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Insulin Resistance: Eat Carbs and Still Lose Fat by Reigning In This Out-of-Whack Hormone

  May 25th, 2013

Insulin ResistanceToday we’re going to talk about a hormonal imbalance caused by long-term, excessive carb consumption: Insulin Resistance.


Before I get into the specifics of what insulin resistance is, and how you’re going to correct this far-too-common problem, I need to start by making clear that permanently cutting out carbs from your diet IS NOT the answer!


I often wonder what people who decide to follow low-carb diets are thinking, or if they’re even thinking at all.


Wait. What am I saying? I’ve followed low-carb and no-carb diets for months on end before. Yeah, and it was one of the dumbest things I’ve done to my body nutritionally.


Besides it being physically detrimental, it’s not like I could ever really make a lifestyle out of avoiding foods like potatoes, rice, fruits and pizza. Like I said, DUMB!


I, like everyone else who’s ever decided to go low-carb, did so in order to lean out. If your goal is simply to get skinnier, cutting out carbs will do the trick.


Although, I don’t know too many who would be satisfied with simply being a skinnier version of their current self. Being skinny-fat is no way to go through life, son.


No Carbs, Mo’ Problems

Extended periods of carb deprivation will starve your muscles, causing a decrease in muscle mass, and will noticeably sap your strength output within a matter of days. 


Setting out to lose fat with reckless abandon like this with little concern of muscle loss is foolish. After all, compared to fat loss – which happens rather quickly – gaining muscle mass comes at a premium.


You can safely lose 4 pounds of fat in a couple of weeks, but it can take months to add 4 pounds of pure muscle to your frame.


Remember, muscle enables us to burn fat faster, gives us our strength and just plain looks amazing. In case it isn’t clear, muscle should be something we do everything within our power to hold onto. As such, consistently adhering to a no-carb diet for any longer than a few weeks is a recipe for disaster.


The key to eating carbs so you can retain you hard-earned muscle – and even build muscle mass while cutting fat – lies in timing their consumption so the majority of your daily carb intake comes during the hours after training when your insulin sensitivity is temporarily heightened and those carbs will be efficiently converted to glucose and sent to your muscles for growth and recovery.


But, regardless of when you’re eating your carbs, if you eat too much you’re going to put on fat (at worst) or compromise your ability to lose stored fat (at best). In other words, you can’t just go gorging on carbs every night just because you’re doing it after you lift weights.


The Problem of Insulin Resistance

Insulin Resistance and SensitivityYour ability to process and utilize carbs is unique to you. Some of this is genetic, but a bigger factor in determining how many carbs you can eat in a given time-frame without gaining fat is your insulin sensitivity.


As a general rule, the more body fat you have, the more insulin resistant you will be and the fewer carbs you’ll be able to tolerate when trying to lose fat or prevent gaining additional body fat.


So, people with considerable amounts of body fat have a serious problem when it comes to eating carbs: their insulin sensitivity is shot. What this means, in a nutshell, is that carb-induced spikes in blood sugar put fat on these already fat individuals with ease.


On the other hand, already lean individuals typically have exceptional insulin sensitivity, which allows them to not only eat more carbs without gaining fat, but will prime their body for using consumed carbs for muscle growth.


This is why you absolutely must get lean before working solely on gaining muscle mass. Trying to add muscle mass without getting lean and having your insulin sensitivity in check first will lead to you gaining at least as much fat as you do muscle.


Yes, you can build muscle while cutting fat. I know because I’ve done it. That’s not the argument I’m trying to make here.


My point is that you never want to focus solely on adding lean muscle mass until you’re already relatively lean (with visible abs) and your insulin sensitivity will allow for it. Getting fat for the sake of putting on muscle is nonsense.


But, obviously, before you can get lean you’re going to have to start dropping body fat in the first place.


As I already mentioned, if you’re currently fat, your insulin sensitivity is probably wrecked and the carbs you eat are going to wreak havoc on your fat loss efforts.


So, how do you correct poor insulin sensitivity and get your fat loss on track? Unfortunately, controlling your carbohydrate intake is the only way to do it.


I know… Controlled carbs sounds a lot like cutting out carbs. But don’t freak on me yet. It’s only temporary while you get your insulin sensitivity in order.


The goal with any carb-limiting strategy being employed with the purpose of improving insulin sensitivity is to prevent frequent and magnanimous spikes in blood sugar.


Over time you will train your pancreas to more efficiently release insulin when spikes in blood sugar occur, sending this sugar to your muscles and liver, instead of remaining in your blood stream and eventually being stored in your fatty tissue and, well, make you fat.


In other words, improving your insulin sensitivity will lead to carbs being used for muscle growth/recovery, while bringing your blood sugar back to a normal level, preventing the storage of additional body fat that occurs when insulin sensitivity is poor and blood sugar remains elevated for extended periods of time.


Danger! Insulin Resistance is a Precursor for Type 2 Diabetes

It’s definitely worth mentioning here that poor insulin sensitivity is a precursor for the onset of type 2 diabetes. It starts out as insulin resistance, but if you don’t get it under control, your insulin resistance will reach harmful levels and you’ll have to start injecting insulin into your blood stream.


Insulin Resistance and Insulin InjectionsOnce you develop type 2 diabetes if you don’t inject yourself with insulin your blood sugar will stay amped 24/7, which can lead to a host of health issues. This is the consequence that develops when your body has been desensitized – through the incessant consumption of carbs and sugars – to not adequately respond to spikes in blood sugar.


