Insulin and fat loss

Yesterday I mentioned that too much sugar and too little exercise can lead to insulin resistance and type II diabetes over time. However, you may have noticed that type II diabetes is strongly correlated with being overweight and obese. Unfortunately, obesity can be another effect of too much insulin.

Normally, glucose is stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen and then released back into the bloodstream between meals. However, glucose is not our only source of energy; we use fats as well. In fact, free fatty acids are our primary source of energy at rest. Like glucose, high insulin levels after a meal ensure free fatty acids are stored in muscles and fat cells. Falling levels of insulin between meals then causes the release of stored glucose and the breakdown of fat into fatty acids that can be used for energy.

The problem is for people with chronically high levels of insulin. If insulin levels are always high, either through constant snacking on sweet treats or type II diabetes, then there is never a strong signal to breakdown fat. This makes it very difficult to lose unwanted body fat.

This is rationale behind both low carbohydrate and periodic fasting diets. The idea is to drastically reduce insulin levels to force the body to use fat as fuel.  And they usually work – blood sugar and insulin levels go down, and body fat is reduced. However, such diets can be very hard to maintain long term and can come with several unpleasant side effects. As discussed before, the brain runs solely on glucose so drastically reducing glucose stores can lead to headaches, dizzy spells and feeling fuzzy headed. As well, many people find they are often tired on a low carbohydrate diet, no matter how much they eat. Such symptoms may pass in a few days as the body adapts to using fat for fuel and creates more of the enzymes which convert fats to glucose.

For athletes, the problem with low carbohydrate and fasting diets is that they need glucose to fuel their workouts. Even after several weeks on such a diet, when they have adapted to use fats more efficiently, converting fats to glucose simply doesn’t happen fast enough to support high intensity exercise. Most find the quality of their workouts suffer and their competition performances decline.

Once again, there is another way to reduce your insulin levels: exercise. Levels of insulin decrease during exercise, while glucose stores are used to fuel the activity. This in turn stimulates fat burning, both during and after the workout. And the longer or more intense the effort, the greater this effect. So a quick HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) session can have similar effects to an hour long run.

So while you can’t out train a bad diet, you can use exercise to give fat loss a helping hand!

The Score for 8 February:

Calories: Protein: Carbs: Sugars: Fat: Sat Fat: Fibre:  
2014 110.72g 252.54g 117.43g 57.99g 20.30g 29.27g
23% 51% 26%
Calories burned through exercise: 404

What I ate:

Time Item Amount
08:30 Centrum Multivitamin,  Vitamin E 400IU, Vitamin D 25 µg
Tap water 250mL
Scrambled eggs, 2 large 115g
with smoked salmon 50g
and spinach 15g
Genius brown sliced gluten free bread, 2 slices toasted 58g
with butter 5g
and St Dalfour Raspberry fruit spread 23g
Black Tea 450mL
10:30 Fresh ginger tea with a splash of lemon juice and 1 tsp honey 250mL
12:.30 Homemade Veggie Tagine 380g
Merchant Gourmet red and white quinoa 65g
Lactofree skimmed milk 250mL
Green tea 350mL
14:45 25 min recovery run + stretching session
16:00 MaxiNutrition Lean protein powder, chocolate 40g
in water 275mL
Golden delicious apple 101g
17:30 Nairns gluten free wholegrain crackers 28g
Tesco extra mature cheddar 38g
Tesco finest red onion chutney 21g
19:30 Teriyaki Salmon stir fry with broccoli, carrots and peppers 340g
Wai Wai brown rice vermicelli 50g
Kiwi, 2 medium peeled 110g
20:30 Yoomoo yoghurt ice lolly, tropical fruit 1 lolly

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