Most of the advice we get today about losing fat includes some type of low-carb diet. Carbs have become the very definition of dietary evil, but this not only unfair, it’s also inaccurate.
We need carbs just as much as we need lean protein and healthy fats. Without them, our bodies wouldn’t be able to function. But there are four important factors involved in eating carbs:
- Eating the right types of carbs.
- Steering clear of some very unhealthy carbs.
- Eating carbs at the right time.
- Making sure that the carbs we eat promote and support the way our body is supposed to utilize carbs.
Our bodies need carbs to survive and were designed to utilize them properly. We are not designed to store carbs as fat; we are designed to use them as fuel. But what we eat, how much we eat and when we eat determines whether that process works beautifully or falls apart. To understand what I mean by that, you need to understand how the system is supposed to work.
Insulin and Carbs in a Nutshell
Insulin’s primary function is to take the glucose in your bloodstream, transport it to your liver to be turned into glycogen (fuel) and then carry it through the walls of your muscle cells so they can use it as energy.
As long as your cells are receptive to insulin, and as long as your muscles need all that glycogen, most of the carbs you eat will be used by your muscles. But if your diet and exercise habits mean that you eat far more carbs than your muscles need, insulin will take that glycogen and store it in the fat cells, mainly around your belly.
Here’s what’s supposed to happen.
- You eat a healthy meal that includes nutrient-dense carbs, along with protein and healthy fats.
- Your body releases a small amount of insulin into the bloodstream. It doesn’t need much because you ate a sane portion of carbs, which only raised your blood sugar a little bit, and because your body’s cells are highly receptive to insulin. So a little bit goes a long way.
- Most of those carbs are converted to glycogen and either burned as fuel right away or stored in your muscle’s cells because you ate your carbs at a time when they were needed for energy or to replenish your stores.
- A minimum of glycogen is stored in your fat cells because your muscle cells needed and were receptive to what they were fed.
Unfortunately, this isn’t how it’s working for most people because their carb-processing system is broken.
The Broken Carb-Processing System
Here’s what’s happening for most of the people losing the battle with body fat.
- You eat a meal or snack loaded with high-fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners, refined flours, empty calories and little protein or fiber.
- Those carbs slam into your bloodstream all at once because they’re broken down so quickly.
- Your blood sugar skyrockets.
- Your insulin level skyrockets as well, not only in response to a ton of blood glucose, but also because a continuous pattern of eating this way and carrying too much fat has led to insulin resistance.
- Because you ate those carbs just because you felt like it instead of when your muscles needed them, and also because of your cells’ inability to respond to insulin, most of that glycogen is stored as body fat.
I realize that at this point, everything sounds pretty grim. But the fact is that there is a ton of research showing there are things we can do to repair our carb-processing systems and reset our insulin sensitivity.
- A 2005 study published in The Annals of Internal Medicine showed that eating a diet free of high-fructose corn syrup and other processed sugars and flours for two weeks drastically improved both the insulin sensitivity and blood glucose levels of obese patients with Type 2 diabetes.
- A 2004 study on carbs and insulin sensitivity found that a diet restricted to only high-fiber, low-glycemic carbs resulted in far less incidence of metabolic syndrome due to insulin resistance.
- A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology reports that 85% of people who did six months of high-intensity/high-volume exercise saw a significant increase in their sensitivity to insulin, compared to 40% of people who did low-to-moderate exercise.
- Another study on strength training showed that resistance training significantly improved glycogen uptake and increased insulin sensitivity after just two months.
- There is even ongoing and very exciting research into the way certain nutrients can improve insulin sensitivity and fat loss. A 2003 study reported that 40 days of taking a cinnamon supplement reduced blood glucose levels and improved glycogen uptake by as much as 29%.
- A 2012 study found that supplementation of the plant extract berberine was as effective as metformin, a common medication for Type 2 diabetes, at reducing blood glucose levels.
- A 2009 study gave diabetic patients a fenugreek supplement for 8 weeks. After two months, those patients’ fasting blood glucose levels had dropped by a whopping 25%.
As you can see, you’re not without positive steps you can take to correct your insulin sensitivity, reduce your blood sugar and start losing that fat. By getting most of your carbs from whole fruits and vegetables, timing your carbs for during and after your workouts, and getting plenty of high-volume-high intensity exercise (both HIIT and resistance training), you can drastically improve your carb-processing system in just a couple of months.
While the research on ingredients such as cinnamon (pure cinnamon, not the grocery-store variety), fenugreek and berberine is really promising, you won’t be able to get enough of them and in the right forms to include them through diet; those will have to be gotten through a quality supplement.
However, it’s clear that you are not “stuck” with a faulty carb-processing system.
Try the ONLY supplement I trust to correct my insulin sensitivity. It’s called Leptiburn by Biotrust.
Alam Khan, MS, PHD, Mahpara Safdar, MS, Mohammad Muzaffar Ali Khan, MS, PHD, Khan Nawaz Khattak, MS , Richard A. Anderson, PHD. “Cinnamon Improves Glucose and Lipids of People With Type 2 Diabetes.” Diabetes Care (2003): vol. 26 no. 12 3215-3218.
Guenther Boden, MD; Karin Sargrad, MS, RD, CDE; Carol Homko, PhD, RN, CDE; Maria Mozzoli, BS; and T. Peter Stein, PhD. “Effect of a Low-Carbohydrate Diet on Appetite, Blood Glucose Levels, and Insulin Resistance in Obese Patients with Type 2 Diabetes.” Annals of Internal Medicine (2005): 142:403-411.
Joseph A. Houmard , Charles J. Tanner , Cris A. Slentz , Brian D. Duscha , Jennifer S. McCartney , William E. Kraus. “Effect of the volume and intensity of exercise training on insulin sensitivity.” Journal of Applied Physiology (2004): Vol. 96no. 1, 101-106.
Jun Yina, Jianping Yeb, Weiping Jia. “Effects and mechanisms of berberine in diabetes treatment.” Acta Pharmaceutica Sinica B (2012): Volume 2, Issue 4, August 2012, Pages 327–334.
Kassaian N, Azadbakht L, Forghani B, Amini M. “Effect of fenugreek seeds on blood glucose and lipid profiles in type 2 diabetic patients.” International Journal of Vitamin and Nutrition Research (2009): Jan;79(1):34-9.
L. B. Borghouts, H. A. Keizer. “Exercise and Insulin Sensitivity: A Review.” International Journal of Sports Medicine (2000): 21(1): 1-12.
Nicola M. McKeown, PHD, James B. Meigs, MD, MPH, Simin Liu, MD, SCD, Edward Saltzman, MD, Peter W.F. Wilson, MD and Paul F. Jacques, SCD. “Carbohydrate Nutrition, Insulin Resistance, and the Prevalence of the Metabolic Syndrome in the Framingham Offspring Cohort.” Diabetes Care (2004): vol. 27 no. 2 538-546.
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