Written by Justin Harris and Team 1D
The Science Behind Your Insulin Resistance
Everyone loves their high-carb days, not just for the copious amounts of carbs but for what our bodies do with them. If you’ve been following my content this far, you should know the function of insulin. Insulin is a poly-protein peptide that is the driving force behind your massive pumps on your high-carb days. You see, Insulin is a jack of all trades that has a hand in a plethora of important physiological cascades from glycogen storage to brain function and bone health. This is why insulin sensitivity is such a key factor in keeping body fat at bay.
However, I am here to give you some tips on how to maximize the efficiency of your endogenous or exogenous insulin use.
First, we must understand how insulin works on a basic level. Insulin is released from the beta cells of the pancreas and then binds to its receptor which stimulates PI-3 kinase to allow for the translocation of glut-4 to the membrane of the cell. Now, glut-4 and glucose can travel happily back into the cell. That's how insulin mediates the entrance of glucose into your cells, now it can be stored as glycogen, used for energy, etc. As gross of an oversimplification as that may be, there are certain key points in this process that we can manipulate in order to increase the effectiveness of your meal plan. These key points include the affinity of insulin to the receptor, amount/effectiveness of glut-4, amount/effectiveness of PI-3 kinase, and beta cell function.
A Golden Mechanism
Digestion is an incredibly important factor in keeping your body fat levels low. It could take up another article itself, however, you need to understand that with consistent sub-par digestion, there is no way you're getting peeled. There is an endogenous mechanism, shout out healthy beta cells, in which the body secretes insulin prior to the mastication of food. Insulin has some secondary yet important mechanisms that improve digestion.
Hopefully, you see that this creates a perfect storm for you to vaporize any food you eat. What triggers this wonderful endogenous mechanism? Food. The simplest way to take advantage of this is to eat your meals on a consistently similar time basis.
This will create a reliable cycle for the beta cells to secrete insulin. Just the sight, smell, or knowing you're going to eat can trigger this mechanism. Essentially just being compliant with your meal plan will take care of everything.
Now for you exogenous insulin folk you can play up this mechanism with your insulin timing. Keeping in mind the TYPE of insulin you are using is important, but plan to have a spike in insulin about 10-30 minutes prior to your meal.
This sliding scale of time is based on the amount of insulin in the blood already, blood glucose levels prior to the meal, and the experience of the user. Of course, if you have not been 100% compliant with a meal plan for an extended period of time then don’t even consider putting yourself in this category.
Nutrient Partitioners 101
Nutrient partitioners can be a highly effective supplement for someone looking to maximize their endogenous insulin. They act to promote the transport of glucose to a preferable place, increase the absorption of what is in the gut, and acutely increase insulin sensitivity. Certain ingredients, like Cinnulin, can promote the glucose uptake of skeletal muscle, however, another powerful mechanism to “stack” with this effect is the activation of brown fat.
By activating brown fat you are promoting the use of fatty acid oxidation for energy within the fat cell. This is in opposition to white fat which, similar to tumors, is greedy with glucose and as they grow they get greedier. Notice that nutrient partitioning can include the metabolism of fatty acids or carbohydrates.
Increasing the absorption of the contents of the gut creates a powerful environment for peri-workout nutrition as well. Typically in high-level meal plans pre-training is going to be one of the most carbohydrate-dense meals. Now of course the partitioning effect of the supplement should facilitate the rapid uptake of the carbs but this is also an effective time to take advantage of oral supplementation.
Any oral supplement must pass through the gut to get into the bloodstream, this is their fault as well as their mechanism of action. Your pre-workout caffeine or any other oral supplement you may use will also be subjected to the facilitated uptake.
Nutrient partitioners are effective at creating an environment for acute increases in insulin sensitivity. Depending on the ingredients they can act on the beta cell to secrete more insulin, increase the excitability of glut-4, and the number of macronutrients that can be easily digested. Beta cells seem to be creatures of habit, their state can be seen as a direct reflection of nutrient-related physiological cascades happening in the body.
