Why Increasing Insulin Could Help Maximise Your Gains!

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Triple your Protein Synthesis by Increasing Insulin

The Anabolic Hormone

Insulin is more commonly known for its use in the treatment of Diabetes Mellitus. Diabetics either inject it (type 1 diabetics) because their bodies no longer produce enough to meet their needs, or take other forms of medication that enhance insulin’s effect (type 2 diabetics) because the insulin receptors become less affective. If the body’s insulin levels are inadequate and left untreated, glucose uptake into the organs and muscle for energy is significantly, if not completely reduced, meaning glucose (sugar) is stuck in our blood vessels with nowhere to go! The result is a net deprivation of energy, and an increased risk of vascular disease. Unfortunately, the deprivation doesn’t stop here; insufficient insulin can lead to protein and fat malabsorption too!

How Insulin Benefits Muscle and Fitness development

A fact that is often overlooked amongst fitness enthusiasts is the major part insulin plays in fitness gains, muscle anabolism and hypertrophy (growth). Insulin is instrumental in improving net protein levels and muscle growth after exercise or resistance training, this is because it raises protein synthesis and protein uptake whilst reducing overall catabolism (muscle breakdown). Insulin acts much like a key (insulin) to a door (insulin receptors/attachment sites), so the more insulin the body produces the more doors are opened, and the better the absorption and utilisation of protein.

How to Increase Insulin the Right Way...and at the Right Time

Greenwood, Calman and Antonio (2008) state:

“Insulin levels can be significantly increased endogenously via the consumption of carbohydrate”

Alongside this, the authors also explain that if high levels of insulin are not supported by an adequate intake of amino-acids (protein sub-units), then the anabolic capacity of insulin is significantly decreased! So the aim has to be to achieve the appropriate balance of carbohydrate with protein. Greenwood, Calman and Antonio (2008) state, when 10g of protein was taken with 8g carbohydrate and 3g fat, a threefold increase in protein synthesis was noticed. The above protein: carb: fat ratio has demonstrated triple the protein synthesis (needed for muscle growth); therefore theoretically this can be factored for 20g protein (just shy of the average protein supplements content), 16g carbs and 6g fat.

How to get the right balance of Protein, Carbohydrates and Fat

Many athletes and sport enthusiasts will hire the services of a registered Dietitian or Nutritionist to tailor a diet plan providing the optimal nutrient distribution for their needs. This service is not cheap and therefore not practical for most, so a convenient option might entail an ‘all in one’ nutrition supplement. ‘All in one’ supplements deliver the macronutrients protein, carbohydrate and fat in the optimal distributions, whilst also providing creatine, and a wealth of micronutrients including vitamins and minerals. ‘All in one’s’ are not intended as complete meal replacements for they are not nutritionally
complete, and would expose you to some nutritional deficiencies, not to mention potential bowel function abnormalities.

However, they do make for an ideal meal accompaniment, that would not only provide you with the protein and amino-acids to promote muscle synthesis, but also the optimal level of carbohydrate to induce that much needed insulin surge needed for maximal absorption. An alternative option is adding 3-4 heaped teaspoonfuls (15-20g) of dextrose with your average protein shake portion, the high glycaemic index carbohydrate will provide you with an appropriate insulin surge, but it will lack the sustainable carbohydrate (complex carbs) that comes with a healthy balanced diet consisting of starchy carbohydrate and some ‘all in ones’. Hence, a ‘supplement’ should do just that, ‘supplement’ your normal dietary intake, and never be your only source of nutrition (Greenwood, Kalman & Antonio, 2008)!

The ‘other’ Anabolic Hormone

Growth hormone and Insulin work in unison to promote growth and development. Growth hormones regulate development during stress and in the fasting state, whereas insulin promotes anabolism periprandially (in the fed state). So which one is best? To compare the two in terms of which hormone is more anabolic is difficult and somewhat pointless. If we consider though that during a health or fitness regime we usually want to promote vitality, energy, physical stature and development. We must also strive to limit physical and emotional stress, and completely avoid starvation, therefore in terms of maximising growth and strength; insulin (via carbohydrate ingestion) is where it’s at!

About the Author

Job Role Qualified Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist Qualifications BSc (Hons) Sports Science | BSc (Hons) Dietetics Tom has always participated in sport both recreationally and competitively which led to an unquenchable thirst for information on anything health, nutrition and fitness. After leaving school Tom went on to play for a football academy during which time he studied Sport and Exercise Science. From here he went on to study a BSc (Hons) Sport Science at UEA followed by his second BSc (Hons) degree, this time at the University of Hertfordshire studying Dietetics. Tom has worked in the fitness, educational and clinical nutrition industry starting out at David Lloyd Health and Leisure Clubs. He then went on to work as a Dietitian (RD) in the NHS, during which time he conducted clinics for healthy eating, weight loss and weight gain, as well as specialised consultations on Diabetes, IBS and Coeliac disease to name a few. He has vast amounts of experience at devising diet plans and supplement regimens, as well as working in the community with schools and competitive athletes. As Head Nutritionist and Supplement expert at Discount Supplements Tom is here to provide current and evidence based health and nutrition information to help you reach your health and fitness goals!

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