For the month of June we are going to spend time learning about some of the roles insulin plays in the body and why having stable insulin and being insulin sensitive is important to our over all health.
Usually when we hear about insulin is it is in regards to diabetes. However, insulin is responsible for many other roles within the body. It is an important hormone that plays a major role in storing or using body fat, nutrients entering the cell, inflammation, and so much more. Insulin is vital for life. Insulin is produced by the pancreas in response to our eating carbohydrates, these turn into sugar in the body referred to as glucose. Insulin's role is to whisk this glucose out of the blood stream because if left in the blood stream, glucose becomes extremely toxic to the body. Let's talk about insulin's other roles.
We are going to discuss insulin's role in the body in regards to energy and fat burning today.
When we follow the norm today, we are told carbs are our primary source of fuel, the body prefers to burn carbs. In my opinion this has had devastating impacts on our health and I disagree. Does this mean you have to agree with me, no. I do hope you are willing to see another side of health and be open to different thoughts and learning.
I prefer to be fat adapted, metabolically flexible. Meaning my body is able to use the glucose it is given through my food and once this is dealt with, it can begin to burn fat for fuel, either from food or my stored body fat. This is the natural setting of the animal, human and otherwise. When we look to our ancestors, animal protein and fat were their main food sources. Think about it, they did not have mass food production facilities, acres of planted crops, no grocery store to pick up all this processed food, grains, fruit and veggies available year round. They ate what they could hunt, gather and preserve. If you need to eat every 2-4 hours to maintain your energy levels you wouldn't last long in the wild. This makes carbs as the main energy source not likely.
When we are sugar burners, the body cannot as easily burn our stored fat for fuel. Again for our ancestors this would spell death not being able to use their stored body fat for fuel, energy. They might have gone several days without food or very little food. Being able to access their stored body fat was essential for survival.
When our insulin is like an angry ocean of waves it leaves the body exhausted, fatigued, burnout, inflamed and in fat storage, among other things. Carbs go in, the pancreas produces insulin in response, recall excess glucose in the blood stream is toxic, it has to be removed. The body maintains about 5 grams of glucose in the blood, too high is toxic, too low and you die. Insulin's roll in removing glucose is important. Glucose is put into the cells to burn as energy, along with storage, between 350-500 grams can be stored in the muscles. A couple of hours worth of energy is all. If the muscles are full, glucose is also stored in the liver, a couple hundred grams at best. If the cells are full of glucose or the cells can't hear insulin's signals, these carbs are turned into fat and stored on the body. You continue to gain weight. If I just eat less, I should lose weight? Isn't that what it is all about, eat less calories? I hope you are beginning to see the answer to you just eat less and you will lose weight is a fighting battle with insulin and it is no.
With wild and crazy insulin, the body is being given the signal to store fat, high insulin tells the body to store fat. Low insulin puts the body in a stress response, the body needs to get those insulin levels back up or you will die. The brain and body are in constant battles of where the next meal is going to come from. The brain is an enormous fuel hog. When it begins to think it is not going to have enough glucose to survive, it signals the body to get food and get it fast, hangry, hypoglycemia issues, fatigue, brain fog, poor sleep, weight gain, flood of health issues follow. What our bodies do in response to this signal for hunger and carbs aren't given to keep the brain happy, the body begins to break down our precocious muscle tissue and turn it into glucose, a processes called gluconeogenesis. This is NOT a good thing. We want and need that muscle for longer and healthier lives. No reason to go breaking it down for the body to burn as sugar, especially when there is stored fat on your body. We will talk more about this in the weeks to come. For now, it is important to begin understanding why it is about more than eating less to truly lose weight, keep it off and maintain health. Insulin plays a direct role and it is about stable insulin levels not crashing waves.
These crashing waves of insulin also cause:
- poor sleep quality
- keep the body in a fight or flight, stressing the adrenal glands
- brain fog, mental clarity struggles
- emotional distress
- hangry, hypoglycemia and so many other health issues.
If we are constantly eating high carbohydrate meals forcing our pancreas to produce more and more insulin, our pancreas can burn out and stop working. On the flip side, if we are constantly producing insulin and it is knocking at the cells doors all the time, the cell begins to have selective hearing and not listen to insulin any longer. You might have heard of insulin resistance, where the cell stops hearing the signal of insulin. When the cells stop listening, the body responds by making more insulin. Gotta get that glucose out of the blood stream and nutrients into the cells for you to live. Vicious cycles that can lead to diabetes and many other health issues.
This is where being fat adapted and metabolically flexible comes into play. Our natural setting as humans is a fat burning beast, meaning we are easily and efficiently able to use fat for fuel, fat that we eat and stored body fat. Protein is high on this list as well. When our bodies re-learn how to burn fat for fuel what happens in our bodies at every levels improves. Our goal is calm, stable insulin levels, like a calm ocean, gentle waves whispering to our cells to intake protein, vitamins, minerals, nutrients and once glucose is used, go back to burning fat for fuel and energy.
Fat and protein are stable forms of energy, give us amino acid, more nutrient dense and clean burning source of fuel. To create our bodies, organs, nerves, DNA, we have to have amino acids and the best sources that our bodies are able to easily absorb come from animal protein. Vital vitamins are found in fat, fat soluble vitamins A,D,E, and K2, we need these vitamins in abundance. Other vitamins and minerals that we need are found in animal protein as well. Our cells are able to more easily clean up after themselves while burning these fuels unlike carbs. Burning carbs causes significant more stress on the body and damage, aging, wrinkles, inflammation and so much more. Our brains, hearts and other organs prefer to burn fat for fuel, getting into ketons that we aren't going to talk about here. This helps us have more stable energy, there is more energy in fat and think about all that stored body fat you have. If the body is able to tap into this fuel source it has an ample amount of energy.
I know this will be a question, our brains need glucose to function. There is a positive side to gluconeogenesis, converting protein into glucose. From the protein we eat our livers can make all the glucose our brains need to function. Truly, you could not ever eat carbs again, as long as you are eating enough protein, the body will do it's thing and make glucose. I am not suggesting you don't ever eat carbs or stay very low all the time, I don't believe this is healthy unless being medically supervised. The point is carbs are not needed in the amounts we are told to eat them in. Carbs have their place but shouldn't be taking up the base of our eating. The base of our food consumption should be animal protein and fat.
I know this was a lot of information. I hope it has given you some food for thought and a better idea of the importance of insulin in our bodies and a glimpse into it's role in storing or burning fat for fuel. We will discuss these ideas more in the weeks to come!
Where your mitochondria go your health goes.
Love you guys!