This is a class of drugs that you should familiarize yourself with. They are insulin sensitizers that act on what is known as peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors, specifically the gamma variant (PPARy for short) which are found in the liver, skeletal muscle, and fat cells.
They are known as nuclear proteins and they play major roles in transcription and reduce glucose, fatty acid, and blood insulin concentrations. This may seem counterintuitive but stay with me here. These drugs act on the receptor to alter the expression of genes. Gene expression leads to changes in proteins which ultimately lead to some sort of physiological response. By altering genes on PPARy we are altering the metabolism of fatty acids and glucose.
With an exogenous amount of insulin present in conjunction with a thiazolidinedione, you can more quickly return to a basal level of blood glucose. This can work to your benefit in a few different ways. First and foremost you can more safely use the same, or higher, doses of insulin, this includes protecting beta cell function and insulin receptor affinity.
Increased levels of fatty acids for 48 hours can decrease insulin sensitivity, which should scare everyone who cheats on their diet, and there is an inverse correlation between circulating fatty acids and insulin sensitivity, these drugs modulate fatty acid metabolism to increase insulin sensitivity.
They also increase insulin sensitivity by decreasing blood glucose levels and modulating the metabolism of glucose to be more efficient. This is a powerful two-pronged approach to increasing insulin sensitivity, hence the effectiveness in the obese diabetic population. This can also be highly effective for keeping body fat levels low while using exogenous insulin.
One of the most famous thiazolidinediones is Rosiglitazone, known more commonly as Avandia.
Everyone is on board with nutrition and supplementation that highlight the amazing properties associated with insulin. This is great, as a performance-obsessed community we are moving forward with the effectiveness of our protocols. The next step is to look at the efficiency of insulin. Whether it be endogenous or exogenous it is very likely that you can be getting more out of it.
Safety is also a very big reason to make a movement toward more effective insulin functions. This applies more to the exogenous users because endogenous abusers of insulin are labeled as type two diabetics, but the preservation of beta cell function should be your number one priority. As always, the more you understand the underlying mechanisms of what you are trying to intervene with the more likely you are to find a solution.
What can I take to support my insulin resistance?
Take a look at our Suppressor - INSULIN MODULATOR.
It is designed to suppress your insulin response to high carb meals by properly transporting carbohydrates to the site of insulin binding.
Suppressor was designed to support and lower your body's insulin response when taking in carbs, in general, or in a higher amount.
- This supplement is great on a high-carb day or after a workout when a higher-carb meal is eaten to replenish the body with glycogen.
- Keep your body's insulin sensitivity high by partitioning nutrients correctly and shuttling proteins and carbs to the right areas of the body.
- For keto dieters, this product can also assist you in staying in ketosis when a situation arises where you take in more carbs or sugars than you usually would following a ketogenic program.
Commonly asked questions about insulin for bodybuilders
Is this true?
“If you are gaining scale weight but not getting stronger within bodybuilding rep ranges, you are likely becoming more insulin resistant. If you are getting stronger within bodybuilding rep ranges, you are growing.”
That's really really broad for the first statement. It's not untrue but it's not really precise. Brandon Curry does one-arm rows with about 60lbs, he's probably added 100lbs of muscle without getting stronger and I'm pretty sure his insulin resistance after a long Olympia prep is pretty low.
It's an easily generalized statement that isn't nuanced enough to really be a focal point of any diet or training changes IMO.
If you don't get a raise at work, you probably won't increase your stock market investments.
It's a statement like that probably makes sense but there are too many things at play for it to be a definitive statement that you should adjust your life around.
If you're gaining weight and not getting stronger AND the weight isn't muscle, then yeah, your insulin sensitivity is probably going down
You should be trying to get stronger, but you can build muscle without getting stronger (sarcoplasmic growth, which is probably the biggest player in a bodybuilder's growth long term), and also without decreasing insulin sensitivity. I just wouldn't change a diet up because someone got bigger but didn't get stronger, I'd check their insulin sensitivity with blood work to see if that was the case before I just assumed it was
The second statement is something I can definitely agree with.