Because overweight individuals are already insulin resistant – almost without exception – they have a much higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The good news: You can correct your insulin resistance problems before they spiral out of control.


People with type 2 diabetes typically have been pumping their bodies full of sugar for years, have probably made their bodies fat (finding a lean person with diet-induced type 2 diabetes isn’t exactly common) and have dulled their pancreas’ ability to secrete insulin to such an extreme degree that they now have to inject it into their bodies.


While you may have yet to develop type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance is the precursor and you need to get it under wraps and allow your pancreas to recover and start working as intended.


This is serious business and I want to make sure you don’t miss the point. I get that it can be difficult to control your carb intake, but knowing what’s at stake will hopefully motivate you to take action.


Again, as I said above, controlling your carb intake (I’ll discuss a few options on how to do this in a moment) is only temporary. Once your insulin sensitivity is improved you’ll be able to eat greater amounts of carbohydrates without gaining fat or while you continue leaning out your physique.


Actually, I recently read a posting in the Renegade Inner Circle forum from a member who is able to eat 400 grams of carbs per day without adversely impacting his body fat.


Until you get lean and take control of your insulin sensitivity, however, your carb intake should be nowhere near that high. Even then, 400 grams is really high – even for someone with relatively good insulin sensitivity.


For instance, I can usually only get away with about 200-250 grams of daily carbs before I start to smooth out. There is no way to definitively determine your capacity for handling carbs, so you’re going to have to experiment and measure a bit to learn how your body responds to different volumes of carb intake.


How to Improve Insulin Sensitivity

There are a number of methods you can employ to improve your insulin sensitivity and they all consist of limiting carbs so that your body isn’t bombarded with spikes in blood sugar that it isn’t currently able to properly handle until your insulin response returns to a more normal level and carbs won’t impact your body so adversely.


If you’re obese, fat or even chubby I can all but guarantee that your insulin response has been desensitized and the fact of the matter is it will be extremely difficult to shed any unwanted body fat while continuing to eat carbs until you improve your insulin sensitivity first.


The most efficient (and most difficult) method of improving insulin sensitivity is to shock your body by temporarily eliminating carbs from your diet altogether. I realize I opened this article decrying such methods, but this isn’t a call to eliminate carbs from your diet permanently, or even for very long.


I’m talking about 2-4 weeks of carb deprivation before slowly reintroducing carbs back into your diet. Yes, you will likely lose a small amount of muscle mass while following this strategy.


When you’re overweight, unhealthy and insulin resistant the priority needs to be on correcting your insulin resistance so you can start getting rid of body fat, first and foremost.


After 2-4 weeks of abstaining from carbs your insulin sensitivity will be greatly improved and you will be able start introducing carbs into your diet again. But this reintroduction of carbs should happen slowly.


Once you’re ready to reintroduce carbs into your diet I would start with 50-75 grams on training days, with the majority of that being consumed in a 2-3 hour window immediately after training, and 25-50 grams on off days. Follow this for another 2 weeks and then slowly increase your daily carbs by 25 grams every 2 weeks from there.


Once you notice your body starting to smooth out, or if you stop losing fat (if you’re still trying to lean out), you’ve hit your limit and will need to scale back your carb allowance a bit. If fat loss is your goal, I’d keep your carbs relatively low (no more than 150g per day) until you’ve reached your goal before increasing your carbs from there.


A couple of less extreme, yet still effective, methods of improving insulin sensitivity are intermittent fasting and controlled carb reduction.


Let’s start with intermittent fasting. There are a number of benefits of intermittent fasting. Not the least of which is the fact that it’s really easy to incorporate into any lifestyle.


This is the nutritional strategy I’ve been using for a few months now and I absolutely love it.


I recommend grabbing a copy of The Renegade Diet if you’re interested in learning more about getting started with intermittent fasting and to be primed on why it’s such a healthy and effective nutritional lifestyle. By periodically fasting and timing carbohydrates, as explained in The Renegade Diet, your blood sugar will remain in check for the majority of the day and your insulin sensitivity will continuously improve over time as you lean out your body.


What about controlled carb reduction?


Controlled carb reduction is what I used when designing and following my Ripped Out system. Controlled carb reduction is a gradual process that will take longer to correct insulin sensitivity problems, but is still effective. It involves easing into the carb reduction process as you lose fat.


So, you will start out eating a number of daily carbs that is closer to your body’s upper limit and slowly make reductions over time whenever your fat loss begins to level out.


This is particularly beneficial for two reasons:


1. It eases you into eating less carbs and serves as a seamless transition as you gradually decrease your carbohydrate intake and improve your insulin sensitivity over time


2. As you lean out you will require further caloric reductions (and carb reductions) to continue cutting fat, which this method takes into account, ensuring that prolonged fat loss plateaus are a non-factor


Carbs Caught a Bad Rap

Carbohydrates are mired by the illusion that they make people fat. Yes, they can make people fat. But not people who don’t go overboard with them and who haven’t jacked up their insulin sensitivity with years of poor dietary choices consisting of gorging on hundreds and hundreds of grams of carbohydrates and refined sugars on a daily basis.


I’m here to tell you that you most certainly can enjoy carbs in considerable amounts on a daily basis without gaining fat. Heck, when your insulin sensitivity is working for you, and not against you, you can even eat a healthy dose of carbs on a daily basis and still continue to lean out and get shredded.


Once you’re shredded your insulin sensitivity will be firing on all cylinders and you’ll be able to eat more carbs than the fat version of yourself could ever even dream of eating, while still staying lean or packing on lean muscle mass with greater ease, if you so desire.



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