If losing weight were as simple as counting calories or going on a “diet” then there would be no issues with losing weight, but there is more to losing weight for the long term that doesn’t involve “low fat” diets or calorie counting. Losing weight with insulin resistance starts with understanding the connection between sugar, over production of insulin and weight gain.
According to the work and research of Dr Jason Fung and his phenomenal book The Diabetes Code, insulin is the primary hormone responsible for weight gain. Elevated levels of insulin and insulin resistance are associated with weight gain, so the question that needs to be asked is what causes excess insulin production, how does insulin resistance cause weight gain and what is the connection between overproduction of insulin and weight gain. Before we dive into losing weight with insulin resistance let first take a look at the purpose of insulin in the body.
What does the hormone insulin do?
Insulin is a hormone produced by the beta cells of the pancreas and is secreted when blood sugar (glucose) levels rise. The role of insulin in the body is to transport glucose throughout the body and into the cells so that glucose can then be used as a source of energy once inside the cells. Insulin acts as a key that locks into receptor sites on the cells to allow the entry of glucose from the bloodstream to get inside cells. Without insulin glucose would not be able to enter the cell thus cell starvation would result.
How does insulin cause weight gain if it is just a hormone that transports glucose?
When insulin levels rise in response to eating food insulin tells the body to not burn fat because there is glucose available in the bloodstream for energy. When blood glucose levels rise so will insulin so that glucose can get into our cells and be stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen for later use but when these stores are full the liver will convert any excess glucose into fat to maintain normal blood glucose levels.
How does insulin resistance cause weight gain?
Insulin is the hormone that tells the body to store glucose and not to burn fat thus insulin can be thought of as your fat storage hormone. When insulin levels are elevated the body will be in fat storage mode.
How do sugar and refined carbohydrates cause over production of insulin and weight gain
Refined sugar found in the forms of fruit juice, soda pops, table sugar and refined carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, pastries, sweet treats, breakfast cereals, chips, and refined grains (flours) are broken down and absorbed at a very rapid pace in the body causing what is known as blood sugar spikes.
The body does not like having a fast release of glucose into the bloodstream therefore in response to higher than normal blood glucose levels the pancreas will secrete higher amounts of insulin to bring blood glucose back to balance. Instead of all those calories providing long lasting energy they are quickly stored or turned to fat so that homeostasis of blood sugar can be restored. This is why reducing sugar to lose weight is so important.
The consumption of refined carbohydrates and sugar often leave people on an emotional blood sugar roller coaster experiencing energy spikes along with the dips and weight gain! These energy spikes and dips are also your body’s initial signs of blood sugar imbalances.
What is the connection between sugar and insulin resistance?
When sugar and refined carbohydrates are eaten on a continuous basis and the body is never given the chance to burn through its glycogen stores in the liver and muscles, the body then becomes overwhelmed with the excess amount of glucose in the body. The cells do not want to take in any more glucose, therefore, they become resistant to the hormone insulin. The cells are literally screaming I have enough sugar already and I do not need any more so the cells start to become unresponsive to the signals of insulin.
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How does insulin make you gain weight?
The insulin resistance and weight gain problem really starts to show once the cells have become unresponsive to the signals of insulin because the glucose has to go somewhere…. So the pancreas pumps out more insulin hoping that more insulin will get that sugar inside the cells so that blood glucose levels can be maintained. But when the cells are consistently unresponsive to the uptake of new glucose it is then converted to fat resulting in…, you guessed it…weight gain.
How to lose weight with insulin resistance
In order to restore insulin sensitivity, the body needs to be given the opportunity to burn through and utilize all the excess glucose that is already in the body. The cells will not become responsive and sensitive to the hormone insulin until they need more glucose. This means that you have to stop putting more sugar, refined carbohydrates and food into the body.
Refined carbohydrates and sugar in all of its many forms are the foods that increase insulin production, thus raising insulin levels and contributing to insulin resistance which is why reducing sugar to lose weight is key. Sugar and refined carbohydrates are found everywhere from commercial breakfast cereals, pop, fruit juice, bread, pasta, sauces, chips and pretty much everything that comes from a cardboard box. 5 grams of refined carbohydrates equals 1 tsp of sugar..... so ditch all the commercial processed foods and get healthy carbohydrates from non starchy liver cleansing vegetables.
Fats are the best foods that don't spike insulin levels and signal the satiety hormones that make you feel full and satisfied while offering a slow burning source of energy, therefore healthy fats should be included with every meal. Fats are the foods that increase insulin sensitivity as they have the least impact on signalling insulin. Be mindful that while fats have the least impact on signalling insulin they are still energy dense and some people need to implement intermittent fasting to restore insulin sensitivity and lose weight.
All food that is eaten will signal the hormone insulin to some degree. In some cases in order to restore insulin sensitivity and lower the amounts of insulin present in the body you must implement longer periods of fasting (not consuming any food) to give the body the opportunity to burn through the excess glucose already in the body, such as the glycogen stores in the muscles and liver, so that the next time a person eats those cells will be hungry for glucose and responsive to the signals of insulin. When intermittent fasting is implemented the glycogen stores will be depleted in the liver and muscles so that glucose has somewhere to temporarily be stored and doesn’t need to be converted into fat for storage
Why fasting is not the same as calorie restriction
If weight loss were as simple as counting calories then the answer would be simple, eat less and lose weight…. But that is not the case. The body has the ability to both raise your metabolism and slow down your metabolism. If a person restricts the number of calories consumed the body can just slow down its metabolism to match the number of calories consumed.
But, by extending the time period in which no food is consumed the body will stay in a fat burning mode allowing you to utilize stored and fat for energy without slowing down your metabolism.
Any amount of food eaten, even if it is just a small amount will trigger the fat storage hormone insulin and switch the body out of fat burning mode. The minute insulin levels rise due to food consumption you will not be burning fat or stored glycogen, instead, you will be burning and storing the food that was just eaten.
Losing weight with insulin resistance starts with eliminating/reducing sugar, refined carbohydrates and implementing longer periods of fasting by shortening the eating window in which food is consumed so that insulin sensitivity can be restored and weight loss can be achieved. As everyone is unique and may have different degrees of insulin resistance the fine tuning of the diet and fasting periods can vary for each individual.
For more information on the connection between sugar, insulin resistance and weight gain I highly recommend reading The Diabetes Code by Dr. Jason Fung. His work is cutting edge and the results he has achieved speak for themselves.
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