The two best metrics for showing that you are likely gaining muscle mass or at least will be accruing muscle mass over time in my opinion are:
1) You're eating more food and not getting fat
2) You're getting stronger in bodybuilding rep ranges
Why do I go hypo a few hours after training legs every week?
"I was thinking maybe it was the stims I use for energy mixing with my insulin—but I just asked my training partner who isn’t using insulin, and he said he’s going hypo too. So, I asked him if he is getting any major headaches the morning after (because I am), and he said “yeah! Like a major hangover.” What’s up with that?"
It’s caused by a few factors.
First is the liver.
The body releases liver glycogen to keep blood sugar stable. When you're training hard, the liver is dealing with that (adding orals and whatnot makes it worse).
A compromised liver is worse at releasing liver glycogen when it needs to (alcoholics can actually go through major hypo episodes and even pass out from low blood sugar in their recovery due to the damage to their liver.
Bodybuilding training damages the liver in the same way. (see our QRF Liver Support supplement here)
Add the fact that we're loading carbs to store muscle glycogen AND we're depleted in glycogen going into that day, AND we're using insulin (or some of us are), and we're training so the muscles are asking for glycogen, and you run into a case where the carbs get shuttled to the muscle faster than they get put in the bloodstream, so the liver has to work to cover that deficit but sometimes it can't keep up, especially when it's dealing with the byproducts of muscle breakdown from the training.
Look at it mathematically
The human body has about 6 liters of blood (average human). A blood sugar of 100 means there's 6 grams of sugar in the blood. ONLY 6 grams.
Dropping to a blood sugar of 50, where you'll feel hypo for sure, means you've only depleted 3 GRAMS of sugar from the blood.
Imagine how fast the sugar is going from the gut, to the blood, to the muscle when you're shuttling 1000g of carbs per day?? That's pretty much a gram a minute ON AVERAGE during waking hours. So every three minutes you're going from 100 ng/dL blood sugar to 50 if your liver doesn't keep up, on AVERAGE.
Now, look at the workout window where you're shuttling over 200g of carbs between the pre/intra/post workout meals. Over that 2-hour period you're shutting almost 2 grams per minute, so you only have 1.5 minutes before you go from a blood sugar of 100 mg/dL (slightly high) to a blood sugar of 50 mg/dL (super hypo), and you can see why the liver has to be on top of its game to keep up.
Now make that liver deal with the stresses of a heavy ass leg day (when your high day probably is), and you're asking it to keep up with that insane rate while it's also trying to process all that muscle breakdown from the workout.
Now as for the headache? That's the brain saying "dude, you're asking a lot of me!"
When Blood Sugar Starts to Climb
The most important thing when blood sugar starts to climb on Friday is to stay calm. Stress and anxiety will activate the flight or fight response and cause a release of sugar into the blood—raising blood sugar even higher.
When we see blood sugar begin to climb, we should approach it in phases.
Blood sugar begins climbing above the 100mg/dL level (5.5 mmol/L), we begin to reduce carbohydrates in our meals. A good rule of thumb is to drop carbohydrates by about 50%.
That is all I would do at this phase, and this is often enough to bring blood sugar back within acceptable levels.
Blood sugar levels continue to stay above 100 mg/dL a full 3 hours after reducing carbohydrates by 50%.
At this point, I would consider bringing insulin into the equation. The important thing to consider is that insulin isn’t a cure-all here. Sodium and water are still required for the storage of glycogen, so if those aren’t available, then insulin is going to struggle to do its job.
The good thing about the need for sodium and water is that, when water is lacking in the diet (assuming water is restricted), then the water must come from the body. And since the water will be going back up to the muscles, it must come from somewhere else—namely the subcutaneous space.
This is the fabled “shrink wrapped” look that people associate with insulin
Sorry to keep bothering you, just wanted to pick your brain. Are we incorporating more fruit owing to it being a "low GI" carb source and that the fructose will go to replenishing liver glycogen (i.e. used up immediately) as opposed to being stored?
