Improving your insulin sensitivity could well be the next step for your best body yet. The formula for getting a ripped, lean body is actually fairly simple in hindsight. Fat loss is all about energy balance. Subtract X from Y and guess what? You’ll start leaning down. But dig deeper, get some science and hormones involved and you’ll start to understand that the formula starts to develop some deeper layers. These layers become essential if you want to speed up your results, sustain the change and have a healthier body.
Let’s begin with a simple science lesson on insulin. Without doubt developing insulin sensitivity should be a high priority for all fat loss and lean mass goals. Insulin as a hormone is a double edged blade. On one side it can be the most anabolic hormone we have. It shuttles glucose and amino acid uptake into muscle cells, which can initiate muscle protein synthesis. As well as improve our recovery from training. On the flip side, it can also be the most lipolytic (fat gaining) hormone we have. Packing fatty acids away into cells to be stored as body fat. When elevated, Insulin also inhibits lipolysis – aka fat burning.
These days, insulin seems to get a bad rep. The negative effects are usually only focused on. Let’s not forget though that during a fat loss phase, insulin can actually help maintain lean tissue.
The reason for this bad rep is mainly due to a large portion of the population being insulin resistant. This refers to a pathological condition in which cells fail to respond to the hormone. Because of this it means glucose cannot enter cells, so builds up in the blood stream. To combat this your body simply produces more and more insulin. Producing too much insulin is known as hyperinsulinemia. As you can imagine over time you’ll end up with a ton of glucose in the blood unable to go anywhere, with even more insulin that can’t do it’s job. What’s more, through various pathways, signals to the brain would tell you to consume more food (particularly carbs) to help bring that level of insulin down.
Make sense? Are you still with me? Insulin resistance is also closely associated with obesity, however, it is possible to be insulin resistant without being overweight. It’s also seen as a gateway to type 2 diabetes.
So, improving your insulin sensitivity should be of a main concern. And here’s how to do it:
Focus On Resistance Training
Resistance training, which includes free weights, machines and bodyweight exercise, should be your main focus. The reason being is this exercise mode burns through muscle glycogen. Essentially “emptying the tank”. This creates space for blood sugar to enter. Resistance based work also builds lean tissue which increases the body’s overall demand for energy. It’s no coincidence that for every 10% increase in lean tissue you’ll get an 11% reduction in insulin resistance.
Eat A Mix Of Healthy Fats
By eating a mix of healthy fats including nuts, avocado, oily fish and seeds we can improve insulin function. This is because the fat we eat is used by the body to build the outside layer that protects cells. This protective layer functions at its best when it’s flexible yet strong. This improves the cells overall sensitivity to insulin. Fats eaten as part of a balanced meal will also help slow the digestion which means you’ll be feeling fuller for longer and less likely to overeat.
Focus Carbs Around Workout Times
Condemning all carbs as evil is the worst mistake you could make. Stripping them all out of the diet is no more wise than the low fat fads of the 1980’s. Strive to consume better carb sources, such as fruit, vegetables, potatoes and brown variations of pasta and rice. Also aim to focus these carbs around workout times. The reason being is you’re most sensitive to insulin at these times.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ll already understand that trans-fats are dreadful for overall health. They’re found in things like snack foods, packaged baked goods and fried fast food. Trans-fats have been shown to inhibit glucose disposal, promote insulin resistance and induce abdominal obesity. Avoid them like the plague!
Avoid Sugary, Processed Foods
Leading on from the last point, sugary processed foods should also be avoided. Not only do they contain trans-fats, but as a general rule they’re loaded with sugars. This will jack up your blood sugar levels and pump out insulin like no tomorrow. A huge part of developing insulin sensitivity is keeping it under control.
Get 8-9 Hours Of Sleep Per Night
Lack of sleep has been linked to an increase in the appetite-stimulating hormone Ghrelin. In this state you’ll no doubt crave fatty, sugary food sources. Sleep deprivation can also stimulate the stress hormone cortisol and decrease glucose tolerance.