INSULIN – the biggest villain in your body that’s responsible for making you fat and diabetic. That son of a b… If you’re looking for ways about how to improve insulin sensitivity naturally, then look no further.
The Cause of All Disease and World Poverty
Insulin is just a hormone that is doing its job and trying to keep you alive. It gets produced by the pancreas so you could use the energy from glucose and maintain normal blood sugar levels. „Screw you guys…I’m going home…
Insulin is the key that opens up the cells so that the sugar could enter into the cell to be either burnt off or stored as glycogen.
Because of that, it’s very anabolic – it’s the storage hormone that influences whether or not you’re burning or storing the food you eat.
Insulin itself can’t be good or bad. Its effects appear only in certain situations and in what state your body is.
Why So Sensitive?
There are 2 conditions or more like degrees of insulin
- Insulin Sensitivity is the degree how much insulin the pancreas needs to produce to store a certain amount of glucose. The more insulin sensitive you are, the less insulin you need to deposit glucose.
- Insulin Resistance is the situation when your cells don’t respond to insulin properly because the cells have become resistant to it. The pancreas then starts pumping out more insulin to lower your blood sugar. Eventually, this can lead to type 2 diabetes and prediabetes because the beta cells in the pancreas can’t keep up with the demand for insulin.
Naturally, you want to be insulin sensitive for improved body composition, better blood sugar, and energy levels. Insulin resistance is a major risk factor for diabetes, obesity and many other diseases.
Insulin sensitivity is very much affected by age[i]. That’s why as a kid you could eat bowls of cereal for breakfast, a ton of juices, cookies, ice cream, candies all those sweets without getting fat. You were using that glucose for energy. Old people can’t even look at a piece of cake without raising their blood sugar.
However, your lifestyle is much more important when it comes to insulin sensitivity and health[ii]. So, there aren’t many excuses and you can take insulin into your own hands.
How to Improve Insulin Sensitivity Naturally
Insulin resistance and obesity are very linked to each other. The more body fat you have, the harder it is for your cells to use carbohydrates. It’s more of like a sign that you’re already failing to use them properly.
#1 Sleep More
- Lack of sleep weakens your immune system, increases the risk of heart disease and type-2 diabetes[iii] [iv].
- Even a single night of sleep deprivation causes mild insulin resistance the following day[v]. This applies to even healthy people who exercise and eat right most of the time.
If you have a poor night’s sleep or if you sleep only a few hours for instance after going out with friends or partying, then your insulin sensitivity for the next day is drastically decreased.
You’re going to feel weak and tired as well and your initial reaction would be to treat yourself to some junk food because you think you need the energy. HOWEVER, because your beta cells are mildly insulin resistant, you’re pouring more gasoline on the fire.
Don’t binge eat or have too many spikes of insulin when you’re sleep deprived because it’s going to promote insulin resistance and fat gain.
Instead, you should catch up on the lost hours of sleep as this will reverse the effects of insulin resistance[vi]. That’s why tracking your sleep is a great way to look at the state of your ability to metabolize glucose. You can see how good you slept and how recovered you are from the previous day.
#2 Does Exercise Improve Insulin Sensitivity
Probably the best way to improve insulin sensitivity is to exercise. Working out increases your body’s caloric demands which will help you to lose fat, improve your biomarkers, reduce blood sugar and be fitter.
There are many studies showing that resistance training, in particular, improves insulin sensitivity in both men and women [viii][ix][x][xi]. A single workout can boost insulin sensitivity for the upcoming 48 hours[vii].
The reason is that when you’re contracting your muscles and working out, you’re also burning stored muscle glycogen. When your muscle cells get depleted they become extremely insulin sensitive and turn into sponges for glucose. They’ll simply absorb that sugar very fast to restore the glycogen you lost.
When it comes to sets and reps, then it seems slightly higher reps and more sets are better for insulin sensitivity than single sets at higher intensities[xii]. Focusing on the pump feeling and doing bodybuilder type of reps make you more insulin sensitive than powerlifting or weightlifting.
#3 Does Fasting Improve Insulin Sensitivity
Intermittent Fasting has also great benefits on glucose metabolism. Caloric restriction even without exercise has been shown to reverse insulin resistance and promote insulin sensitivity[xvi].
Caloric restriction can also enhance the glucose uptake in fast-twitch muscle fibers[xvii], which means working out in a fasted state can have an even greater effect on insulin sensitivity.
One of the main glucose transporters in the body is GLUT4, which helps to store glucose in the cells.
- Insulin is a trigger that translocates GLUT4 from the muscle and fat cells into the plasma cells where it starts doing its job.
- Another way to trigger GLUT4 is through the pathway AMPK, which is a fuel sensor your body uses whenever it needs to produce energy
#4 Cut Your Carbs
Reducing your carb intake is a clear and evident way of promoting insulin sensitivity.
Consuming carbohydrates, especially those with a high glycemic index, raise your blood sugar, which makes the pancreas pump out more insulin. This is fine in some situations but imagine how much work your pancreas has to do if you’re having these spikes several times throughout the day. Especially if your muscle cells aren’t GLUT4 activated.
