Learn How to Eat Whatever You Want Towards Your Advantage | Part 2 of 3 – “Insulin”
Posted by Scott Emmerson
When I was first getting into fitness I was about 14 and I went to this total meathead gym in Toronto. To thoroughly paint this picture for you, I was fat, hairless and generally awkward (lol). So one day when I was attempting one of my awkward prepubescent workouts the meathead of all meatheads approached me with an empty 2 litre coke bottle in his hand. I was terrified. I had never met this guy before and I had no idea why this large person would want to talk to me. I was sure he was going to try and bicep curl me or make fun of my man boobs or something. He also had red hair, and everyone knows you can’t trust people with red hair.
He told me that when he got to the gym he was so tired he had to leave and go buy this 2L coke. He proceeded to tell me that he “slammed” the coke and “crushed” his workout. I don’t actually think I said any words to this guy before he walked away. I just remember standing there after he dropped this pearl of wisdom on me thinking that he may be insane. Either way, as soon as I got home I ate a 16oz steak raw and yelled at my chest until my first chest hair popped out. Despite how ridiculous this whole situation was I am going to use it to illustrate a point on how we can make sugar work to our advantage! But first we need to review article number one of this series… P.S. – Don’t even think about not reading this just because that last sentence sounded boring. I have lots of super awesome things you need to hear!
My super awesome review of article one
If you read article one of this three part series then you would know that:
- All carbs end up as sugars as they are being digested
- Being insulin sensitive is when insulin does a good job of bonding to sugars (and other stuff) in the blood stream. Being insulin sensitive is a good thing but it is a misconception that insulin sensitivity means low body fat
- Insulin resistance is when insulin does a poopy job of bonding to sugars in the blood stream; this is a precursor to diabetes.
- High sugar consumption/insulin resistance does not always mean you’ll be obese it is VERY common though.
- Low carb consumption makes us lean (assuming the rest of the body is operating as it should)
Note: Insulin sensitivity exists on both sides of the scale, this is because some people are blessed with the genetics of being able to eat high amounts of carbs without doing damage to the pancreas and its functions. We don’t like these people…
Long story short, most people need very minimal carbs to function well (there are exceptions). If you partake in this low carb lifestyle you’ll be lean and if you can go low carb for long enough then eating carbs can actually be like throwing kerosene on a fire that’s already burning bright (check my blurb on Leptin from Article #1 for more deets).
This isn’t good as it relates to my meat/red head friend. He is basically overflowing his liver with carbs. This, at a certain point, forces his body to store these sugars as fat. Not to mention that all the sugar will give him a big fat serotonin spike (that’s a sleep hormone), not exactly what you want before a workout.
The Good News
We have this super awesome gene/protein called GLUT4. GLUT4 acts as a transport for sugars into muscle cells (other cells too, but we don’t care for the purpose of this article). This is super duper awesome news! This means if we eat sugar GLUT4 will take that sugar into our muscle cells and not our fat cells!
“Big Red” is kind of on the right track with this but he should have left the coke for a post workout treat rather than a pre workout energizer.
The Okay News
The primary mechanism for stimulating GLUT4 is exercise. So if you eat your sugary cheat meal right after your workout then you can minimize the negative effects of your cheat meal. Personally, I have seen a normal cheat meal put 3-6 extra pounds on my body by the next day. If that seems extreme it’s because you’re one of the lucky ones, but if you are a “protein type” like I am you can probably empathize with these quick/large spikes in weight after a cheat meal. I have found that by having my cheat meals after my workouts my weight increases only 2-4lbs instead of 3-6lbs. That’s not exactly “science” for you but I’ve been doing this for a while and I really believe it makes a difference.
The Bad News
Implementing this can be a bit of a pain. A lot of us have our set routines and if you like your Friday night pizza it may be a pain sneaking to the gym for a workout before you chow down. But trust me, you’ll thank yourself for changing things around when your waist line gets smaller and your muscles are full after eating some pizza.
Fun Facts/ Additional Research Based Support
1) A study in 1993 showed an increase of muscle glycogen storage of 16% post workout (1)
2) I have found eating foods that stimulate insulin sensitivity to also be helpful when it comes to minimizing the effects of a post workout cheat meal. Foods like Cocoa, Green Tea and Cinnamon are my favs(5).
3) Taking a pre-workout supplement that is designed to increase blood flow throughout the workout will also help increase insulin sensitivity. Increase blood flow always means increased insulin sensitivity (2), but the sensitivity is useless without GLUT4. So don’t think that the random use stimulants to increase your blood flow will help to minimize the effects of a cheat meal.
4) Try and avoid Fructose (fruit sugar) based cheat meals as they have been shown to not have the same leptin response. Leptin tells us we are full, which is one of our bodies natural ways of keeping us from eating more, we should probably take advantage of this one. Here is a list of foods high in Fructose: http://nutritiondata.self.com/foods-000011000000000000000.html. (ps- this website is generally awesome and helpful)
5) I have found workouts that direct large amounts of blood to specific areas work best. Heavy lifting(4) and long endurance cardio do not stimulate GLUT4 to the same extent as working a muscle in isolation. If you’re confused as to what to do then just do this workout.
A1-Leg Press (8-10 reps)
A2-Push Ups (10-20 reps)
B1-Walking Lunges (10 reps per leg)
B2-Lateral Raises (15 reps)
C1-Wall Sits (hold for over 40 seconds)
C3-Seated Row (8-10 reps)
D-Body Weight Squats (30 reps)
E-Go home and eat like crap
6) Please remember this is a strategy to minimize the negative effects of a cheat meal, this is not a hall pass to shovel food in your face.
7) If you have serious strength training goals this strategy could negatively affect your training. Whenever there is a large insulin release there is also a decrease in human growth hormone. Being carb depleted can be really helpful for those with long-term strength goals.
This is the final nail in “Big Red – BroScience” coffin… Poor Red had no idea that he was killing his gains! I’m pretty confident he had some vitamin ‘S’ to compensate though (that’s my cheeky way of saying steroids).