Insulin: Good or Bad?

May 20, 2022

What comes to mind when you think of the word Insulin?

You may immediately think of chronic diseases like diabetes and obesity. While Insulin does relate to those conditions in some cases, Insulin is not inherently “bad”. Your body actually needs Insulin in order to function correctly. It’s time to shift the narrative and learn why insulin is not only important and why we measure and analyze your levels here at Prefusion Health.  Optimizing your Insulin levels through our health protocol will help in optimizing your metabolism and reaching your body composition and performance goals!


What is Insulin?

Insulin is an anabolic hormone produced by the beta cells in your pancreas. It is helpful in regulating the metabolism of not only carbohydrates, but also proteins and fats.  Insulin promotes the absorption of glucose (aka sugar) from the blood into the liver, skeletal, and fat cells. 


How does Insulin function in the body?

When glucose (sugar) from the food you eat enters your bloodstream, your pancreas must release Insulin to help that glucose travel from the bloodstream into your cells, where it is turned into ATP and used for energy so that you can perform your daily activities.  


Think of Insulin like a car key, Insulin (the key) is needed to unlock the car’s gas tank (your cells) so that fuel (glucose) can be used for energy. Without Insulin, the food that you eat cannot enter your cells to provide you with energy, causing your blood sugar to remain high, potentially leading to chronic health problems if not addressed with nutritional and lifestyle changes. 


Insulin is absolutely necessary for the metabolism of carbohydrates and adhering to a balanced diet helps optimize the function of Insulin in our body. In healthy people, Insulin allows the carbohydrates we eat to be used by our cells for energy effectively. If you are insulin resistant and cannot use Insulin effectively, sugar is left piled up in your blood. Your body responds by storing this extra sugar as fat, because it has nowhere else to go. This is why obesity and type 2 diabetes are so strongly linked together. 


Optimizing Insulin Utilization for Body Composition

Individuals who are insulin sensitive (AKA able to use Insulin well) have been shown to have better carbohydrate and lipid metabolism, weigh less, and have decreased risk of type 2 diabetes compared with those who are insulin resistant.  The long and short of it is, if we eat too much, our body does not have use for the excess nutrients, however, if we eat what our body needs, then we are in energy balance and Insulin can do it’s job effectively.  Working with our team of Registered Dietitians, our program design will help individuals become better utilizers of carbohydrates through different dietary protocols implemented.


Optimizing Insulin Utilization for Performance

Insulin boosts the amount of glucose taken in by your cells, some of which is stored as glycogen in the muscles or liver. When you exercise, you rely on this stored form of glucose to break down into usable carbohydrates that your body can use immediately to support you as you run, jump, lift, etc. 


Increased glycogen stores are also beneficial before exercise because it delays exercise fatigue, and beneficial after exercise because it helps restore your glycogen levels in preparation for your next workout. You may have heard of high level athletes participating in ”carbo-loading”- this is why! Eating plenty of high quality carbohydrates is beneficial in allowing insulin to build up your glycogen stores. If you don’t have sufficient glycogen stores, your body won’t receive the glucose it needs during intense exercise which may cause your performance to take a hit.  Remember energy in must equal energy out, otherwise performance suffers. 


Insulin also plays a role in muscle growth. It is an anabolic hormone meaning that it helps build and grow muscle tissues. Insulin not only promotes the synthesis of glycogen, but also promotes the synthesis of muscle protein by stimulating the uptake of amino acids from the foods you eat and promoting the muscle-building effects of human growth hormone (HGH). When insulin levels are very low, intracellular protein may actually start to degrade and result in muscle atrophy. 


How does the Prefusion Protocol address insulin?

Our Prefusion Protocol aims to increase a client’s insulin sensitivity through diet and exercise. The protocol introduces eating balanced meals and snacks every 3-4 hours to help regulate our blood sugar levels and prevent dramatic spikes and drops in insulin. We also implement strategic carb intake and timing strategies in order to maximize the positive effects that Insulin has on fat loss, muscle gain and athletic performance.


How do we monitor your levels?

You might be wondering how you would you know if you are insulin resistant or how to tell if your blood sugar is elevated beyond the healthy limits. At Prefusion Health, we provide comprehensive bloodwork that can give you insight into many health conditions. One of the values we test for is Hemoglobin A1C, which measures your average blood sugar over the course of 3 months. An A1C result of 5.7% or below is normal and indicates that your body is using insulin effectively to keep your blood sugars in a healthy range. An A1C value above 5.7% is associated with Insulin resistance, prediabetes, and type 2 diabetes. 


Our Medical staff performs an in-depth review of your bloodwork, including your A1C value, and will help you implement proper nutrition and exercise strategies in order to maximize your body’s ability to use insulin and avoid the health complications caused by out-of-range blood sugar levels. 


Rethinking insulin

Insulin is a very important hormone that gets a bad rap! You need Insulin to stay alive, be healthy, and have the energy to perform all of your daily activities (including exercise). Your body requires balanced meals and snacks on a consistent basis to release insulin and keep your blood sugars in a healthy range. Furthermore, insulin can be beneficial in reaching your body composition goals.


Learn more about your Insulin levels and how to optimize them to improve your metabolism and reach your overall health and body composition goals.


Schedule a visit today to test and get set-up with a comprehensive health plan to follow!


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