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Health & Disease

10 Tips To Boost Insulin Sensitivity (Backed By Science)

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Insulin sensitivity is essential for health, fat loss and avoiding health problems such as obesity and Type 2 Diabetes.

Insulin resistance is a phenomenon sweeping our nation, defined by the inability of insulin to effectively rid the blood of sugar or blood glucose. When this occurs, issues such as obesity, high cholesterol and heart disease come right along with it.

Fortunately, there are numerous different diet, exercise and lifestyle strategies you can follow to immediately improve insulin sensitivity, helping you shred body fat and improve health in the process.

Here are 10 of my best, research proven strategies to apply today…

Insulin Sensitivity Tip #1: Restrict Carbohydrate Intake

As you may already know, insulin is a hormone that plays a vital role in carbohydrate metabolism. Therefore manipulating your carb intake is one of the best ways to maximize insulin sensitivity.

When we consume carbs, insulin is released by the pancreas in response to glucose or sugar being present in the blood. From here, its main purpose is then to shuttle this glucose into various tissues of the body such as muscle, the liver or potentially body fat.

While this is an entirely natural process, when carbohydrate consumption is chronic, and is in high, unmanageable amounts, this can cause a disorder known as insulin resistance. When this occurs, the normal tissues that accept glucose (such as muscle and liver) simply no longer accept it, rendering insulin ineffective.

To combat insulin resistance or improve insulin sensitivity, the number one step you can take is to reduce the amount of carbohydrates you consume on a regular basis.

By restricting carbohydrates, you are, in essence, giving your tissues and insulin a break from constant high levels of glucose in the blood. In doing so, receptors that interact with insulin in various tissues can essentially become “re-sensitized,” allowing insulin to be effective once again.

This doesn’t mean you must go low-carb, but you may need to reduce your carbohydrate intake by 30-50% for a few weeks, then slowly start reintroducing those carbs once you have improved your insulin sensitivity.

Insulin Sensitivity Tip #2: Try Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is a fairly new dieting trend that has great research showing it can improve Insulin Sensitivity.

Intermittent fasting is effective for both weight loss and improving insulin sensitivity because it incorporates extended periods of time when you “fast”, i.e. consume no food.

Much like with the carbohydrate restriction section above, intermittent fasting works by giving your tissues and insulin a break from constant food intake. During the extended periods of fasting, you’ll go hours without producing an insulin response, allowing tissue to desensitize.

In fact, studies have shown that the use of fasting is actually quite effective for improving insulin sensitivity (1).

Start by fasting for 10-12 hours (starting at night before bed) and steadily increase the fasting period to a maximum of 16 hours if improving insulin sensitivity is your goal.

You can learn more about Intermittent Fasting in this blog post.

Insulin Sensitivity Tip #3: Switch To Low GI Carbs

Consuming low GI carbs is an effective way to improve insulin sensitivity – try using the glycemic index (GI) as a reference for the types of carbs you are eating.

Interestingly, the amount of insulin that is produced and released into circulation is largely dependent on the amount and speed at which glucose enters the bloodstream.

For instance, consuming white bread (high GI) will produce a larger and faster insulin response than will consuming brown rice (lower GI).

By focusing on primarily consuming carbohydrates that are lower on the glycemic index scale, you can slow the speed at which glucose enters the blood, meaning a smaller and slower insulin response.

Doing so over weeks and months can effectively improve your insulin sensitivity by avoiding wild and drastic insulin spikes.

For reference, here is a brief list of different types of food and where they land on the glycemic index scale:

  • Low GI: Chickpeas, Peanuts, Soybeans, All Vegetables
  • Medium GI: Oatmeal, Whole Wheat Breads, Corn Tortilla
  • High GI: Sugar, Gatorade, Candy, White Rice, Sugar 

Insulin Sensitivity Tip #4: Use Weight Training

Weight training actually provides multiple different benefits for improving insulin sensitivity.

The first of these is that weight training can deplete muscle glycogen levels. In doing so, the muscle becomes much more sensitive to glucose in order to refill the used stores, helping improve glucose uptake and insulin sensitivity.

Next, muscle contractions stimulate what is known as GLUT 4 translocation.

