What’s Is Its Role In The Body?
Every day our body is constantly working to keep conditions conducive to life, i.e keep us in homeostasis. Whenever conditions either inside or outside the body alter this state, our body is working to detect this and get it back to a normal range.
When the body detects a change in its normal conditions, hormones are released from cells in response to this detection from the body when something comes as being outside the normal range. One of these main hormones is insulin, responsive for stopping our blood sugar (glucose) levels from getting either too high or too low in response to the food we eat.
So What Makes Up Insulin?
Insulin is a peptide hormone, excreted from cells in response to the detection of an increased blood glucose level after a meal. When you have the presence of glucose in the body, there is a chemical reaction and insulin is excreted into the bloodstream. From there it can then connect to any cell in the body.
The overall role of insulin is to control the storage and release of energy during eating and fasting.
When our diet isn’t great and we are constantly pumping glucose into our system (e.g too much-refined carbohydrate) the body has to work really hard to pump that glucose out of our bodies.
Imagine a rat on a wheel (The pancreas, where insulin is secreted from). Every time you have a meal, the rat can be running at a consistent pace or you can make that poor little ran run and run and run until it gets tired, fatigued and slows down or stops completely.
What else can happen is that the rat keeps running (pancreas) but the glucose that is secreted is not utilised by the body (insulin resistance). The exact mechanisms surrounding insulin resistance are still quite unclear, however, we do know that individuals with a poor diet and who carry excess weight around the middle (hello spare tire!) often present with insulin resistance.
So What Can You Do For Insulin Resistance?
Insulin resistance, pre-diabetes or metabolic syndrome, is essentially 1 step behind full-blown diabetes.
So what can you do to prevent it from progressing to full-blown diabetes? Well, I’m afraid it the same age-old solution – modifiable lifestyle, diet and exercise factors when it comes to making you healthier around blood glucose control.
If you have insulin resistance, chances are your body is not using glucose for energy, its being stored in the adipose tissues (fat cells). This results in excess build up of fat in the blood – often indicated by high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
If you’re reading this and thinking ‘Oh no that’s me!’ don’t panic, it’s not all bad. The good news is that even a little bit of weight loss can make a huge difference when it comes to insulin resistance.
So How Much Weight Do You Need To Lose?
Well, the science indicates that a weight loss of about 10% of your body weight (so for some, as little as 7kg even if you are severely overweight) can have a massive impact on improving your blood glucose and insulin responses. It can help res-sensitizes cells to insulin.
What About Exercise?
Well yes, you need to be moving that blood glucose out of the body and the best way to do that is with exercise. Building muscle can also significantly aid the insulin response in managing blood glucose levels.
Regular resistance training (weight training) is very potent to re-sensitizing cells to insulin.
Glycemic Index is one way of rating the blood glucose response to insulin. If something has a high GI (70 and above) there is a good chance it will contain a lot of added sugar. When you look at a carbohydrate source you want to find out how easy is it convert food into sugar and glucose in the blood.
You want to make sure that you are not eating carbohydrates in isolation. Mixing a carbohydrate source with an acidic acid is one good way to slow the body’s processing of breaking this carbohydrate source down. Fats also slow down gastric emptying (the rate at which your body releases food molecules into the blood).
One great example would be to have a salad with sweet potato and add in balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
The way you cook food also impacts on the glycemic index of food. For example, when you cook rice, cool it down and place into the fridge to increases the level of resistance starch which lowers the GI of the food.
So if you have trouble managing your blood glucose here’s where to start.
- Losing even 10% of your body weight can have a significant impact on resensitising cells to insulin. It means you will utilise the glucose you eat more effectively
- Look for lower GI food solutions (less than 50)
- Start lifting! – Resistance training is by far the most effective way to re-sensitizing cells to insulin and normalise blood glucose levels
- Information in this post does not intend to diagnose or treat any conditions. If you have diabetes or think you may have insulin resistance please consult your health care professional.