Not too long ago, the ‘insulin’ keyword was only referenced when the diabetes topic was approached. In today’s day and age, if you go anywhere near the weights area, insulin spikes are mentioned left, right and centre. So what is it? How does it work?
First of all, insulin is a hormone. Diabetic individuals lack the ability to control blood glucose levels. So insulin drives glucose out of the bloodstream and into cells. Insulin is also critical for building muscle – hence it’s popularity amongst persons who strengthen and enlarge the muscles of their body through strenuous exercise (aka little Arnold Schwarzenegger’s).
When you eat carbs, protein, or both; for as long as your pancreas is working properly (that is where insulin is produced) you will get an insulin spike. From the pancreas it will enter the blood stream and travel to various tissues, including your muscle tissues. So why is insulin important for building muscle? Because your muscle fibers are lined with insulin receptors (docking stations) and once the insulin molecule docks onto the receptor, it signals the muscle cell to open up the gates. As soon as that happens, glucose, amino acids and creatine is able to enter the muscles. Additionally, when the insulin docks onto the muscle cells, it also increases protein synthesis (the building of muscle out of amino acids which are entering the muscle cells). And by doing so, it understandably decreases muscle breakdown. So it’s a win-win.
So you might wonder, why don’t we constantly feed our body carbs and protein to constantly grow muscle? Because when you feed your body carbs and protein, the insulin release tells your body that you’ve just been fed so your body will cease burning stored fat, turning to the newly added nutrients that have just been ingested. And as explained in the above process, insulin also tells fat cells to open and the nutrient storage will commence. So the more insulin spikes throughout the day may lead to fat gain over time too. That said, you will need to master your insulin levels and know how to use it to your gain. If you enjoyed this article, let me know and I will expand on it by covering more detail on how to use it to your advantage to control the good and the bad side of insulin spikes.