How to Manipulate Insulin for Fat Loss & Muscle Gain

Posted June 18, 2009 in Diet, Medical, Supplements 8 Comments »

Insulin can be a touchy subject when it comes to fat loss, muscle growth, and weight training. It is extremely important that we understand the role of insulin in the body and how the foods we eat affect our health and physiques.

What is Insulin?

First, we must define what insulin is:

Insulin in a peptide hormone composed of 51 amino acid residues, which is produced by the beta cells of the pancreas and released when any of the several stimuli is detected. These stimuli include ingested protein and glucose in the blood, produced from digested food. Insulin has expansive effects on metabolism and other bodily systems.

Fat Loss

What Insulin Does in the Body

Let us look at what insulin does when it is present in the body.

When present, insulin causes the uptake of blood sugar (glucose) by the vast majority of bodily cells. These cells include muscle, fatty tissue, and liver cells.

Insulin is primarily responsible for storing glucose as glycogen in the liver and muscles. When insulin is at high concentrations in the body, it prevents the use of fat as an energy source.

What Insulin Does In Low Concentrations

When insulin is absent or low, glucose is not taken up by most cells in the body, which results in a lack of energy. When this happens, the body begins to use bodyfat as an energy source. Adipose tissue releases fatty acids into the bloodstream, which are then used by the liver for energy.

Other body systems are also affected as amino acid uptake is halted as a result of the low insulin.

This is a key reason why high doses of BCAAs work so well during and after workouts, especially when combined with a high glucose post-workout drink. The uptake of BCAAs is an extremely anabolic process that increases DNA replication and protein synthesis.

That last sentence is important in understanding why insulin is a huge piece in the muscle building/fat burning puzzle.

The word anabolic primarily means tissue building. Insulin does not care where or what type of tissue it helps build via glucose uptake, which means that it is anabolic to fat and muscle.

This is What a Normal Metabolism Looks Like

Normal Metabolism
Normal Metabolism

What to Eat to Control Insulin

Our objective is not to eliminate insulin, but to control it. You can do this yourself with proper meal combinations and the timing of macronutrient intake.

Our bodies produce insulin based on the foods we eat. Carbohydrates typically elicit the greatest release of insulin.

The traditional glycemic index (GI) is important in determining the effect on blood sugar and insulin. A high GI indicates that a particular food will quickly cause a large release of insulin in response to an anticipated high level of glucose in the blood.

Resistance training primes the muscle cells for glucose uptake and desensitizes the adipose cells to insulin, thus making it harder for glucose to be stored as fat. This makes post workout the perfect time for a large influx of carbohydrates and protein.

For instance, after a workout we need insulin present to shuttle glucose to the muscle cells so they can begin the growth process. This is why the post workout meal is of such high importance.

I often advocate the use of a product called Biotest Surge, since it has 40 grams of high GI carbohydrates along with 25 grams of high quality BCAAs in the form of when protein isolates, and 0 grams of fat. You can find Surge at the Biotest Store.

I also personally use a great BCAA product called Xtend by Scivation. It is inexpensive and full of protein synthesizing BCAAs. You can get half a year’s worth for like $50. Get some by clicking here ==> Get Xtend!

Two Important Rules to Take Away From This Post

  1. Insulin does not have to be absent for fat burning to take place, it just needs to be low. That is why on a properly adjusted calorie deficit you can still eat the right kinds of carbohydrates at the right time and still lose bodyfat.
  2. Insulin should be high to increase anabolic activity in the body, including protein synthesis which is very important for post workout muscle recovery.

These facts support my constant claims that a low targeted carbohydrate diet in the best for fat loss.

The five rules for low targeted carbohydrate diet include:

  1. eat maybe 80 grams of complex carbohydrates on a non-workout day, but no more
  2. eat maybe 120 grams of carbohydrates on a workout day with at least 40 of those coming from a post workout drink containing high levels of BCAAs
  3. most of your carbs would be coming from complex carbohydrate sources such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes
  4. a high protein intake is necessary for maintaining and building muscle mass
  5. a high healthy fat intake is necessary for proper bodily function and to provide energy

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8 Responses to “How to Manipulate Insulin for Fat Loss & Muscle Gain”

  1. That’s the real effect of insulin? Wow, i haven’t known that ever since. Thanks for sharing a good information. I’ll try to search more about this info.

  2. Great article Steve. So if you have an extreme amount of weight to lose, say 80 – 100 lbs, would you recommend cutting your carb intake to a more drastic number?

    • Probably not. 70 grams of carbs is already pretty low. Any lower than that, and you’ll be approaching an Atkins-style diet. I prefer to avoid ketosis and all the funky little metabolic processes that go along with it.

  3. This is the first post that actually explained how to use insulin to our advantage and not just the effects of it.

    Being female, I’m more interested in optimizing insulin levels for weight loss and not muscle building. What is the right food combination and meal timing for fat burning? I tend to be a grazer and think that’s inhibiting weight loss even though I keep carbs to an absolute minimum.


  4. Hey Mr Swole, question 4 you: I use certain “unhealthy” foods as my post training carb. ie. Chocolate, corn chips/crisps, white bread with a choc-hazlenut spread, ice-cream etc. I see it as the “safe” time to eat those yummy foods. Am I correct?

    • Post training is the wrong time to eat any kind of fat. You only want fast digesting carbs and proteins. White bread is good, chips and chocolate are high in fat so they are bad. I see no protein in that list of foods either. Go with chocolate milk or Biotest Surge.

  5. One of the issues i had been dealing for quite some time is my body weight. It is good to be informed to determine the proper direction toward freedom from unnecessary fat. Thank you for this information. Very helpful indeed!!

  6. Great article Steve. So if you have an extreme amount of weight to lose, say 80 – 100 lbs, would you recommend cutting your carb intake to a more drastic number?

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