T Nation

insulin sensitivity

I read in “The Anabolic Power of Insulin” that high-fat low-carb diets decrease insulin sensitivity. Can anyone explain how they do that?

It’s like anything else - use it or lose it. Over the long term, when insulin is depressed from carb restriction, insulin receptors become desensitized from no stimulation. They require a certain amount of regular stimulation to stay active but, of course, you also have the too much of a good thing senerio also where if they are chronically over stimulated, they also get insulin resistant as in type 2 diabetes. Therefore, the best approach is to manage insulin through Massive Eating type approach.

It looks like these chronic low-carb dieters are going to be getting very fat since chronic carb restriction causes T3 decline AND insulin resistance.

I disagree. I’m currently in week 10 of a low carb diet and have gone from 15% to 7% BF and am trying to get 6%. I did a complete carb free keto diet 3 years ago to reach 6% and stayed at 6% for over 6 months until I purposely went on bulking cycle and got back to 10%. I recently got to 15% due to lay off from injury (rupturerd biceps tendon). Sure, if you come “off” a low calorie/carb diet very abruptly and suddenly add 1000 calories of high glycemic carbs every day…well of course all your efforts will be wasted. But that’s true of coming off any kind of diet. A smart dieter realizes this and plans coming off the diet. He realizes that at his new lower BF%, that maintenance calories are lower. He “eases” off the diet, introducing additional calories and carbs gradually. He only eats low glycemic carbs until his metabolism readjusts (except for WO surge). He increases cardio as he comes off to improve insulin sensitivity and metabolism (regular cardio before carb meals vastly improves insulin sensitivity and metabolsim). He eats smart and separates fats and carbs in meal choices ala “Massive Eating” style (eat only P+C and P+F meals, never C+F or C+F+P). As he increases low glycemic carbs in his daily diet, he cuts back a little on fats until his metabolism readjusts. He’s a smart dieter. But you could be right - the dumb dieter could get fat real quick again if not knowing what he’s doing. Myself, I’m going to be on the beach at 6% BF all summer.

Since low-carb diets are best for getting lean, it doesn’t make any sense that they would decrease insulin sensitivity. The less sensitive you are to insulin, the more of it must be secreted and the fatter you get. What makes low-carbs so effective is that they give you chronically low insulin levels.

People that have success through diets like yours should get paid a couple hundred for putting together a piece for t-mag. You have some of most anecdotal experience with keto-style diets on this forum. It would be interesting to pull some of the others out of woodwork so we can do a better job of evaluating what works and what doesn’t through experience (because right now the search engine can’t even pull it together). The best place to go now is MFW, but people are not willing to experiment over there because Lyle will jump down their throat.