GLUT 4 receptors are transporters within cells that allow glucose to enter the cell. When muscle contractions occur, these receptors migrate to the edge of the cell, putting them in prime position to shuttle new carbs or glucose in without relying on insulin (2).

Long term, this enhances insulin’s function, especially when carbs are consumed around the workout.

Insulin Sensitivity Tip #5: Consume Cinnamon

Believe it or not, cinnamon is a supplement that has been shown numerous times to improve insulin sensitivity.

In fact, studies have shown that ingestion of cinnamon can improve insulin’s effectiveness, meaning that it does a better job of removing glucose from the blood (3, 4)

Additionally, cinnamon actually has a potent effect on enzymes that regulate glucose digestion by inhibiting them. Because of this, when cinnamon is ingested just prior to carbohydrate consumption, the rate at which these carbs are digested is slowed, meaning that blood glucose rises more slowly too (5).

I suggest using a supplement containing cinnamon around 30 minutes prior to a carbohydrate-heavy meal.

If you are in the USA and want to maximize blood sugar metabolism, try my Blood Sugar Support supplement, which contains Cinnamon and 10+ other ingredients designed to maximize carbohydrate metabolism.

insulin sensitivity

Insulin Sensitivity Tip #6: Train Fasted

Undoubtedly you’ve heard of people exercising in a fasted state. While the debate is ongoing with its benefits for straight fat loss, it can aid in Insulin Sensitivity.

This is due to the body tapping into muscle glycogen stores when training fasted.

As with weight lifting mentioned prior, by training fasted and tapping into muscle glycogen stores quicker, this makes the muscle much more receptive to accepting glucose from the blood and in turn improving insulin function.

Remember, during or around the workout this process (of digesting carbs) can act independently of insulin, meaning that the process is extremely efficient.

You don’t need to do this every day, or even do it at all if you are very muscle conscious. However, if you are focusing purely on fat loss and insulin sensitivity, try 2-3 sessions of 20-30 minute fasted cardio per week.

Insulin Sensitivity Tip #7: Eat Whole Fruit Instead Of Fruit Juice

While fruit is certainly an essential part of a good diet, it’s only the case if you consume it via whole fruit rather than juice.

Many people mistakenly begin drinking fruit juice under the misapprehension that it’s healthy. Unfortunately, apart from some micronutrients, you might as well be drinking a full calorie soda.

The problem is that you are consuming a large amount of fructose (form of sugar) without any fiber or impact on appetite. In essence, you’re consuming a highly condensed glass of sugar, with little to no benefit.

Instead, opt for whole fruits, which have a much lower calorie density, more micronutrients and more fiber.

Plus, the added fiber will act to slow digestion meaning that you sensitize insulin while providing an appetite suppressant effect. As a bonus, aim for lower GI and GL fruits such as berries, which have the lowest amount of sugar to fiber ratio.

Insulin Sensitivity Tip #8: Get Better Sleep

One of the more obvious tips to improve any aspect of health, including insulin sensitivity is to get better, longer and deeper sleep.

Unfortunately, the quality of sleep matters more so than strictly the duration, so finding ways to optimize sleep is imperative.

Interestingly, this quality of sleep plays a large role in your body’s insulin sensitivity. In fact, a recent study actually showed that a single night of sleep deprivation led to a 33% reduction of insulin sensitivity (6).

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to improve sleep such as using melatonin-containing supplements to regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Additionally, avoiding electronic screens is also one of the easier fixes.

I suggest figuring out what could be ruining your sleep and fixing it as soon as possible to improve sleep quality and insulin sensitivity. Read this blog post for a guide or if in the USA, you can get my Sleep Eazy formula and Ultimate Sleep Blueprint.

insulin sensitivity

Insulin Sensitivity Tip #9: Use Vinegar On Your Food

Vinegar is another interesting ingredient that may also play a role in insulin sensitivity.

Interestingly, some studies have indicated that ingestion of Acetic Acid, or vinegar, along with carbohydrates can actually improve insulin sensitivity for a wide range of people, even those with Type 2 Diabetes (7).

