Want to learn to be a fat burner? What if I told you that your metabolism starts off in its most ideal state when you first wake up after at least 6 hours of sleep? What if I told you that you could keep your metabolism humming along throughout most of the day, and that it could burn the excess unhealthy fat off your body? What if I told you that you would also have more energy and your mood would be improved along the way? Would you be interested? Well, I’m going explain…
One of your body’s fuel sources is glucose. Glucose is the sugar in your blood that is like gas in a car. (I will use the word “sugar” instead of “glucose” for the rest of this post, but I’m talking about glucose.)
Your body needs the right amount of fuel to work well, and if it has too little, you can die and if you have too much, you can also die. Actually, before death, if you have too much sugar, it acts like a slow poison…everywhere in your body. It attacks your brain, blood vessels, your eyes, your nerves, your kidneys, your heart, your immune system, your skin, EVERY part of your body.
This is the case with diabetes, where there is too much sugar in the blood most, if not all of the time, and it is damaging the body. You can imagine, if sugar is so powerful in your body, and too much of it is poisonous, your body will have created something VERY powerful, as a defense, to manage that extra sugar…It has. It’s called INSULIN. Insulin brings down the blood sugar.
How does insulin work? Well, it is created by your pancreas and gets pumped out when your body senses it has TOO MUCH sugar in the blood. Insulin is released proportionally to the level if sugar in the blood*. The more sugar in the blood, the more insulin is released. Insulin lowers your blood sugar.
*Side note: The older you get, or the higher you regularly push your blood sugars, the exponentially more insulin will get pumped out relative to the amount of sugar in your blood. In other words, the pancreas gets a little over-reactive & will go overboard and pump out LOTS of insulin. We will come back to this.
So, when there is lots of sugar in the blood, there is lots of insulin that is dumped into the blood. When high amounts of insulin are circulating in your body, your body listens. Insulin is ALL POWERFUL. It is trying to prevent high levels of blood sugar from poisoning the cells. So, insulin is the Boss. It is your body’s defense. It is all about survival. It is trying to prevent the cells from being poisoned.
To clarify, when insulin levels are high, the cells stop listening to other signaling chemicals in the body. High levels of insulin act like a fire alarm. It tell the cells in the body, “We are about to be poisoned!!! The NUMBER ONE PRIORITY is to LOWER THE SUGARS in the blood!” So, how does it do that?
First, insulin causes your cells to shut off their use of other fuel sources (such as fat) and tells all of your cells that it can ONLY burn the SUGAR in the blood for fuel. This allows the extra blood sugar to be used up so the blood sugar goes down to normal healthy (non-poisonous) levels. This is good. This works very well if we don’t overload the system…
However, if there is way way too much (glucose) sugar in the blood and you are not more active, it cannot burn off enough of it, fast enough. It doesn’t need that much fuel. It cannot bring the sugars down to a “good” or “safe” level fast enough or it may not be able to bring it down much at all (type 2 diabetes). To protect itself from being poisoned, the body responds with extra insulin* and it has another back up option.
The back up? Insulin forces the body to store all if the unused sugars as glycogen (in the muscles and liver) and FAT in your body. If you have not used up the glycogen in the liver and muscles (which can be done by fasting or with physical activity or exercise), they are likely already full. So the back-up storage space is our fat cells. So, insulin causes fat cells to grow and multiply to protect us from very high poisonous sugar levels!
Key point: High insulin levels = Fat burning is shut off & you are now growing. If you have stopped getting taller, there is only one other way to grow…you will be growing your fat cells and your body cannot access the fat on your body for fuel. It can only burn sugar in the blood.
As mentioned earlier, as we age, or if the body has high blood sugars often, huge amounts of insulin keep being produced by an increasingly over-reactive pancreas. With time, the cells start ignoring the insulin- they become INSULIN RESISTANT. The pancreas then starts over-reacting even more, and responds by pumping out even more insulin. The cells become even more insulin resistant, and it becomes a vicious cycle.
Signs that your body is developing insulin resistance include the development of more skin tags or discoloration around the neck, and even more consistent, is an enlarging waistline. As your waistline grows, you are becoming even more insulin resistant and you will start gaining fat weight faster and faster (unless you make some changes).
With high insulin levels, fat burning has been turned off. So, you cannot easily burn the fat off your body. In fact, this extra insulin often leads to further hunger, as your body is storing the fuel and at the same time, shutting off access to the stored fuel (the fat cells). When you are running on empty, your body craves more sugar, for immediate fuel, because you are running out of sugar. All because of an over-production of insulin from your previous cycle. This is the insulin resistance roller coaster that gets steeper and faster over time.
Good news: You can get off the insulin roller coaster and even avoid it all together. If you don’t get on the insulin roller coaster, you will be able a fat burning machine and have steady energy. Here’s what you need to know:
When you wake up first thing in the morning, if you haven’t eaten overnight, your body starts off in a fat burning mode. Since you didn’t eat foods that cause blood sugars to go up, your insulin levels got low, so your body switched from sugar burning to fat burning for fuel! You start off as a fat burning machine. If you think about what you eat in the morning and keep your sugars low, you can keep your body in the fat burning mode! You can have a fresh start every day.
If you start your day with foods that cause blood sugars to jump (like starchy carbohydrates and sugar), remember you will dump lots of insulin in the blood, which will turn off your fat burning & you may grow and start on your insulin roller coaster for the day. If you choose to avoid those starchy carbs and sugar, you avoid getting on the insulin roller coaster and you can stay in your fat burning mode!
In short: When insulin levels are high, insulin acts like a growth hormone. And if you are done growing taller, there is only one other way to grow…so anything you can do to keep your blood sugar levels stable and in the healthy and safe range, the better off your whole body will be and the more likely you can maintain a healthy weight and body.
Every day, you get a fresh start when your body is burning fat for fuel. So the key is to learn which foods and how much of those foods cause your blood sugars to spike and to limit those. Then, your body can continue to burn fat and your waistline will shrink. In addition, if you can eliminate those insulin spikes, you will find your mind is clearer, your mood improves, and you have more energy. You may find you even WANT to be more physically active than before! It is a win-win for you!
Isn’t the body amazing? Next time, we will review how to reverse the aging process with regards to metabolism…
Photo by Rodrigo Ardilha on Unsplash