Simply put, refined carbohydrates and sugars cause brain damage, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. Studies have suggested that low-carbohydrate diets increase your metabolism and may help you lose more weight. In this article we look at: why insulin is called a fat hormone, how sugar and refined carbs affect your metabolism, why the type of carbohydrate you eat matters, why exercise is the magic pill and how you can harness the power of intermittent fasting and a low-carb diet to change your biology and maintain a healthy weight.
The study of of insulin and insulin resistance is the forefront of medical research. Insulin is a hormone or a chemical messenger produced by the pancreas that regulates blood glucose levels. Insulin has many roles. Its primary role is to keep our blood glucose levels in a tight range — called blood glucose homeostasis. That’s because both too high and too low blood glucose levels are dangerous and damaging to the body. Insulin levels tend to roughly mirror glucose levels: if glucose rises, insulin follows. Insulin is a key hormone involved in fat storage, when insulin levels are elevated, it stimulates fat cells to take up glucose (sugar and refined carbs) from your bloodstream and turn it into fat (lipogenesis), therefore, causes weight gain and obesity. Hence, why insulin is called the FAT hormone. When insulin levels are low, it enables the body to take the fat out of storage and use it for energy. Since higher levels of insulin have been associated with many chronic health conditions, such as obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and other host of illnesses, it makes sense that keeping insulin in a lower range is better for your long-term health.
Carbohydrates are a broad term used to describe different sugars, starches, and fibers found in many of the foods we eat. They are found in fruit, vegetables, legumes (beans and pulses), dairy, and grains.
These different types of carbohydrates are digested differently and can have varying effects on your metabolism and insulin levels. Generally, the more processed, refined, or ‘low quality’ your food is, the faster it will affect your insulin levels. So if you eat a high-carbohydrate diet that consists of lots of highly refined carbohydrates like white bread, white rice, pasta and pastries, you’ll spike your blood sugar levels and this will cause high insulin levels in the body. High insulin levels in the body causes weight gain, obesity and inflammation. Sadly, sugars and refined grains are an enormous part of the total carbohydrate intake in our diets. Hence, the rise of obesity, diabetes and metabolic disorders.
Simple carbs (monosaccharides) like glucose and fructose travel quickly into your bloodstream, where they are taken up by cells and used for energy. Or they may be (disaccharides), which have two simple sugars linked together. They spike your blood glucose levels instantly and raise your insulin levels. Your body turns the excess sugar into fat and stores it in your fat storage around your abdomen.
Refined carbs have been stripped off almost all fiber, vitamins and minerals. For this reason, they can be considered as “empty” calories. They are also digested quickly and have a high glycemic index. This means that they lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels after meals. The rapid spikes in blood mirrors insulin, which in return causes excess weight gain and metabolic disorder.
Complex carbohydrates are made of longer, more complex chains of sugar molecules. These are called (oligosaccharides) and (Polysaccharides). They are found in vegetables, legumes and whole grains and they breakdown slowly in the body. This means they have a less immediate impact on blood sugar, causing it to rise more slowly. Research suggest that replacing simple sugars by complex carbohydrates in your diet may result in reduced body weight and balanced blood sugar levels.
What do complex carbohydrates like raw vegetables, whole grains, brown rice and quina have in common? They’re all excellent sources of dietary fiber, a type of carbohydrates that breakdown slowly in your body and does not raise your blood sugar quickly. Studies support that dietary fiber intake prevents obesity. While most other carbohydrates break down into sugar molecules, fiber does not. As you digest your food, fiber adds mass and weight to your stool, making it easier to pass and preventing constipation. It does this by drawing water into the stool and allowing for it to pass through the intestines quickly. It’s a key ingredient in maintaining good gut health, and it helps your body regulate blood sugar.
The answer to which diet is better for weight-loss and maintenance: low fat or low carbohydrate is getting clearer. Research shows that low carb diets have been shown to increase fat loss, reduce hunger, and balance blood sugar levels. According to a 6-month study of 132 people with obesity, those who followed a low-carb diet lost over 3 times as much weight as those who followed a low fat, calorie-restricted diet.
Of the three macronutrients — carbohydrates, protein, and fat — carbs raise blood sugar and insulin levels the most. Therefore, lower carb diets can be very effective for losing weight and managing insulin levels.
Generally, low-carb diets restrict refine foods like sugar-sweetened beverages, baked goods, candies, and sweets. Some versions may also limit healthy carb sources, such as grains, starchy vegetables, high carb fruits, pasta, and legumes. Simultaneously, you’re meant to up your intake of protein and fat from wholesome sources like fish, meat, eggs, nuts, high fat dairy, unprocessed oils, and non-starchy vegetables.
Intermittent fasting involves cycling between periods of fasting and eating. It can provide significant health benefits if it is done right, including weight loss, reversal of type 2 diabetes, and many other amazing benefits. Insulin levels rise when we eat. The process goes in reverse when we do not eat. Insulin levels fall, signaling the body to burn stored fat for energy because no more fuel is coming through. Blood glucose falls, so the body must now pull glucose out of fat storage to burn for energy.
There are different periods of fasting you can do. Consider the 12:12 fast to start out with—a 12-hour eating window and a 12-hour fasting period. For example, in a 12:12 fast, you’d finish dinner at 8 pm and fast until 8 am the next day, 12 hours later. Note that fasting longer has better results for improving insulin sensitivity and weight loss in the long term. Master the 12:12, then pace yourself up to a wider fasting window of 16:8. (A 16 hour fasting window and an 8 hour eating window). We encourage our clients to start with 12:12 and move to 16:8 and eventually to 20:4 if needed.
During the times when you’re not eating, water and black coffee (with cream) tea and broths are permitted. And during your eating periods, “eating normally” does not mean gorging and going crazy. You’re not likely to lose weight or get healthier if you pack your feeding times with junk and refine foods high in carbohydrates, and sugars. You need to follow a low-carb diet in addition to intermittent fasting to see results.
Research shows that the intermittent fasting periods do more than burn fat, it affects the body and the brain by preventing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, age related neurodegenerative disorders, inflammatory bowel disease and cancer.
What if I told you that there’s a magic pill that could help you simultaneously lower your weight, blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol? What if it also helped you sleep better and have more energy throughout the day, could reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression, improve memory and increase confidence and self-esteem?
Did I mention it reduced your risk of cancer, heart disease, and even helps to reverse diabetes? Would you take it?
Exercise is literally “the magic pill”.
Almost all scientific studies suggest that exercise and physical activity are associated with better quality of life and health outocomes. Then, what’s holding us back? For many people, getting started is actually the hardest part. That’s why scheduling workouts in advance is a critical first step toward actually doing them. Most of our clients who schedule their workouts are consistent with their routines. Whether the challenge is with making dietary changes, or performing exercise, I always emphasize with my clients that the key is consistency. The goal is for physical activity to become a daily routine, something as natural to you as showering, eating, or going to work. The people who are the most successful with exercise in the long-term are the ones who have it built into their daily schedules.
As a general rule, if you’ve been inactive for longer than a month, resume your physical activity at 25 to 50 percent of the level you were previously accustomed to (either for time or intensity). We start our clients with an individualized fitness assessment to ensure a safe and progressive workout plan. Our fitness assessments are complimentary. If you are curious to find out your fitness level, book an appointment by simply emailing me directly or via the website.