Ok, so you’ve begun an insulin regimen and now you are gaining weight, what is happening?
So let start from the beginning. Likely, you were placed on insulin because your blood glucose was consistently high, maybe 200, 300 or greater. When your blood glucose is very high, that means glucose is remaining in your bloodstream where it cannot be properly used. Sometimes it’s even high enough that it will start spilling into your urine. So, in the bloodstream, that damaging sugar is being carried all over your body, causing inflammation and damaging everything in its path. Bad news. You should NOT be living with high blood sugars.
So, with insulin, your blood glucose is coming down because now the glucose is going from the bloodstream, into the cells to be properly utilized. So why does this make you gain weight? We always hear “insulin is a fat storing hormone.” It’s true, but just how is this happening?
So now that your body can utilize the glucose, it has two options.
- Use glucose, or
- Store glucose
Now, most people don’t get active right after a meal, so very little glucose will actually be used around the time we consume a meal. The majority will be stored. There are three main places your body will store glucose.
Your body stores glucose (in its stored form) in the muscles. This is glucose that can be quickly used for exercise or activity. There is a limited space in the muscles to store glucose. Also, if you have less muscle, you store less glucose. And if you are not active, these stores can stay full, not allowing more glucose in.
Your body stores glucose (in its stored form) in the liver. This glucose is used in between meals and during sleep to keep blood glucose stable when you’re not eating. There is a very limited space in the liver to store glucose. If you stay in the fed state too long or too often, and don’t allow sufficient fasting periods, these stores can stay full, not allowing more glucose in. What is “fed state” and “fasting state?” We are in the fed state when we eat a meal and for about 4 hours thereafter. In a fed state, your body relies on glucose from the food you have recently consumed. Then you enter the fasting state, where your body relies on stored glucose from the liver. So if you eat often, such as if you eat 3 meals per day, plus snacks in between, you are in a constant fed state for the majority of your day. This keeps your liver stores full. And if you have a bedtime snack, you are even interrupting your night time fast. This is not good.
So, when muscle and liver stores are full, what happens to all of the glucose? It stores as fat! What’s worse, it stores as visceral fat, or fat around our organs, in other words, belly fat. This is dangerous. And guess what? Fat storage is unlimited. There is no end to how fat we can get.
So, is this whole picture insulin’s fault? No. Insulin’s job is to bring down blood glucose SO HIGH BLOOD SUGAR WON’T KILL YOU. The problem likely is, you are giving your body TOO MUCH GLUCOSE TO STORE. That is why it is imperative that if you have to use insulin, to take in as little glucose as possible. Remember that injected insulin is not quite as effective as insulin made by the body. This means that when we inject insulin, we typically end up using more than our body would have made with its own insulin. So how much glucose do we NEED to take in? Very little. The blood needs to maintain a circulating level of glucose of about 1 teaspoon (4g). We DO NOT need a bunch of carbohydrates to supply that glucose, as a great deal of the protein we eat also is converted to glucose.
So, pairing insulin with a low carbohydrate diet that focuses on nutrient dense carbohydrates (vegetables) versus nutrient devoid carbohydrates (sugar, grains) will help to insure the least possible amount of insulin used, and the least amount of weight gain, possibly no gain, possibly even weight loss.
What else can we do to take even less insulin? Get active. Exercise improves insulin sensitivity. In other words, your insulin will work better and you’ll need less. And don’t just focus on cardio (walking, jogging, etc). Build some muscle. The more muscle we have, the more our body can both burn glucose and store it. We have to use and deplete stored glucose regularly. This will allow us to replenish those stores from our meals. Daily exercise is a key to using this stored glucose.
What else helps? Spend less time in the fed state and more time in the fasted state. Go more than 4 hours between meals, avoid snacking, have a long daily fast at night by not eating within 2 hours of bedtime, all the way until you wake up the next morning. Even better, try intermittent fasting. This allows us to access and burn stored glucose in the liver. Once again, we have to use and deplete stored glucose regularly. This will allow us to replenish those stores from our meals. Daily adequate fast periods are a key to using this stored glucose.
If you mix injected insulin with a high carb diet, frequent snacking and a sedentary lifestyle, you are playing with fire. Expect to gain a lot of weight. Expect increased insulin doses regularly, and a rapid decline in your health. Expect your heart, kidneys and brain to suffer significant damage. Expect fatigue, depression, sleep disturbances and memory problems. Expect chronic aches and pains. Expect vision problems. Expect pain in your legs and feet. Expect urinary tract infections and yeast infections. I could really just go on and on…
How do you know if you are taking in too much glucose? Well, how much weight are you gaining? If you are gaining weight, your stores of glucose are likely full. So you have to eat less glucose, by adopting a low carb way of eating, and burn more glucose, by exercise and allowing greater fasting periods in your daily routine.. By doing this, your chances of eliminating injected insulin is very likely. At the very least, you can expect a significant decrease in insulin usage.
Wishing you all health and happiness.