Last week we talked about WHAT insulin resistance is (and how it’s like changing dirty, smelly diapers?). This week, we’re going to talk about WHY it matters.
Part 2: Why does insulin resistance matter?
When your body becomes accustomed to insulin and less sensitive to the signals sent, your cells do not get the nutrients they need, your body over produces glucose, and your blood sugar rises to dangerous levels.
Remember, insulin’s main role is to lower your blood sugar by ensuring your cells absorb blood glucose and use to for energy (or energy storage).
The Insulin Cycle
- You eat! Yum!
- The food breaks down and gets absorbed into the blood stream.
- Your pancreas secretes insulin in response to the amount of glucose in your blood (foods high in starch and sugar create the most glucose).
- As the insulin does its job, your blood sugar level falls.
- Your blood sugar falls and your brain tells your body to eat more.
- And the cycle repeats…
How insulin normally functions in women:
- BRAIN: In your brain, insulin turns off hunger.
- FAT: In your fat cells, insulin increases the entry of fat and decreases the exit of fat.
- MUSCLE: In your muscle, insulin increases fat, protein and glucose transport for fuel of your muscle cells.
- LIVER: In the liver, insulin increases glycogen synthesis and turns off gluconeogenesis (fancy words for storing sugar and not using resources to make more if it).
When someone become resistant to insulin, their bodies do not react normally to this hormone.
How insulin resistance functions in women:
- BRAIN: Unquenchable hunger and thirst
- FAT: Decreased fat uptake and increased fat release into the blood stream (aka high triglycerides)
- MUSCLE: Muscle cell starvation due to decreased uptake of fat, sugar, amino acids and other nutrients into the muscle cell.
- LIVER: Increased sugar breakdown and production (aka increased blood glucose levels)
If insulin signaling is disturbed and insulin is unable to do its job (a.k.a. insulin resistance), the result = large amounts of blood sugar that cannot be used.
What happens when your body has blood sugar that can’t be used?
Your body does not like when there is too much glucose in the blood, so when your blood sugar is elevated, insulin is secreted to get the nutrients into the cell to be burned or to store any excess for use at another time.
Your muscles and liver can only store a small amount, so guess what the rest gets stored as: FAT!
This response worked during times of feast/famine, but in the life of today’s busy mom, the fat storing action of insulin creates a negative effect.
If you eat sugar (including starch) then you burn sugar to get rid of it. What happens if your body can’t burn it all? You store it! This mechanism is necessary to get the excess sugar out of your blood, but this also means you WILL NOT burn fat.
To add to this problem, when you eat too much of these foods that produce glucose (which stimulates insulin) or produce too much insulin over time, your body begins to be less receptive to the signals of the insulin. (After 100+ dirty diapers, they don’t seem nearly as smelly!)
At this point, your body then needs to produce MORE insulin in order for your body to respond. Eventually it gets to the point that your liver becomes resistant to the insulin signaling, then the muscles, then the fat. Note that your fat is the last cells to become insulin resistant. This means that your muscles could be getting starved of nutrients even while your body continues to store large quantities of fat.
Eventually your pancreas can’t possibly continue to pump out these high levels of insulin anymore, and you become type 2 diabetic.
Summary of the Problem(s) with Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance changes the way your metabolism performs and acts as a precursor to diabetes. Women who experience insulin resistance often find themselves constantly hunger and wanting to eat ALL the time. They must fight the desire to eat and are not naturally satisfied after meals. Generally insulin resistant women do not feel full as easily, as their bodies do not convert the fuel from their food to their cells. All the blood sugar and blood fats hanging around in their blood (leaving their cells unfed), do damage to their internal organs. Fat that would have been released in normally functioning women gets stored by the bodies of insulin resistant women.
In addition to experiencing more hunger and cravings, many insulin resistant women experience a severe drop in energy, as their body struggles with imbalanced blood sugar and changed brain chemistry caused by depleted vitamins.
High levels of insulin = the number one cause of accelerated aging.
Beyond storing fat around your middle, causing fatigue, brain fog, or annoying mood changes, high levels of insulin and insulin resistance creates a problem because it is a huge (many studies argue the leading) risk factor and pre-cursor to type 2 diabetes.
In part three, we’ll talk about HOW you can you improve your insulin sensitivity, so stay tuned!
Joining the BeyondFit Life Club is a life-changer. You don’t have to travel this fat-loss journey alone, sister! Join with like-minded women who are learning how to #dofitnessbetter with the BeyondFit Life Club!