Tip: Control Insulin with Food

Insulin is your frenemy. Here are some easy ways to make it work for you instead of against you.

Insulin gets a bad rap, but it's simply a hormone the body makes in response to the food we eat. It can either help us store the energy we get from food in muscle cells (good) or in fat cells (not good).

The more muscle you have – and the more insulin sensitive that muscle is – the greater capacity you'll have to store muscle glycogen. Ideally, you'll store more of what you eat as muscle while also getting leaner, i.e. reducing the amount of fat you're storing. Impossible? Nope. You can change your body composition by changing your insulin sensitivity, and you can change your insulin sensitivity with food.

How to Control Insulin with Food

Some think that avoiding carbs is the key to leanness, but cutting them altogether makes muscle glycogen synthesis more difficult. And if you play sports or care about your lifting performance, then it'll keep you from maximizing your potential.

Carbs are a fast-acting bioenergetic fuel source. Sure, an unnecessarily high carb intake throughout the day isn't without consequence. It may even make you more insulin resistant depending on how excessive it is. Instead, consume the majority of your carbs around the time of your workout when you'll need and use them most.

  • Get Adequate Fiber, But Not Around Workouts: Increased fiber intake has also been shown to have blood glucose lowering effects and may increase total body insulin sensitivity. The only caveat? Don't have your high fiber meal around workout time. That's when you'd want to have a greater insulin spike so that your workout nutrition can be directed to your muscle cells.
  • Eat Slower: Multiple studies have shown that faster eaters are also more insulin resistant. These studies even accounted for factors like genetic predisposition, BMI, caloric intake, waist circumference, and triglyceride levels. Fast eating has been linked with obesity and it's believed that speed eating makes it more difficult for your appetite suppressing hormones to take effect, which ultimately affects insulin's ability to do its job.
Erick Avila is a strength and conditioning coach and nutritionist. He works with top-ranked professional boxers in areas ranging from general weight loss to hormone optimization. Follow Erick Avila on Twitter