So, your main purpose with any diet you follow should be to maintain stable blood sugar levels and be insulin sensitive. Instead of thinking how many carbs I can get away with, you should think how little insulin I can need to get the job done.
What matters more than the glycemic index of a food is the glycemic load or the rate at which glucose gets released into your bloodstream over time. You’re never eating foods separately like I’ll just eat only these raw potatoes or pure rice.
Of course, you can eat sweets and candies which are 100% sugar, but the main idea is that you’re always eating several macronutrients at a time. Protein, fat, and fiber all lower the glycemic load of a given meal because they’re much slower to digest than carbohydrates.
#5 Increase Your Fiber Intake
Therefore, whenever you’re eating, you should get a ton of fibrous vegetables, some healthy protein, and healthy fats so that your blood sugar wouldn’t go through the roof.
Fiber is divided into soluble and insoluble fiber.
- Insoluble fiber helps bowel movements
- Soluble fiber helps to lower cholesterol and reduce appetite[xix][xx]
High intake of soluble fiber has been shown to promote insulin sensitivity[xxi][xxii][xxiii] Soluble fiber also feeds the good gut microbiome, which will reduce sugar cravings, improve your inflammation levels and symptoms of insulin resistance[xxiv][xxv][xxvi].
Funny enough, dark chocolate is rich in polyphenols and antioxidants and it’s also been shown to reduce blood pressure and improve insulin sensitivity[xxix]. But this applies to very dark chocolate that doesn’t have added sugars or trans fats.
Which brings us to…
#6 Avoid Trans Fats
But not all fats are the same. Trans fats, in particular, are very bad for your health because of their high omega 6 fatty acid content. They promote inflammation and are linked to many diseases.
There are trans fats in almost all packaged foods, like pastries, pies, fried foods, sauces, chips, cookies – you name it.
Fortunately, in 2015 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared trans fats as unsafe to eat. Food manufacturers now have 3 years to remove trans fats from their food products[xxxiv].
Thank god for that, because it was even a few decades ago when everyone was saying saturated fats are bad for you and that you need to be eating these trans fats and vegetable spreads with less saturated fat.
#7 Reduce Fructose Consumption
Added sugars and processed carbs are as bad as trans fats.
This applies to fructose the sweetener. What about fruit?
It’s true that real fruit has some fiber in it that’s going to reduce the insulin response.
However, fructose can only be metabolized by the liver. You can store only 150 grams of glycogen in the liver. Fructose in excess is actually toxic to the body, which means you shouldn’t be eating a ton of fruit anyway.
The best time to eat fruit is to have it on empty liver glycogen – when you’re exercising or on an empty stomach because the excess fructose you don’t need will be immediately stored as fat.
#8 Improve Insulin Sensitivity Food
Herbs and spices have a lot of benefits for glucose metabolism.
- Curcumin or turmeric reduces fatty acids and sugar in the bloodstream, which leads to greater insulin sensitivity[xxxix]. It can also reduce insulin resistance in rats[xl]
- Ginger is another one. It contains a compound called gingerol that activated GLUT4 and increases the uptake of sugar[xli]
- Cinnamon has been shown to have amazing benefits for regulating blood sugar[xlii]. Even just ½-3 tsp or 1-6 grams of cinnamon every day can reduce blood sugar significantly[xliii]. Cinnamon is a great GLUT4 activator[xliv] that can mimic the actions of insulin without releasing insulin[xlv][xlvi][xlvii]. I add a pinch of cinnamon and turmeric to all of my meals before I eat them. It greatly benefits the following blood sugar response.
- Garlic also has antioxidants that improve insulin sensitivity[xlviii][xlix][l]
- Green tea has a compound called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which helps to stabilize blood sugar and insulin[li][lii][liii][liv][lv]. Drinking green tea can drastically improve fasting blood sugar and insulin sensitivity[lvi]
- Apple Cider Vinegar slows down the rate at which food gets digested, which improves the ability to absorb the sugar in the bloodstream[lvii]. It also reduces blood sugar levels and improves the effects of insulin[lviii][lix]. In one study, people who consumed ACV during a high-carb meal improved their insulin sensitivity by 34% and those who were diabetic did so by 19%[lx].
- Berberine has been seen to be more effective at lowering blood sugar than metformin [v]. It’s a yellow and red plant extract that activates AMPK and has a ton of longevity benefits.
Stay Insulin Sensitive
Maintaining stable blood sugar and insulin levels are one of the most important factors for your health and longevity. Obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and many other illnesses are linked to chronic inflammation and insulin has a huge impact on that.
Therefore, no matter what diet you follow – keto or non-keto – you want to keep your blood sugar low most of the time. It’s going to prevent energy crashes, keeps you insulin sensitive and protects you from insulin resistance.
The only time you’d ever want to raise insulin is in a state of glycogen depletion. After you’ve done heavy resistance training. That’s why I think everyone should restrict their carbohydrate intake to some degree. To eat more vegetables, fewer carbs, more healthy fats and to not raise insulin for nothing.
If you want to try the ketogenic diet then check out my Keto Fit Program. It includes a 30-day meal plan, a 5-week workout routine and a ton of other bonuses.