Managing Insulin Sensitivity
There are times when I start working with a new client with the goal to reduce body fat levels where I decide that the best approach would be to start by improving their hormonal environment. Control of hormones is key to fat loss!
Insulin is the hormone that is responsible for the storage of nutrients into fat tissue or muscle tissue. The sensitivity of each tissue to insulin can vary, fat tissue may be very sensitive to insulin whilst muscle tissue may be less sensitive and vica versa. The sensitivity of each will vary from person to person, as well as at different times of the day. When insulin sensitivity is high in fat tissue with respect to muscle tissue, nutrients are more likely to be stored as body fat. When we train, we promote the activation of the GLUT4 molecule in the muscle tissue which is responsible for that tissues response to insulin, whereby the activation of this molecule increases insulin sensitivity. This increased muscle insulin sensitivity after training results in a greater uptake of nutrients into the muscle tissue as opposed to the fat tissue. So after training you can have that larger carbohydrate meal and know that the chances of it being directed towards body fat storage are greatly reduced.
With regards to a clients general insulin sensitivity, if they have high body fat levels then there is a high likelihood that their insulin sensitivity can be improved. Particularly with respect to their response to carbs, so that those carbs can be tolerated better and more likely to be used for fuel and muscle glycogen uptake rather than fat storage. When someone over indulges in carbs for long periods of time, the cells become less responsive to insulin and therefore a number of negative effects will occur which relate to the result of consistently higher blood sugar levels. With the cells being less responsive to insulin, more of this circulating glucose will be converted into fat triglycerides for storage in fat cells resulting in higher body fat levels. It is these circulating triglycerides that in the long-term will often lead to of diseases such as high cholesterol levels and type II diabetes.
In those cases where I believe a clients insulin sensitivity is poor, I will often start the client on a higher fat and low carb diet for a period of around 4 weeks. After that time if they are still making good progress I may continue or even
reduce carbs a little further. However, after that 4-6 week period of low carbs and high fats, I will then often completely change their diet to lower fat and higher carbs. In doing so I find that in most cases, even with an increase in calories the client will continue to progress and burn fat! The reason for this is that their insulin sensitivity is now greatly improved, they can tolerate the carbohydrates without the fat storage they would have experienced previously and we now have more calories and carbs to work with and therefore can take calories away when needed as their diet progress!
Know how to manage your hormones and you take a massive step towards managing your physique!
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