Insulin is a storage hormone. Ideally, it stores glucose (digested carbs) from the blood into muscle cells as glycogen. If muscle cells are already saturated or full of glycogen, the liver is forced to turn the extra glucose into triglyceride (fat) and then insulin stores the glucose converted triglyceride into fat cells. If you have low insulin sensitivity or are insulin resistant (such as type 2 diabetic), then insulin is less able to store as much muscle glycogen and therefore stores more fat. So as you can see, Insulin can be a double edged sword, storing extra carbs as either muscle glycogen or fat, as the case may be. The trouble with insulin on a diet is, as a storage hormone, it prevents stored fat realease. Insulin is a very powerful hormone and will over ride the bodies attempt to release fat stores as it wants the body to do the opposite - store fat, not liberate it. Therefore, the body has a much easier time releasing stored fat when insulin is depressed on a low calorie carb restricted diet as insulin is released in proportion to blood glucose which corresponds to carb intake. And when on a low carb diet, since by convention, blood glocose is kept low, insulin is also kept low. Of course, as we talked, eventually the insulin receptors on the muscle cells become less sensitive due to not being activated as little glucose is available to be stored. You won’t get fat at this point, in spite of developing low insulin sensitivity due to carb restriction, because you are not eating any carbs or extra calories to be stored as fat, so insulin sensitivity is not an issue while the low carb\calorie diet is in effect. When coming off the diet and reintroducing carbs and calories, that is when insulin sensitivity becomes an issue. But if reintroducing low glycemic carbs and calories gradually over a 3-4 week period as I previously stated, the body is resilient enough to recoop its insulin sensitivity and thyroid levels as long as you give it time. From experience, it usually takes 3-4 weeks. During this 3-4 week “recovery” time, you must strictly self regulate blood sugar levels by adding low glycemic carbs and calories slowly as the body slowly responds. During this time, you are self monitoring blood sugar much like a diabetic would. I can do this through experience because I know my body well. One last note, the cardio restores insulin sensitivity by keeping muscle glycogen depleted so that even though insulin sensitivity is depressed, the muscles still always have a desire for glycogen due to the cardio induced glycogen depleation. Cardio also boosts metabolism and helps restore thyroid. And as you are able to reintroduce more and more carbs over the weeks, the extra carbs will reactivate the thyroid and upregulate it also. Anyway, bottom line is that insulin is a storage hormone and as such, “fights” fat liberation and therefore, fat loss is much easier and more pronounced when insulin is kept low through carb restriction and insulin sensitivity is not issue while keeping carbs low. However, if you lose your will power and blow it and go off the diet and binge - well that’s another story and that’s where the low carb dieter getting fatter story would come from - a low will powered dieter. And those kind of dieters would do better on an isocaloric diet such as the T-Mag “Massive Eating - Don’t Diet” diet.

Ive been on low carbs for the last 2 or 3 months (under 100, then 30-60, then <20). Didnt lose any weight. Ive started the NHE diet where you eat high-starchy carb end of day meals every 3rd day, then every 4th day. This gives you enough time to deplete glycogen enough to maintain predominance of the fat-burning metabolic pathway

I guess those 100+ grams of starchy carbs Im going to eat tonight will not enter muscle cells very well and get stored as fat. However, I did interval running today until when I tried to sprint I could only go at a moderate speed. But I felt no lactic acid. That glycogen depletion should help.

Heb (or others) I will be starting a very low carb diet soon and was concerned about the insulin resistance problems after. I’ve read about everything you’ve done, (slowly reintroduce low Gi carbs,cardio, etc…) but it’s nice to hear from someone experienced and lean that it works. I was thinking of using MAG-10 to come off my Fat Fast to jump start my insuln sensitivity again. I would dump the fat and replace most of the calories w/ carbs so my total calorie intake didn’t change but my body got used to carbs again, b/c I know how well androgens inprove insulin sensitivity. What do you think? Good plan? Stupid idea? Any feedback?

I’m familiar with NHE and have eaten that way for a while and think it can be a good way to go for some depending on your natural and individual metabolism. However, that said, I believe the Natural Hormonal Enhancement plan is more of a life style diet rather than a temperary weight loss plan such as a low carb diet or extreme keto diet. Before I go further, I would like to comment that I’m surprised you haven’t lost any weight on your low carb diet especially after you pushed it to ketosis (keto diet is keeping carbs under 25-30 grams/day - it takes about 3-7 days to reach ketosis and then keep carbs under 30g to stay in ketosis. You indicated you had worked down to <20g, so should of been in ketosis. When I did keto, I tried to stay under 20g also). Keto usually provides for dramatic fat loss as long as calories are also in deficit. The only thing I can think of is that you may of not reduced calories low enough for fat loss even though you were in ketosis. When eating on keto diet, of course with eating a lot of fat, you must be careful on calorie consumption as fat calories add up quick. Anyway, normally insulin sensitivity is not effected on the NHE plan as carbs are not restricted for long enough periods of time for desensitization to occur. The every 3-4 day carb up keeps insulin receptors active. Of course, you probably have some degree of insulin insensitivity issue due to 2-3 month low carb diet but should be OK to eat the 1 carb up meal every 3-4 days on NHE. Any insulin insensitivity you have would only be an issue if trying to eat several carb meals every day without building up to it but the 1 meal every 3-4 days should not cause too much problem. I tried NHE because I do believe in the premise of higher fat diet to promote anabolic hormones and do better on low carb diet but found the NHE plan to restrictive for me not being able to eat any carbs for several days at a time as a long term life style eating plan and prefer to just eat a little low glycemic carbs every day “Massive Eating” style and be careful not to mix carbs and fats in the same meal which is really the problem for my metabolism. (I prefer low carb only as temperary weight loss diet rather than life style plan). I also do better by carbing up with surge after WO which cann’t do on NHE, but eat low glycemic rest of time. Anyway, I wish you best of luck in your weight loss efforts.

