Insulin, The Quarterback of Hormones
I have been in the medical profession for over 20 years and participated in some level of physical training may it be by way of recreational sports or weight training since the early age of 9. As the years have passed, I have read countless magazines articles and books on how to gain muscle, become fit or lose weight. It seems that nothing really stood out or ever really worked or was that game changer, at least not for me. I did have some younger years around 16-22 where I could not really gain any significant weight and was lean. Regardless of how much I ate or trained I did not have any significant gains to save my life. But once I did, oh nelly watch out, my life went into a 180 spin with the weight.
Although I do feel that I had some high points in training much like some of you out there, Like flat pressing 350+, squatting 450+ in my 20-30’s and filling out a tee shirt like I was all that and a bag of chips. But in reality, and in most situations, I was well over the 20% body fat range and I was never satisfied with where I was in my fitness, looks, or strength. Then there were the times when I felt the need to lose weight and get “lean” but the strength went along with it, which of course grappled continuously with my psyche. At the end of the day I never really got that fitness magazine cover look that a lot of us seemed to chase.
Anyway, as we move into 2018 and I am much older and (hopefully) wiser, I have come to realize along with thousands of other serious fitness practitioners that we were looking at this fitness process completely wrong. Yeah, I remember the days of eating every two hours and banging down the protein shakes religiously. High protein, High protein, High protein, Carb up, Carb up etc.… It’s exhausting just thinking about it. As much as the commercial industries do not want to admit it but the high fat diets are where it is truly at. For decades we were told in order to be healthy and lean we need to eat low fat, moderate protein and fruits and veggies, with a larger portion given to carb intake. When in truth the nutritional pyramid needed to be flipped on its head. That’s right, diets such as the Ketogenic, paleo and Adkins now hold supreme (within reason). I myself have been practicing the Ketogenic diet now for 9 months. I started my diet weighing in at an unhealthy 209 pounds June 2017, at 5’10” in height. Only working out intermittently due to work, injuries and excuses I was really spiraling out of control. As of this articles creation I am weighing in at 183. I did hit the 173-pound mark back in November of 2017 but decided to make some adjustments and add a few pounds, which we will discuss in another article later.
Let me just say, please do not get this article wrong, I am not trying to sell you on any particular diet here but make you aware of the main culprit (which I will get to in a second) of most fat gains in today’s highly obese society and the purpose of this article. Let’s spit the facts out my friends, today 1 in 3 of the adult population is Obese. People, I don’t mean just over weight but OBESE. Some studies suggest that the overweight population % is hovering around the 70 mark.
Now, on to the purpose of this article and star of the show “INSULIN”.
Yep, Insulin. Before you surf the internet and try and pick ‘N chose that next great diet that is going to put you in the spot light of envy amongst your family and friends know about this hormone first. Then you can make a more knowledgeable decision on what will be best for you and your life style.
So, let’s dig into this evil but yet awesome hormone. Insulin which is produced by the pancreas is said to be the main “anabolic” hormone in the body. In other word insulin is responsible for building up organs and tissues of the body. It promotes protein synthesis within the cells and muscle growth. If that is not enough responsibility for one hormone, insulin is also responsible for the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Insulin is required for the absorption of carbs, proteins and fats (plus and especially glucose) into the liver by way of the vascular system, as well as, absorption into the skeletal muscles and fat stores. Most of us were taught that insulin was for the checks and balance of the glucose/sugar within our body. Although this is true, but it is far deeper than that. For starters, know that the average person holds approximately 1 teaspoon of glucose within the vascular system. If we consume high glucose/sugar contributing foods such as pasta, rice, breads and even fruits and your glucose level begins to exceed this 1 teaspoon intravascularly, the pancreas goes to work, and Insulin is produced and secreted. One would naturally assume that once the insulin goes into the blood stream that it goes to battle with the glucose molecules and prevails as victor and the glucose goes away. Cute, although that makes for a great story ending that is not how it works. You see, the insulins job is to clean house and put things into the bodies vacant compartments, so we can maintain the homeostasis of 1 teaspoon of glucose allowed. So, as that gatekeeper it unlocks the cells of the Liver and muscles first, storing this excess sugars/glucose as glycogen by way of glycogenesis. This is the storage to be released first when the body has a drop in the blood glucose of the 1 teaspoon. Kind of in the reverse process I am explaining. The drop in one’s blood sugar can be by way of many reasons. May it be from fasting, exercising or from a low carb diet just to name a few.
Now, here is the bad part. Once the storage space is full within the liver and muscles the next location of storage is the tissue. Yep, that is your fat compartments. This is done by way of lipogenesis. Once the current fat storage (cells) are full and the need for more storage is required, more fat cells are made to handle the load (no pun intended). With all that said, keep in mind that you would have to deplete the current storage of glycagon from the liver and muscles first before you start breaking down fat for energy known as Ketosis (which will come in a later article). Therefore, if you are not burning through the sugars consumed from your earlier meals and you are already refueling again or eating every two to four hours that’s a lot of storage needed daily.
Now, before I get hammered from all those who say, “you cannot build muscle without carbs”, yeah, I know and get your thought on that.
BUT, it is not a definitive and absolute science on if you can or cannot gain muscle on a low carb diet, yes, it is true that it is more difficult or much slower process than that of a standard carb loading regimen, but the body will convert even protein ingested into glucose as needed which will stimulate some insulin production. This article is not for those looking to hit the stage and pose down amungst the Arnolds out there, but for those who want awareness of the process of how fat is accumulated, stored and burned.
Again, new muscle growth may not be at the level of carb loading but at a smaller level can be achieved. Yes, it is a fact that insulin is needed for the absorption of amino acids which is the building blocks of muscle growth and some electrolytes.
The main point that I am trying to get across with this article is if you are constantly fueling your body of carbs and causing insulin to spill, as long as there is insulin at work it will prevent you from burning your current fat storage. You will not burn fat period. In order for you to burn your current fat storage, one must burn through the glucose in the blood, then the glycogen from the liver and muscles and then your body will go into temporary ketosis and start converting fat into ketones by way of the liver. If one chooses to maintain a low carb intake and remain in Ketosis they then become a fat burning machine. Insulin also retains sodium and if you know what sodium does, it retains water.
Now I could carry on and on about the ketogenic process but that is not the intent of this article. I will write on Ketosis and the Ketogenic diet on a later article. This is just a nut shell of information. If you would like for me to do a video or further explain insulin and its roll played in weight gain please shoot me an email at email@example.com Plus, I would love to offer help and talk about my mistakes and what I feel helps in order to be successful. Thanks for reading