Not a bother at all. I enjoy this the most. Very nice. I see you're educated in this subject. In short, partly.
Fructose is a low GI carb. It has a high amount of fiber (which slows digestion, making it low on the glycemic index, but also, GLUT5 (the fructose transporter) is insulin -independent. So fructose will not have your body produce as much insulin compared to glucose. Once glucose and fructose enters the enterocyte --> portal vein--> it's next stop is directly to the liver. So the liver gets the first 'dibs' on glucose/fructose and will store and take up as much as it needs before anything else. So the next question you should think of is why the liver? The reason the body is set up this way is because your liver is the only organ that can break down glycogen, and dump glucose molecules in the blood to adjust blood glucose levels. Too high of blood glucose, you die. To low blood glucose, you die. Glycogen can get stored in muscle tissue, however muscles lack a specific enzyme (that the liver has) so that once glucose is stored as glycogen, it is the muscles to keep forever. It cannot break down stored glycogen and send the glucose molecules back into the blood to stabilize blood glucose levels. Again, only the liver can do this. Which is why it gets priority. You are right that fructose will get metabolized by the liver. You will not find fructose just floating around in an otherwise healthy individual.
The main reason I put this in the diet is because 10g of carbs is basically nothing. I want you to get a lot of volume of food in to help you feel full. The added fiber and micronutrients doesn't hurt as well. 1 cup of jasmine rice is roughly 50g carbs. 1 cup of corn is roughly 30g carbs. 1 cup of blueberries is roughly 20g carbs.
Colorado was great but I ran 4 low days in a row and had a few drinks. My last 2 workouts have been great! I was very hungry yesterday though. Do I need to worry about my insulin sensitivity or be checking my sugar levels?
Pictures look good, I bumped up fats on low days just a bit. Let's get back on track in the weight room and your eating now that you are home and have a great week. Colorado was great but I ran 4 low days in a row and had a few drinks. Glad you had a good time! My last 2 workouts have been great! Awesome! I was very hungry yesterday though.
It makes sense you were hungry last week, you ran a bunch of low days. We will continually increase food for the foreseeable future. Pretty soon you will be complaining about eating so much, haha.
Do I need to worry about my insulin sensitivity or be checking my sugar levels?
Well, in general, I think everyone should check and know where their numbers are and be thinking about their insulin sensitivity. Our country would have much less obesity and type 2 diabetics if that was the case, lol.
Insulin sensitivity is always on my mind when I do people's diets. That is largely why I keep my clients lean to keep insulin sensitivity high. Insulin sensitivity increases in a kcal deficit and resistance training. There are also some supplements/medications to help increase insulin sensitivity such as berberine and metformin.
I have my bodybuilders/physique sports competitor track blood glucose with a glucometer before the show. This is how I determine what/how much food to give them to fill up, but not spill over.
As of right now, you don't need to get a glucometer and take readings for your blood glucose levels unless you just want to. I will teach you how to use it and interpret it if you become a client. If you do any bodybuilding shows or anything, we will use a glucometer. But the blood glucometer only tests your blood glucose at that moment in time, so it won't really show you insulin sensitivity.
In order to accurately track insulin sensitivity, you would need an hbA1C test. This test will show the average blood glucose over the lifespan of a red blood cell, which is 90 days.
When you eat food, your body will absorb the fats, protein, and carbs and they will eventually end up in the blood. To get these nutrients out of the blood and into the cells, your pancreas will secrete insulin.
Insulin is a storage hormone, and when this insulin binds to an insulin receptor, let's say on a muscle cell, this cell will begin to make glucose transporters and insert them into the cell membrane. When this happens, glucose can now flux from the blood to inside the cell. This will lower blood glucose. Insulin will also cause increased amino acid and fatty acid uptake. This is why on high days we lower protein; Insulin levels are sky-high all day, so less protein is needed. This is also why we don't add any fats on this day because any fats that are in the bloodstream can be easily stored as fat.
For more information on insulin resistance, feel free to reach out with questions to email@example.com