Coming off the low carb diet with Mag-10 and transitioning to low fat / mainly protein and carb diet while increasing calories slowly should work very well as I know anabolics such as Mag-10 will vastly improve muscle glycogen storage. When on Mag-10 cycle, some of the weight gain is from improved glycogen storage and resulting “pumps”, and this is why Biotest recommends low fat, high carb diet while on Mag-10. In fact, that’s basically what I’m going to do - I’ve got a couple of bottles of Mag-10 waiting to be used. The only suggestion is to include 200mg of ALA 3 times a day with meals (600mg total) as 600mg of ALA has shown in type 2 diabetics with insulin resistance to markedly improve glucose metabolism. Also, I would use Surge after lifting but eat only low glycemic carbs such as red/black beans, oatmeal, and other low glycemic carbs the rest of the time. With this plan, you should be able to restore insulin sensitivity much, much quicker. As you transition with Mag-10, change your lifting WO from heavy-low rep strength maintaining WO to a 10-rep hypertrophy style WO but keep with the cardio also between lifting and group your main P+C meals right after lifting and after cardio sessions and should be fine. Let us know how it works out for you and good luck!

It is my understanding that even when the muscle glycogen stores are somewhat depleted, insulin does not deliver glucose only to muscle but also adipose tissue, even with the inclusion of ALA. The only supplement known to partition (making fat more resistant and muscles more sensitive) is 6-10 grams of EPA/DHA a day consistently for at least 90 days. Is this true or am mis-interpreting?

Absolutely…that has basically been my position that insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolsim will be compromised to some degree from a low carb diet. However, my position also is to deal with this situation in the best manner I know of. Of course, my posts have been general overviews and not specific. But if on a low carb weight loss diet, the reality is that sooner or later you will have to come “off” and my position is to do that in the most efficient manner possible. And that said, I believe all the items discussed, so far, though none a perfect solution, will all have a positive impact on carb reintroduction and that is what we’re trying to achieve. In regards to EPA/DHA, I agree 100% but never mentioned it because I assume everybody by this time makes it a part of their supplemention to aim for 6g of EPA/DHA every day year around and not just part of a diet, and as such, thought it was covered as a given. At some point after ending the diet and introducing refeeding, CLA can also be beneficial. I wasn’t planning on adding CLA right away as I was going to introduce additional carbs/calories gradually. And in regards to the issue of insulin delivering both glycogen and/or fat (due to insulin insensitivity) even though glycogen is depleted, I believe fat storage can be held to a minimum by the process of eating low glycemic carbs and reintroducing additional carbs slowly which will help to control blood glucose and my position is that if controlling blood glucose levels, there will not be enough excess glucose available to store as fat. I believe fat storage will only be an issue if blood glucose becomes to elevated and muscles aren’t able to take the additional up quick enough due to an insulin insensitivity. Eating small amounts of low glycemic carbs every couple hours instead of taking to much carb at one time in one meal should drizzle the glucose into the blood and muscle should be able to handle it at that rate. I would also do that with the Surge, sipping it slowly throughout the entire WO. And as this continues day after day, muscles will only become more and more efficient at restoring glyogen uptake until glucose metabolism has been completely restored. But without doing all the above, including keeping muscle glycogen depleted through 3 set, 10 rep hypertrophy style WO and additional cardio, glucose metabolism has no stimulus to return. And I do believe anabolics (Mag-10) have a positive effect on glucose metabolism and will make a great addition to the hypertrophy style WO’s.