What is this thing called insulin sensitivity you ask?
Insulin is the hormone that is released by your pancreas in response to an increase in blood sugar. Blood sugar is elevated when you eat, primarily meals containing carbs or certain protein sources. Insulin acts as a key to let sugar into your cells to be burned for energy or stored as fat if energy levels are topped off. When you are sedentary or eat a high-carb diet, cells become insensitive to insulin, which leads to low energy, fatigue, and an increase in fat storage. The result for many people is fat gain, obesity, and eventually diabetes.
The good news is there are easy things you can do every day to improve your insulin sensitivity and avoid all the misery. This article will give you ten to try today.
#1: Train With Weights
Anaerobic exercise like weight training and intervals is the most powerful tool you have to improve insulin sensitivity. First, after a vigorous workout, your muscles are depleted of fuel, which automatically enhances their sensitivity to insulin. Second, this type of exercise builds lean muscle, which increases the number of insulin receptor sites you have. For every 10 percent increase in muscle mass, you get an 11 percent reduction in insulin resistance.
#2: Avoid Refined Carbs
Sugar, refined carbs, and almost all processed foods jack up your blood sugar because they are quickly digested. The blood sugar spike results in too much insulin being released, which, over time makes your cells less sensitive to insulin. Try choosing vegetables instead of processed foods (including bread, pasta, crackers, etc.) and reduce your intake of grains, even the pseudo healthy “whole” ones because they lead to high insulin as well.
#3: Flavor Foods With Vinegar or Lemon/Lime
Vinegar and other acidic foods such as lemon and lime increase insulin sensitivity, improving the body’s ability to store the carbs you eat as muscle glycogen instead of as fat.
#4: Use Spices
Cinnamon, turmeric, and ginger are known as nutrient partitioners, meaning they improve insulin signaling to lean tissue cells so that energy is less likely to get stored as fat.
#5: Avoid Sitting For Long Periods
Sitting for long periods reduces insulin sensitivity even if you work out frequently and do everything else on this list right. For example, just 3 days of physical inactivity in young, active people caused insulin sensitivity to plummet and the participants gained belly fat. You don’t have to run around the block. Just get up and walk around a bit every 30 to 60 minutes.
#6: Get Enough Sleep
Following just one night of poor sleep, insulin sensitivity is reduced because the stress hormone cortisol is elevated. This causes us to crave higher carb foods, but when we eat them, we often feel worse afterward because glucose tolerance is reduced. Anytime you can’t get enough sleep, be especially cautious with food choices and do everything you can to improve insulin sensitivity.
#7: Cook, Cool, & Recook High-Carb Foods
Whole sources of carbs such as vegetables are high in resistant starch, which doesn’t respond to the normal enzymes in our guts that digest them. The blood sugar response is much lower and you absorb fewer calories. You can increase the resistant starch content of carbohydrate foods by cooking them, letting them cool, and then reheating them. This process changes the structure of the carbs in everything from pasta to bread, reducing the blood glucose response. Try it with potatoes, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, rice, and any other high-carb foods you like.
#8: Get Enough Magnesium
Magnesium is a natural “insulin sensitizer,” exerting positive effects on the insulin receptors in each cell of the body. Magnesium-rich foods include leafy greens, especially Swiss chard, seeds (pumpkin and sesame), nuts (almonds, cashews), and broccoli.
#9:Go High In Protein, Low In Carbs
High-protein, low-carb diets restore insulin sensitivity in people with metabolic problems. You don’t have to cut carbs forever, but going low in carbs for a few weeks pays off in other ways too: Carb cravings drop and people stay are able to stay steadier and on an even keel with their eating instead of bingeing on carbs due to blood sugar spikes and valleys.
#10: Avoid Eating Late At Night
The foods people eat late tend to be higher carb foods, elevating insulin, which ends up throwing off our circadian rhythms. High insulin inhibits good sleep because melatonin, the sleep hormone, is only released after insulin falls. Short-term, you get one restless night, but long-term late night eating can completely jack up hormone balance.