Part 1 of 2
Insulin is one of the most powerful hormones associated with weight gain and weight loss. Once you understand the basics of insulin you will find clear clues confirming this fact. Avoiding moderate to large amounts of insulin spikes in your bloodstream is one of the fundamental bases of the Paleo, keto, carnivore and low carb diets.
You may not be interested in those types of diets but what you need to know about insulin (yes, NEED to know – this should be taught in every school) and its fundamental workings, will change your life, lifestyle and way of thinking forever. Though I am not a complete advocate for eliminating carbs from the diet and prefer low consumption of carbs as opposed to no consumption of carbs, it is a fact that carbohydrates serve little to no purpose in a human being’s diets (fibre aside).
Let me explain in simple terms exactly how insulin works so you can gain a basic yet strong understanding about this hormone, its activity and affects.
Whenever you eat nutrients, any nutrient and not just carbohydrates/sugars, the pancreas is responsible for secreting insulin. So, when you eat fat, protein and carbs the pancreas creates insulin for one primary purpose – to shuttle and allow nutrients to enter your system effectively and efficiently in order to be used by the body for just about every single metabolic process.
If you think of insulin as the gate keeper, its initial purpose, amongst many other workings, is to open the gates for all the nutrients that you consume to enter, be processed, absorbed then utilised by the body. Fats are primarily used as energy and whatever is left over is stored as excess fat into numerous areas of the human body, our fat cells. The issue with fat as an energy source is that most of us looking to lose weight don’t quite know how to tap into fat stores to use them as a form of energy, hence the storage of more fat creating overall health issues.
Protein, once broken down, is used to replenish, repair and assist in the growth of every cell in the body and is also largely responsible for the maintenance, repair, recovery and growth of lean tissue.
Carbohydrates however, have a different purpose altogether. They are all broken down into their simplest form, SUGAR. Every carbohydrate (with the exception of fibre which is present to a larger degree in vegetables, and is not a macro/major nutrient as it contributes only a negligible level to calories digested) breaks down into sugar.
We know that sugar provides our bodies with energy, but fats do this more efficiently and are in fact the body’s natural and preferred fuel for energy. The competition therefore begins for utilisation by the body as an energy source.
Stored fats are easily accessible for the utilisation of energy, however, if carbohydrates are present in large amounts (glucose stored as glycogen), then glycogen from carbohydrates is far more easily accessible for the body to use as energy. When excess carbohydrates/sugars are present in the muscle, the body forgets about the fat stores and does not bother to access fat as a form of energy.
The body always looks for the simplest method to find energy so in this scenario energy is used in the form of carbohydrates and fats miss out on getting an invite to the party.
So, what happens when fats are not used as an energy source? They accumulate and fat cells become larger leading to obesity.
To break this down, when excess carbs are present as a result of the over consumption, fats do not get used as energy and we get fatter.
Many will still argue that carbs are required for brain function, and current science will confirm this, however the body will create carbs for this purpose in the presence of protein and fats.
So, you can see now that insulin secreted in abundance, whenever we consume carbs, is detrimental to our overall health.
How do we encourage the body to use fats as a form of energy?