Insulin sensitivity is a trend word or phrase which is being boasted around on social media more than ever at the minute. But, what exactly does it mean, why is it important and how do I improve it? The purpose of this article is to answer all the above questions and help you get better results with clients whether their goal is hypertrophy or fat loss.
The reason why insulin sensitivity is so important for body composition and for health is, the more resistant you are to insulin the more likely your body is to store the food you eat as fat, specifically carbohydrates. As mentioned, insulin resistance can result in poor body composition but more importantly poor health. Insulin resistance can lead to serious health conditions such as Diabetes Type II as well as inflammation, muscle soreness, heart disease and can inhibit sleep which ultimately negatively effects performance in the gym, on the football pitch and in work. All these conditions pose serious health concerns but also inhibit the ability to reduce a significant amount of body fat and build muscle.
Insulin sensitivity refers to how sensitive the body is to the effects of insulin. A client who is sensitive to insulin will require smaller amounts of insulin to lower blood glucose compared to a client who is resistant to insulin. Clients who are insulin sensitive will have cells that are far more permeable than those who are resistant, resulting in the muscle cells absorbing the glucose which the insulin is transporting from the blood. If the cell is resistant then the glucose will be converted and stored as visceral fat rather than in the muscle. The body is most sensitive to insulin first thing in the morning and immediately post training. By increasing ones sensitivity to insulin and improving cellular permeability, carbohydrates consumed post training will more than likely replenish and repair the muscle rather than being stored as visceral fat, thus resulting in hypertrophy of the muscle and an increase (hopefully) in lean muscle mass.
How can we improve insulin sensitivity? Well, here are our top 5 tips…
#1. Resistance training! Heavy resistance training and intensive anaerobic exercise will result in the muscle cells becoming depleted in glycogen and needing to be refuelled. Thus, the carbohydrates you consume post training won’t be stored as visceral fat as the muscle will need replenishing and this becomes the priority. If however your client has performed low intensity exercise, has not experienced overload and does not progress their workouts on a weekly basis then the muscle won’t require as much replenishment. Long distance cardiovascular exercise can help improve insulin sensitivity, but this is limited to the working muscles rather than the whole body.
#2. Earn your carbohydrates! Clients who over indulge with carbohydrates and consume both High GI and Low GI foods throughout the day will reduce their sensitivity to insulin. With clients who are resistant to insulin it is recommended that they limit their carbohydrate consumption to around training and exercise. It is also recommended that clients who are prone to overindulging in carbohydrates or have a higher body fat percentage should cycle the volume of carbohydrates consumed. For example, on training days the client can consume more carbohydrates around and after training but on non-training days they are to have a low carbohydrate day. Carb cycling is a popular nutrition method at the minute and in terms of maintaining insulin sensitivity, improving body composition and helping clients adhere to the programme psychologically it definitely warrants further reading.
#3 Lean Up! The leaner your clients are the more sensitive they are to insulin. Many well renowned and sought after coaches and personal trainers such as Nick Mitchel and IFBB Pro Ben Pakulski suggest that leaning up your client and improving their sensitivity to insulin makes hypertrophy and naturally fat loss a lot easier to achieve. The main reason for this is that insulin is the most anabolic hormone and is primarily responsible for transporting nutrients into the cell, hence the greater the resistance to insulin the fewer nutrients it can absorb.
#4 Omega 3! By increasing the amount of Omega 3 fats you consume and reduce the amount of Hydrogenated fats consumed, you will make the muscle cells far more permeable. Fish oil will improve insulin sensitivity because it becomes incorporated into the cellular lipid layer. This allows the cell receptors to bind more easily with insulin. Clients with poor insulin sensitivity will find that insulin can’t bind easily and results in elevated levels of cortisol, increased inflammation and the dietary carbs will be stored as visceral fat rather than replenishing the muscle.
Tip: Salmon and Flax-seed have high levels of Omega 3
#5 Limit Fructose! Fructose can be found in fruit as a non-refined organic source, however fructose is also ingested from processed foods such as corn syrup. The reason we suggest staying away from refined sources of fructose is that fructose is metabolised in the liver and exposing the liver to large quantities of fructose can lead to a rapid stimulation of lipogenesis or fat formation. As discussed earlier, an increase in body fat will also result in insulin resistance. Furthermore, by exposing the liver to excessive amounts of refined fructose can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease which consequently leads to Type II Diabetes.
FLM Training hope you have found this article informative and interesting. Please leave a comment below and share this blog with your networks.