One important note here is this tends to work best in subjects who are overweight or have diabetes. For those who are healthy and lean, the benefits of Vinegar seem to be much reduced.

I suggest finding different ways to incorporate vinegar into your diet such as putting it on a salad with dressing. Lots of people also just consume it in shot form once per day if this is easier and more sustainable.

Around 10g or 10ml per day seems sufficient to reap these benefits.

Insulin Sensitivity Tip #10: Lose Body Fat

Lastly, one of the most vital and powerful factors is to actually just shred some fat.

There’s a direct link to body fat levels, obesity and insulin sensitivity or insulin resistance.

While there are always exceptions to the rules, the more body fat you have, the lower your insulin sensitivity will be. As you may have guessed, it’s a vicious circle – as you gain weight, your ability to partition carbs and remain healthy is decreased.

This is just one of hundreds of reasons why it’s important not to yo-yo diet and why you need to focus on staying relatively lean year-round. Of course, this doesn’t mean you need six pack abs but you should aim to stay within a sensible level.

10 Tips To Boost Insulin Sensitivity

Insulin sensitivity plays a major role in disease, obesity and your overall physique.

Finding ways to help improve it is essential for health over the long term, in addition to daily energy levels and dietary flexibility.

Insulin resistance is largely dictated by your lifestyle. While this is bad thing for many, it’s obviously a positive if you are looking to improve it or if you already lead a healthy lifestyle.

Fortunately, there are many different ways that you can immediately begin to improve insulin sensitivity through lifestyle changes, supplementation and adjustments to the foods you eat.

If you need a complete plan to shred fat and improve insulin sensitivity, download my 90 Day Bikini plan which utilizes all these advanced principles and other techniques to drop fat and improve insulin function.

You can download the 90 Day Bikini plan here.

insulin sensitivity

References

  1. Heilbronn, L. K., Smith, S. R., Martin, C. K., Anton, S. D., & Ravussin, E. (2005). Alternate-day fasting in nonobese subjects: effects on body weight, body composition, and energy metabolism. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 81(1), 69-73.
  2. Richter, E. A., & Hargreaves, M. (2013). Exercise, GLUT4, and skeletal muscle glucose uptake. Physiological reviews, 93(3), 993-1017.
  3. Jarvill-Taylor, K. J., Anderson, R. A., & Graves, D. J. (2001). A hydroxychalcone derived from cinnamon functions as a mimetic for insulin in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 20(4), 327-336.
  4. Shihabudeen, H. M. S., Priscilla, D. H., & Thirumurugan, K. (2011). Cinnamon extract inhibits α-glucosidase activity and dampens postprandial glucose excursion in diabetic rats. Nutrition & metabolism, 8(1), 46.
  5. Adisakwattana, S., Lerdsuwankij, O., Poputtachai, U., Minipun, A., & Suparpprom, C. (2011). Inhibitory activity of cinnamon bark species and their combination effect with acarbose against intestinal α-glucosidase and pancreatic α-amylase. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 66(2), 143-148.
  6. Broussard J. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Poster abstract presentation at: The Obesity Society Annual Meeting at ObesityWeekSM 2015; November 2-6, 2015; Los Angeles, CA. www.obesityweek.com.
  7. Mitrou, P., Petsiou, E., Papakonstantinou, E., Maratou, E., Lambadiari, V., Dimitriadis, P., … & Dimitriadis, G. (2015). The role of acetic acid on glucose uptake and blood flow rates in the skeletal muscle in humans with impaired glucose tolerance. European journal of clinical nutrition, 69(6), 734.

About the author

Rudy Mawer, MSc, CISSN

Rudy has a 1st class BSc in Exercise, Nutrition & Health and a Masters in Exercise & Nutrition Science from the University of Tampa. Rudy currently works as a Human Performance Researcher, Sports Nutritionist and Physique Coach. Over 7 years he has helped over 500 people around the world achieve long last physique transformations.

He now works closely with a variety of professional athletes and teams, including the NBA, USA Athletics, World Triathlon Gold Medalists, Hollywood Celebrities and IFBB Pro Bodybuilders. If you would like to get in contact or work with Rudy please contact him on social media.

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