Getting Buff, Managing Insulin
Insulin is a key hormone in the body which is involved with regulating your blood sugar levels, and its purpose is to keep the level of sugar in your blood within an acceptable range. If sugar levels rise too high, insulin works to remove it from the blood stream and deposit it in cells, either for energy or, if not needed for that, in fat cells.
A deficiency of insulin of course creates conditions leading to diabetes, but in this article we are concerned with managing insulin in healthy individuals to regulate muscle, body fat and weight.
The first thing we need to understand is what an insulin spike is. When you flood your body with simple sugars, it results in very high blood glucose levels. Too much blood sugar is very damaging to the body, and this balancing process is essential to good health.
So where is the glucose going to be stored? That depends on what is going on at the time. If you have just finished a hard workout, and your muscle cells are drained of their stored energy, insulin is going to take the glucose and move it right into the muscle cells. You are going to get an insulin spike when you consume foods that break down easily into sugar. If your diet consists of foods that do not break down rapidly into sugar, there may still be some insulin release, but it will be more moderate and controlled.
Post workout, or after strenuous exercise, a rush of insulin can be beneficial, but generally it is healthier to consume foods which are broken down slowly into sugars - food with a low glycemic index. Candy or snack foods turn into glucose easily, whereas carbohydrates such as oats, brown rice, quinoa and vegetables will have a much lower impact on insulin since they break down very slowly, releasing glucose into the blood stream over time. Proteins such as chicken, fish and egg whites may cause a slight increase in insulin levels, but this is insignificant compared with the effect from carbohydrates.
Fats from sources like nuts, seeds and avocados have no impact on insulin release and are beneficial forms of fat in any case.
Constantly flooding your body with simple sugars can have long term effects: if high levels of insulin are often present, the body can become insensitive to insulin, with the result that energy is more easily stored as fat, and weight loss becomes harder to achieve every year.