Insulin and metabolic health
Today we know, that weight gain has a lot to do with metabolic health. And a healthy metabolism has much more to do with how we metabolise carbohydrates – which requires insulin. With our current life style insulin control and insulin sensitivity are critical to achieving good metabolic health – and a healthy weight.
The pancreas secretes insulin in response to glucose (sugar) in the blood following eating carbohydrates. The carbohydrates are broken down to form glucose, which is then absorbed from your gut into your blood stream. Once glucose is in your bloodstream your body needs to somehow get the glucose safely into the cells, or convert the excess glucose into lipids Insulin is a hormone, which you can imagine is like a key. This key (insulin) unlocks the door to the cell in order to allow the glucose to get safely into the cell where it can be utilised for energy. If there is too much glukose floating around it gets stored in the fat cells and the liver, so it can be relased later in order to provide energy to the cells. Of course, if there is never any lack in energy, more and more gets stored in the fat cells and we gain weight.
Also cells can get «insulin resistant». When too much insulin is floating around, it’s almost like the «lock in the cell gets blocked» and insulin can no longer unlock the door. The cell does not get the glucose it needs to produce energy and glucose remains floating around in the blood – where it causes damage in the way of inflammation and oxidative damage to cells (Levels Health, 2022). High levels of both glucose and insulin in the blood can lead to many chronic conditions including cardiovascular disease, cancers, Alzheimers etc . (Lustig, 2021, S. 128)
Improving your metabolic health – and thereby achieving a healthy weight
CHOICE AND AMOUNT OF FOOD
All calories are not created equal. Foods high in carbohydrates cause an increase in blood sugar levels, and this causes insulin to be high, leading to fat storage. Choosing healthy sources of protein, healthy fats, and low glycemic load carbohydrates allows your blood sugar levels to be more stable. Over time this creates better metabolic health. The ratios of macronutrients you eat also affects this insulin level, and a meal should always contain protein and fat in order to help stabilise your blood sugar levels. The amount that you eat also affects your blood sugar levels, so even if you are eating healthily, and you eat too much, it will have a negative effect on your insulin levels. There is detailed information a little later, as to how to calculate your personal calorie intake, and how many portions of each macronutrient you should then consume for fat loss or weight gain.
INCREASED LEAN MUSCLE MASS
By increasing the amount of lean muscle mass you have, through resistance training, you create more GLUT4 transporters, which are the slides that allow glucose to safely enter the cells. Lean muscle mass is also more metabolically active, meaning that it increases your body's resting metabolism. We will discuss exercise in greater detail in the next workshop.
Stress increases the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is designed to increase the levels of blood sugar in order to fight or flee from the stressor. Unfortunately in today's world we seldom get to run away from stressful or annoying emails, our fighting children, ageing parents, or financial worries. This leaves cortisol continually elevating our blood sugar levels (it will cause glucose to be pulled from your muscle tissue and liver if it is not available in your blood stream), and yet our bodies have no use for all that sugar in our blood. Insulin is then elevated by the body, in order to deal with the increase in glucose.
You can begin to see why it is so difficult to lose body fat if one is under chronic stress. If you want to loose weight your should also consider stress mangement techniques such as mindfulness meditation, improving your sleep, regular exercise, time in nature, connecting with people you enjoy, laughing, doing something you enjoy, sex, massage etc. All these activities cause an increase in oxytocin which helps to lower cortisol. Lower cortisol means better insulin levels.
Sufficient good quality sleep (7-9 hours per night) is essential for fat loss, and muscle gain. First and foremost, if you do not sleep well, your insulin sensitivity is decreased, even after only one night's poor sleep. Secondly growth hormone is released during deep sleep, and is important for helping you to build and maintain lean muscle mass. Sleep also has a direct impact on your hunger hormones - leptin lowers your hunger hormones, and ghrelin increases your hunger hormones.
Sleep also balances your sympathetic (stress) nervous system,because your body is in the parasympathetic state whilst sleeping (rest and relax). This creates better balance in your cortisol levels, which are also important for fat loss and having the energy to exercise.
PORTION SIZES< NUMBER OF PORTIONS AND TRACKING
Regarding weight gain, many times we simply eat too much, or we do not eat the correct ratios of macro-nutrients (proteins/fats/carbodrates). Keep in mind that the body will be hungry until it gets the nutrients it needs. Therefore, you need to make sure you’re eating a nutrient dense diet when you want to loose weight.
Calorie and macronutrient tracking are not for everybody. Especially if someone has a history of disordered eating or if it becomes an obsession, this can create it’s own form of stress and detract from eating mindfully and listening to your body. If you feel it’s helpful, then by all means give it a try, but remember to always listen to your body, and connect with your why.
Unfortunately, we are exposed to a huge amount of toxins on a daily basis. Toxin exposure from the air; the water we drink; pesticides on fruits and vegetables; skincare products; EMFs from WiFi, cellphones and electronics; microparticles from kitchen storage and cooking utensils; heavy metals from fish and dental fillings; furniture and the materials used to build our homes… the list is endless and the only thing one can do is to avoid exposure whenever possible, and ensure that your detoxification pathways are working optimally. Unfortunately, some people’s detoxification systems do not handle these toxins very well, especially if the toxic burden is too great. The body then stores the toxins in fat cells where they can cause less harm, particularly in abdominal fat stores . Sometimes obesity is linked to toxin exposure and it is then important to work with a doctor in order to follow a detoxifcation programme and ensure that the toxins can be safely removed from the body.