In the $70 billion-plus battle of the bulge, counting calories and weighing food portions are the most common weapons used for dieting.
But there’s a far more powerful weight loss weapon. Let’s call it the “Diet X Factor” because if you can master it, you’ll not only enjoy sustained weight management, you’ll support your health in countless other ways.
Unfortunately, most people only associate this weight loss X Factor with a disease: type 2 diabetes.
For the approximately 30 million Americans with type 2 diabetes, learning how to reduce the amount of insulin necessary to drive blood sugar into the cells can be a matter of life and death. But even if you don’t have type 2 diabetes, you should be thinking about your insulin levels every day, throughout the day.
You don’t necessarily need to know what your insulin level is, and you don’t necessarily need to purchase a continuous blood glucose monitor. But with these 5 tips, you’ll keep your insulin levels low, which may help you lose weight.
The Connection Between Insulin Levels And Weight Loss
There is no magic pill for weight loss. (And the weight loss pills that have made it to market can produce deadly side effects.) But one of the most effective ways to sustainably manage weight is by avoiding insulin spikes.
Insulin is the hormone secreted by the pancreas that regulates blood sugar levels. When you eat or drink something, especially stuff with lots of carbs or sugar, your pancreas produces a lot of insulin in order to escort the blood sugar into the cells to be burned as energy. If you don’t burn off all the blood sugar, it will be stored in your tissues as fat.
While it’s true that weight gain, to some extent, is a problem with consuming too many calories, an underlooked culprit is hormone dysfunction, especially that of insulin. You need to keep your insulin levels low in order to lose weight—and keep it off.
Low Carb Diets And Insulin
The first of five things you can do to keep your insulin levels low (and thus have high insulin sensitivity) is by avoiding all foods and drinks that create an insulin spike. The biggest offender are the white and beige foods that are made with white or wheat flour. Think: bread, pasta, rice, baked goods.
Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes people make in nutrition is thinking that brown rice is healthier to eat than white rice. Brown rice may be slightly more nutritious than white rice. But brown will cause a steep insulin spike like white rice. If you look at the nutrition label on a package of brown rice, you may think that it’s a relatively healthy food. After all, there’s zero grams of sugar.
But the starchy 45 grams of carbohydrates in one cup of brown rice are relatively quick-burning long-chain glucose molecules. Your body will break down these glucose molecules. Perhaps not as quickly as table sugar, but still fast enough to cause a spike of insulin, driving blood sugar levels higher, and ultimately sending unburned sugar into the tissues to be stored as fat.
Of the three macronutrients (carbs, protein and fat), carbohydrates produce the wildest fluctuations in blood sugar levels, and cause the highest insulin spikes. Second on the list is protein, which is why you should never eat a big serving of animal protein such as a steak, if you want to keep insulin levels low.
It’s mind-boggling that the US Department of Agriculture food pyramid used to suggest having 6-11 servings of grains per day. Is it any wonder why rates of obesity and diabetes skyrocketed?
You don’t have to follow a strict, ultra-low (ketogenic) diet in order to keep your insulin levels low. Just make sure you’re eating plenty of low-starch veggies like broccoli and cauliflower, which contain a little bit of glucose. If you’re trying to lose weight, replacing one or two meals a day with our Super Lean System is an excellent idea. One serving each of the 3 powders (Superfood, Super Protein and Super Fiber+) contains just 7 grams of sugar. (Shoot for 12 grams or less per sugar per meal.)
The biggest advantage of following a low carb diet is that it allows your body to tap into its own body fat for energy. We actually don’t need carbohydrates to live. Your body can produce enough glucose from fatty acids via a process called gluconeogenesis. Again, you don’t need to eat a strict low-carb diet. But the takeaway is that most people eat way more carbohydrates than they need.
Intermittent Fasting For Insulin Sensitivity
Unless you have a medical condition that would preclude you from doing so, if you’re not already doing intermittent fasting, start. Going 12-16 hours or even longer from time to time, is even easier for keeping insulin levels low than eating a low carb diet. The biggest obstacle most people face when it comes to sticking with intermittent fasting is snacking. Because of boredom, habit and a false sense of hunger, many people feel like they need that late night snack while watching TV. If you want to have a late night snack from time to time, fine. But if you do have a late night snack, at least skip breakfast the next day.
The Best Exercise To Keep Insulin Levels Low
Sorry if you hate exercising, but it really is one of the best things you can do to prevent excess blood sugar from being stored as body fat. If you do indeed detest exercise, then you will need to make sure you’re severely restricting your intake of starches and simple sugars.
Exercise improves the sensitivity of your muscles to the action of insulin. With exercise, your blood sugar is used up without the need for insulin.
If you can’t stand exercise because you think that you need to do it for a long time or run a marathon, good news for you: the shorter the better. Studies show that for decreased insulin resistance, short bursts of higher intensity movement is more beneficial than one prolonged workout.
A 20-minute weight-lifting session or sprints up and down the stairs is better for keeping insulin levels low than going for a long, prodding, painful jog.
Manage Stress For Insulin Sensitivity
A wee bit of stress is great for making sure your muscles have the energy needed to veer your car off onto the shoulder in case someone crosses over the double yellow line and is headed straight for you. But frequent stress results in elevated blood sugar levels, and is one of the biggest weight loss saboteurs. If you neglect to manage stress (meditation, yoga, deep breathing, tai chi, etc.), even if you’re eating a low carb diet, fasting and getting plenty of exercise, you may have difficulty in keeping the weight off.
Sleeping Your Way To Lower Insulin Levels
Chronic sleep deprivation is a form of stress. And when the body is frequently bereft of high sleep quality, your body will need to produce more insulin as a consequence. Not only that, poor sleep reduces levels of the hormone that tells the brain you’ve had enough to eat, leptin.
Keep Insulin Levels Low For Life
By following these 5 tips for managing insulin, you’ll not only increase your chances of losing weight—and keeping it off—you may feel better in many other ways, such as improved cognitive function, mental focus, and less inflammation in the body.