends out a signal that they REALLY wants glucose. Then, other cells in your liver dump EVEN MORE sugar into your bloodstream, even though there’s already too much!
And when the “double dose” of blood sugar bounces off insulin resistant cells and gets stored as fat. Unless your fat cells are FULL, then you start in on glucose toxicity – sugar poisoning.
AND A BIT OF GOOD NEWS!
When you control your insulin levels with a low-carb diet and frequent exercise, these “locks” actually become INSULIN SENSITIVE. And then you are MORE effective at absorbing nutrients transported by insulin. Awesome!
PLUS – Controlling insulin tells your genes to make more receptor sites, making you even more effective at absorbing nutrients!
BACK TO THE BAD NEWS: SOME CONSEQUENCES OF INSULIN RESISTANCE
Fat cells get bigger and fatter. This means YOU get bigger and fatter.
Fat cells can’t release energy to be used as fuel, because the insulin keeps the fat locked up.
Glucose (sugar) stays in your blood longer where it can cut up your blood vessels and randomly bind with important protein molecules, rendering them useless for your body processes. This results in increased inflammation, circulatory problems, and nerve damage.
Your pancreas works to produce more and more insulin – until it gets exhausted and shuts down. Then you’re DEPENDENT on insulin injections for the rest of your life.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY
There isn’t a “one day” cure for insulin resistance. The very first thing you need to do is cut out flour and sugar.
This means no bread, no english muffins, no waffles, no pancakes, no buns, nothing that has any flour. I don’t care if it says “100% whole wheat” on it. It will still break down into 100% whole blood sugar. Don’t eat it.
Cutting out modern carbohydrates like grains and sugar will help you control insulin and help you lose fat – both of which will improve insulin sensitivity (good thing). Learn more about carb cravings in this post: Sugar Cravings Taking Over Your Brain!
The second thing to do is start a structured exercise program – NOT random acts of aerobics. Here is a VERY simple metabolism boosting workout you can do almost anywhere: 10 Minute Workout