Getting insulin under control makes dieting easier

Thomas Secrest's picture
Thomas Secrest

Successful weight loss and dieting works best when we get our bodies to cooperate. For the weight loss industry, the main goal is always to lose as much weight as possible, as fast as possible. From a diet point of view this approach is usually not successful, although, most diet plans and gurus still claim it is.

In this series of articles we have been taking a more pragmatic approach to weight loss. In a previous article I explained how your body will fight any attempt at rapid weight loss, especially if it is through calorie restriction.

The last article discussed the importance of getting control over insulin. Recall that insulin controls the absorptive state and during these periods your body doesn’t burn fat effectively. Instead it uses the glucose from your meals to meet your body’s energy needs. During the post-absorptive state, glucose is conserved for your brain and your metabolism changes and begins to use fat for your body’s energy needs.

In the last article we also look carefully at the metabolic problems created by processed sugar and artificial sweeteners, particularly as they relate to drinks.

FLASHBACK: Slowly drinking a large sugary or artificially sweetened drink keeps your body in the absorptive state for an extended period of time, thus reducing the efficiency of using your fat reserves for energy production.

TIP: Slowly reduce the amount of sugar and artificial sweeteners you consume in drinks and food.

TIP: If you enjoy slowly drinking a beverage, switch to water or tea, or anything without sugar or artificial sweeteners.

It was mentioned only in passing in the last article, but you may recall that insulin is not release in the same amounts for all foods. Insulin is produced by your pancreas, which contain receptors that trigger the release of insulin. These receptors are sensitive in this order:

  1. Carbohydrates (maximum response)
  2. Proteins (about 30% less response than carbohydrates)
  3. Fats (about 90% less response than carbohydrates)

Our goal today is to gain the knowledge needed to convince your body that things are not what they seem. Our diet needs two overarching goals – (1) reduce insulin release and (2) control insulin fluctuations.


The first goal is straight forward; insulin release and fat burning move in opposite directions, as one is going up the other is going down. By keeping insulin levels down (e.g. less sugar and carbohydrates) your body spends more time burning fat. The easiest way to minimize insulin release is to redistribute the nutrients in your meals. This means you want to increase the protein in your meals, reduce the carbohydrates, and eliminate the sugar. Since insulin responds less to protein, this type of meal produces a more modest upsurge in insulin. We will more talk about this in a future article.

The second goal is linked to how rapidly our meals are digested. If your meal zips through your digestive tract and is absorbed very quickly into your bloodstream, insulin release is going to have to be more extreme in order to maintain normal blood sugar levels. On the other hand, if the nutrients from your meal (i.e. carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) enter your blood stream more slowly, then insulin release is greatly moderated and the rise is but a fraction of what it would have been.

These two goals reinforce themselves because proteins slow digestion noticeably and attenuate insulin release. Therefore, increasing the protein content of your meals will serve both goals. This is the underlying theory behind the Atkins diet, although, in my opinion, the Atkins diet presses the concepts beyond the breaking point. However, a moderate redistribution of nutrients is helpful, but it is not the whole solution.

The redistribution mentioned requires a bit of planning. You will need to find particular foods that redistribute your calories without going over your BASELINE. If you do this you will begin to see a sustained weight loss, although, still quite slow – however, if you are not in a hurry, and you shouldn’t be, then this will work, given enough time.

While very slow weight loss is functional and can be made to work, I wouldn’t be a very good physiologist if I didn’t remind you that adding just a little exercise makes dieting better and, of course, faster.

In the next article we will look at controlling the nemesis of all dieters – HUNGER. We know a lot more about hunger than just a few years ago; and what we know explains why hunger is a diet buster. However, there are ways of making our body’s work for us instead of against us, even when it comes to hunger -- we just need to understand it better.

Many people have written to express appreciation for the articles – to which I say, "You are very welcome." If you have any diet questions, please feel free to email them to me. Also if you have suggestions for future articles, I would be glad to hear those as well.

Links to Previous Articles

  1. Article 1: The ‘Never Diet Again’ diet plan
  2. Article 2: Aren’t protein calories better than carbohydrate or fat calories? No!
  3. Article 3: Weight loss and dieting: knowledge is power and power is success
  4. Article 4: Weight loss and dieting: Why do we gain weight so easily?
  5. Article 5: Weight loss and dieting: Why do we lose weight so slowly?
  6. Article 6: Weight loss and dieting: When is weight loss “too fast to be true?”
  7. Article 7: Weight loss and dieting: how to get started - steps to take to improve your seccess
  8. Article 8: Weight loss and dieting: Reality Check -- things to know before you start dieting
  9. Article 9: Weight loss and dieting: To successfully lose weight you need to have and use a bathroom scale
  10. Article 10: Coaxing your body and brain into going along with your diet
  11. Article 11: Sugar and artificial sweeteners aren't doing your diet any favors

I hope you will take a minute to share this series with your friends.

You can reach me at Thomas Secrest