Let’s talk insulin.
Mention the “I word” into a low carbohydrate dieter, or possibly a clean eater, and you will virtually see them turn white as the blood drains off their face in abject horror.
For many years, insulin could be the big villain in the nutrition world.
They talk about insulin as “the storage hormone” and believe that any amount of insulin in the body will immediately lead you to lay out new fat cells, put on pounds, and lose any level of leanness and definition.
Fortunately, it’s not quite the situation.
In fact, while simplifying things in terms of nutrition and training can often be beneficial, this is the gross over-simplification with the role of insulin inside you, as well as the the fact is entirely different.
Far from to be the dietary devil, insulin is basically not even attempt to be afraid of in any way.
What Insulin Does
Part one of the insulin worrier’s claim (that insulin is often a storage hormone) holds true – one of insulin’s main roles is to shuttle carbohydrate which you eat around the body, and deposit it where it’s needed.
For many people that the carbs consume are stored as fat though.
You store glycogen (carbohydrate) with your liver, good tone muscles cells plus your fat cells, and will also only get shoved into those pesky adipose sites (fat tissue) when the muscles and liver are full.
Additionally, unless you’re in a calorie surplus, you simply cannot store unwanted fat.
See it this way –
Insulin is like the employees in the warehouse.
Calories would be the boxes and crates.
You might fill that warehouse fit to burst with workers (insulin) in case there won’t be any boxes (calories) to stack, those shelves won’t get filled.
And if you’re burning 3,000 calories each day, and eating 2,500 calories (and even 2,999) your system can’t store fat. No matter whether those calories come from carbs or sugar, you shall not store them, because your body requires them for fuel.
Granted, this wouldn’t be the world’s healthiest diet, but because far as science is concerned, it boils down to calories in versus calories out, NOT insulin.
It is not just Carbs
People fret over carbs obtaining the biggest affect insulin levels, and the way carbohydrate (particularly from the simple/ high-sugar/ high-GI variety) spikes insulin levels, but plenty of other foods raise insulin too.
Whey protein isolate, as an example, is extremely insulogenic, and can cause a spike, particularly when consumed post workout.
Dairy products too have a relatively large effect as a result of natural sugars they contain, and even fats can raise insulin levels.
Additionally, the insulin effect is drastically lowered when you eat an assorted meal – i.e. the one which contains carbs plus protein and/ or fat.
This slows the digestion along with the absorption with the carbs, bringing about a significantly lower insulin response. Add fibre in to the mix too, and the raise in insulin is minimal, so even if we were focused on it before, the perfect solution is not hard – eat balanced, nutrient-dense meals, and you need not worry.
Insulin Builds Muscle
Finding comfort thinking about insulin like a storage hormone, and the notion which it delivers “stuff” to cells:
Fancy taking a guess at what else it delivers, beside carbohydrate?
It delivers nutrients for your muscle cells.
Therefore, if you are forever attempting to keep levels of insulin low for concern with extra weight, it’s highly unlikely you’ll get buff optimally. It’s for that reason that I’d never put clients looking to build muscle to make lean gains with a low-carb diet.
No Insulin Can Still Equal Fat Storage
Contrary to those low-carb diet practitioners once more, you are able to store fat when insulin levels are low.
Fat when consumed within a caloric surplus is in fact changed into extra fat tissue much more readily than carbohydrates are, showing that once again, fat gain or fat loss is dependant on calories in versus calories out, not levels of insulin.
Why low-Carb (and Low-Insulin) Diets “Work”
Many folk points towards the scientific and anecdotal evidence of low-carb diets being employed as reasoning to keep levels of insulin low.
I won’t argue – a low-carb diet, where insulin release is kept down can simply work, however, this has hardly any regarding the hormone itself.
If you cut carbs, you generally cut calories, putting you in to a deficit.
Additionally, the average person will eat more protein plus more vegetables when going low-carb, in order that they feel far fuller and consume less. Plus, protein and fibre have an increased thermic effect, meaning they really use-up more calories during the digestion process.
Net profit: Insulin – Not Bad In the end
There’s no need to be worried about insulin if you –
Train hard and regularly
Eat a balanced macronutrient split (i.e. ample protein and fat, and carbs to match activity levels and private preference.)
Are relatively lean.
Eat mostly nutrient-dense foods.
Have no issues with diabetes.
You can still store fat with low insulin levels, and you can get rid of fat and produce muscle when insulin occurs.
Taking a look at insulin in isolation as either “good” or “bad” is indeed a prime instance of missing the forest for your tress, so chill out, and let insulin do its thing whilst you target the main issue.
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