Food is the single most important factor in determining your body composition. While it is impossible to scientifically prove the Primal concept that "80 percent of your body composition is determined by how you eat", it is clear from the rising obesity rates in the Western world that conventional efforts to manage body fat while consuming a high insulin-producing diet have failed.
Excess body fat is a reflection of your familial genes combined with dietary insulin production. And, insulin production is directly influenced by the food you eat.
CONVENTIONAL APPROACH: CAN YOU RELATE?
After a night of sleep, you 'need' to eat in order to meet the energy demands of a busy day; and you believe that eating whole grains and other starchy or fibrous foods (which take longer to convert into glucose than highly refined foods) will deliver a steady supply of blood sugar to give you energy. Following your power breakfast, you strategically snack to maintain optimal blood sugar levels; and you also eat three meals a day to keep your metabolism high in hopes of balancing the calories-in calories-burned equation.
This is all metabolically true - when you consume a high-carbohydrate diet. Constantly relying on meals for energy and chronically elevating insulin levels (hyperinsulinemia), prevents your body from accessing stored energy in the form of body fat, and you are forced to play the blood-sugar-balancing game.
This has proven difficult to manage and ineffective for weight loss; not to mention it dramatically increases your risk of disease. (more on this in another post)
Understanding the hormonal dysfunction caused by a high carbohydrate/high-insulin diet allows a new model to be embraced. Instead of rolling the dice with your genetics and fighting a losing battle with calorie management, you can optimize your hormone function to effortlessly lose body fat and maintain your best body composition with a sustainable approach.
Keep reading to learn how you can optimize hormone function to burn body fat.
LET'S TALK ABOUT INSULIN
Insulin is the "master hormone", responsible for transporting nutrients and hormones through the bloodstream to cells, organs and storage depots in the body.
Before you take your first bite, your genes trigger the release of insulin from the pancreas into the bloodstream to prepare for digestion. Once the first bite is taken, the salivary enzyme amylase stimulates more insulin release. Insulin takes ingested protein and fat and sets them aside, allowing glucose (carbohydrates) to be burned first.
Excess glucose, beyond the immediate needs of the body, are converted into glycogen for storage in the liver and muscle tissue. When the liver and muscles are full, the remaining glucose is converted to triglyceride (fat) and transported to fat cells for storage.
High insulin levels lock amino acids into the muscle cells, lock glycogen into muscle and liver cells, and lock triglycerides into the fat cells, instead of allowing a readily available storage of fat to circulate in the bloodstream for energy.
A high insulin-producing diet blocks the burning of internal energy (fat) and results in an energy roller coaster.
Our bodies desire to sustain energy and satisfy hunger. Once your body burns through all the glucose (low blood "sugar"), your brain thinks you are starving and energy deprived even though you have plenty of calories available for energy stored in fat, muscle, and liver cells. Organs and cells need this stored energy, but they cannot burn it due to elevated insulin.
This results in fatigue, lack of energy/motivation, and hunger for quick energy in the form of carbohydrates, overriding our genetic preference to burn fat without depending on regular meals.
Beyond the metabolic havoc created by the Standard American Diet, it's not difficult to see why carbohydrate dependency and conventional eating patterns can create a host of other issues related to food:
a disconnect with natural appetite - eating when not hungry
anxiety of potentially missing a future meal
overeating - ignoring or suppressing "fullness" signals
unhealthy obsession with eating and dietary habits
As Gary Taubes points out in Why We Get Fat, this means that gluttony and sloth are symptoms of obesity, rather than causes. It's no wonder the favored thought of applying discipline and will power with diet and exercise habits is highly ineffective.
This realization can be extremely enlightening and empowering for those who have tried to manage body fat through the traditional means of calorie restriction and calorie burning.
YOUR BIG HORMONAL-DIET TAKE AWAY
You can drastically change your hormonal response to food by adopting a Primally-aligned pattern of eating. Lifelong weight management and protection from disease are sustainable when your body learns to burn fat and diminishes its need for carbohydrates due to a low insulin producing diet.
Not sure where to begin? Here are some action steps you can implement today.
1. Reduce your intake of the most insulinogenic macro-nutrient around: Carbs
Eliminate processed foods, sugars, and drinks
2. Increase your intake of fresh vegetables
3. Increase your intake of healthy fats (olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, butter)
4. Sensible intake of seasonal fruits and nuts
Want to learn more about a sustainable lifestyle for health management? While these tips are a great start, we can work together to help you reach your goals for your optimal weight and overall health.