How Excess Carbs = Insulin Resistance

If you look at evolution, and the feast & famine lifestyle of our ancestors, it becomes easier to understand why our body is prone to fat storage. Before drive-thru’s and fridges we’d go very long periods without food, and energy conservation was critical. The hormone insulin is secreted by our pancreas to help us store glucose (carbohydrates), as glycogen or fat, for later use. This is an important feature should we need to operate when food is scarce, but perhaps not as useful when we’re eating all the time.

Most North Americans are walking around with a glycogen tank that’s already full, because they’re consistently consuming a large amount of carbohydrates. Plus, they’re not exercising, which means their glycogen tank is rarely burning any of its contents.

When our glycogen tank is full and we continue to consume carbohydrates regularly, our body quickly converts the glucose to fat in the liver; resulting in circulating fat (triglycerides), or stored body fat. Although this is bad enough to begin with, the bigger problem is that our pancreas knows no different and continues to secrete insulin.

Since insulin’s job is to bring blood sugar down by finding somewhere to put glucose, it’s constantly approaching cells for storage opportunities. When the cells are consistently full, but continue getting requests for storage, they start to reduce their receptor sites (down-regulate). Other than leading to increased fat storage and elevated triglycerides, this increases our level of insulin resistance (or carbohydrate intolerance).

Your level of insulin resistance determines your body’s ability to handle dietary carbohydrates. Essentially, the more insulin resistant you are, the higher likelihood that the carbohydrates you eat will become fat.  It even contributes to your carbohydrate tolerance after exercise, when your muscle cells would normally accept large amounts of glucose to store as muscle glycogen.

Any post-exercise carbohydrates can’t get into muscle cells because they’re resistant!

Perhaps worse, is that insulin resistance doesn’t just prevent glucose from entering muscle cells to form glycogen, it prevents amino acids (from protein) and other essentials from getting where they need to in our bodies.

Someone that’s insulin resistant gains fat with ease, struggles to build muscle, and is at a significantly higher risk of heart disease, and diabetes. The good news is, it can be fixed – by improving your insulin sensitivity.

How do you do that? Stop secreting insulin.

How do you do that? Keep your blood sugar down.

How do you do that? Eat less carbohydrates.

Stay Lean!
Coach Mike