We are now at Part 3 in my series on hormones, so I trust you’re well aware that hormonal factors have a massive impact on body composition.
As I discussed in Part 1 of this series, wherein I focused on thyroid hormones and Part 2 where we explored the estrogen connection, carrying extra weight is just a small symptom of what is going on in the body. My job as a Nutritionist is to find the root cause and bring balance back to your body so you feel amazing.
There are four main hormones that can really impact weight loss, estrogen, insulin, cortisol and thyroid hormones. They all play significant roles, and it’s very common to see one or more completely out of balance.
Part 3 of this series is all about Insulin. So I’m going to talk about some simple strategies to keep your blood sugar levels healthy and increase insulin sensitivity.
But what is Insulin anyway?
Insulin is an essential hormone that helps us absorb nutrients from the food we eat. When you eat carbohydrates and to a much lesser extent, protein, the amount of sugar in your blood will increase. When this happens your pancreas secretes insulin to help take sugar out of your bloodstream and push it into your cells (mainly muscles and your liver) where it can be stored and used for energy. The problem with insulin and weight loss is that it happens to be an “over achiever”. So instead of just bringing your blood sugar down to a baseline, it brings it lower and that’s when you want to eat your own arm off because now your blood sugar is low and that’s dangerous. So what does your super smart body do? Well, it responds by sending an intense craving to your brain to get you to eat something, anything NOW in order to bring up your blood sugar level. I will give you a hint, it’s not looking for a chicken breast, it wants SUGAR!
Controlling your blood sugar is essential to achieving the body composition you desire. Even more important, it is arguably the most critical aspect of protecting your health. Many degenerative diseases are connected to insulin resistance including Heart Disease, Obesity, Diabetes and even Alzheimer’s.
Many mainstream “diets” come and go. But one thing always remains, control blood sugar. The argument is only, what is the BEST way to do so. My answer to this question, is always going to be connected to sustainability. A Ketogenic diet can help control blood sugar, but how many people can stick to that for the rest of their life? My guess is, not many. So instead, I focus on balance and increasing insulin sensitivity, so that when your body does need to produce insulin, it doesn’t get over zealous and produce too much.
The following simple tips will help keep your blood sugar balanced and help you increase insulin sensitivity, so when your body does produce insulin, it needs less to get the job done (this is a very good thing!).
Don’t Eat Carbohydrates Alone
This is key. We know carbohydrates impact our blood sugar the most. But we need and love carbs, so how do we get around this? Simple, reduce the impact on your blood sugar by adding fat and protein. Both of which, will slow down the absorption of the carbohydrates into your bloodstream and help keep your blood sugar balanced, thereby preventing the spike that causes larger amounts of insulin to be excreted and the subsequent low, that follows. Some examples include: add some almond butter and raw protein to your smoothie, have some scrambled eggs on the side when you’re eating oatmeal, pair that apple with some aged goat cheese.
Your workout can make a massive positive impact on your “insulin sensitivity”. First let me briefly explain what that means. You know when you do something a lot, you can become less sensitive to its effects? Kind of like doing the same exercise every day and after a few weeks it becomes less effective and you have to up the intensity? In a similar way, eating an abundance of carbohydrates, especially the processed variety or simple sugars, can make us less sensitive to insulin. This means our body has to produce MORE to have the same effect. This is definitely not a good thing and going down that path can lead to Type 2 Diabetes.
The good news is exercise can increase insulin sensitivity and High-Intensity Interval Training (“HIIT”) as much as 25%. Pretty amazing, right?
This is so often the missing link when it comes to weight loss. Getting enough sleep is critical for your health and hormonal balance. Many studies have now connected reduced sleep with Obesity and Diabetes.
All the magic repairing and building your body mostly happens at night. Adequate sleep is important for disease prevention and hormone balance too. But the one thing that really motivates my clients to get more sleep is HUNGER!! Studies have shown that those who get less than 5 hours sleep a night have higher amounts of the hormone Ghrelin and lower amounts of leptin than people who slept an average of eight hours per night. This is significant because leptin is produced by your fat cells and low levels are a signal of starvation to your body.Ghrelin on the other hand, is produced by your tummy and it’s an appetite STIMULANT-so the more your body produces, the hungrier you are! An “aha moment” am I right?
I Heart Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar is a great way to start your day, it helps alkalize your body and its fantastic for digestion. It aids in digestion by stimulating hydrochloric acid (HCL) production, which is essential for breaking down the food you eat. Without enough HCL you may feel over full after eating, bloated or experience painful heartburn.
While all those things are great, I frequently recommend 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before a meal because it can help reduce appetite and a recent study has found it can significantly increase insulin sensitivity.
Cinnamon Is The Sweet You Want
Not only is cinnamon delicious and increases the sweet flavour in a meal, it also helps to balance blood sugar! I sprinkle this stuff everywhere, oatmeal, smoothies, apples, berries, dandy blend, you name it and I put cinnamon in it. I recommend you get in the habit too!
Reduce Body Fat
Of all the things I mentioned, the biggest impact on insulin sensitivity and disease prevention is having a healthy body composition. That means your fat to muscle ratio is in the healthy range 19-25% for women and lower for men. So the good news here is that embarking on a healthy lifestyle and losing weight will help to increase your insulin sensitivity naturally and make it easier for your body to let go of stubborn fat!
If you want to balance your blood sugar, banish cravings and incorporate all of these great tips into a healthy new lifestyle, don’t miss out on my Spring Detox! We start June 1st! Get it now until May 30th!