Top 3 Strategies to Increase Insulin Sensitivity
As we discussed before, insulin sensitivity is an important state to achieve to stay healthy and prevent lifelong diseases (like diabetes) from developing. It’s not all doom and gloom though. Did I mention that being insulin sensitive can also help burn fat and stay lean? Yea, it does that too. So even if you don’t care what happens in your body internally, you’ll at least care to know it affects your external appearance as well.
In this article I’ll discuss the strategies that I personally employ for maintaining my insulin sensitivity and staying lean. Let’s go.
Strategy 1 – Intermittent Fasting
Honestly, intermittent fasting (IF) is less of a strategy, and more of a lifestyle. Our bodies evolved to living out in the wild, and in the wild there isn’t 24-hour access to food and nutrients. In our human ancestral evolution, our bodies adapted to going through long periods of time without eating. This is the essential concept of intermittent fasting.
Now here is why intermittent fasting relates to an increase in insulin sensitivity: by employing fasting as a technique, you are increasing the amount of time your body remains at steady insulin levels. So for those 14 hours every day I am fasting, my blood sugar and insulin levels are steady. Once I start eating foods with glycemic load, I break the fast and spike my blood sugar and insulin. My insulin levels remain unsteady due to subsequent meals, until my feeding time is over at 8 pm. By regulating your blood sugar and insulin levels in this way, you not only prevent your body from becoming resistant to insulin but also increase your body’s sensitivity to insulin, requiring less insulin to achieve the desired affects of opening up cells for consuming the sugar in your blood.
So how does this relate to burning fat and staying lean? Recall that your body uses fat as it’s main source of every day fuel. Spiking your insulin levels actually interrupts the fat burning process, because preference is given to the absorption of the sugar in your blood. So by keeping insulin levels steady for longer, you are allowing your body to rely on it’s fat stores for fuel.
Strategy 2 – Time Your Nutrients
To me, nutrient timing is directly related to intermittent fasting. The bulk of importance of the concept of nutrient timing revolves around your workout. This is what bodybuilders call “peri-workout nutrition”. Nutrient timing is the concept of consuming particular nutrients at certain times for specific purposes.
The reason I say nutrient timing is related to IF goes back to our good friend insulin. It turns out that the two best times to spike your insulin is before and after your anaerobic workout (with after being more crucial). By eating high GI carbs before your workout, you spike your blood sugar levels to be available for energy for your workout. Providing sugar as your fuel for your workout enhances your performance, allowing you to get the most out of it. After your workout, your ability to absorb nutrients is increased dramatically. To ensure that your muscle cells receive the amino acids they need to repair the broken muscle tissue, it’s important to eat high GI carbs with your protein source to ensure that insulin is available to unlock the gates of your cells.
What about the rest of the day? Well, assuming that you don’t do any more intense physical activity, lowering your carb intake but increasing your fat intake ensures that your body continues to be fueled without spiking insulin. This is nutrient timing in a nutshell.
Strategy 3 – Carb Cycling
I already discussed carb cycling previously, so I won’t go into too much detail here. The gist of carb cycling is that you eat more carbohydrates on the days you workout and less carbohydrates on the days you rest. Since you are only eating carbs when necessary, your body spends more time in a low blood sugar/insulin state
The less carbs you eat, especially those with high glycemic load, the less your insulin levels spike. The less you spike your insulin, the more your body is sensitive to it. It should be no surprise that eating less carbs helps maintain insulin sensitivity.
There you go. Three strategies for increasing insulin sensitivity and maintaining a healthy insulin response to increases in blood sugar levels. Also three strategies for burning fat and getting lean. Double whammy! I hope you got some use out of this article. If nothing else, I hope you at least learned some new ideas to research more. To be honest, these three strategies are probably the most important concepts to know and practice to live healthy and lean. These strategies combined with a well balanced, healthy diet will turn you into a literal powerhouse of wellness.