"Insulin is the only hormone that one has complete control of, as one never accidentally eats anything"
That's a statement that has been around for while. A statement that is false. It's a myth. Yet I have recently just been told the exact same again. This statement is based on the assumption that after we eat something, primarily carbohydrates the blood sugar will rise and an elevated blood sugar will elevate the secretion of insulin. So, to counter this, just don't eat carbohydrates, so your blood sugar will not rise and you won't secrete insulin. Sounds very simple. Yet, its false. Why?
First, yes, insulin is primarily secreted when the blood sugar level rises. That's correct.
What effects blood sugar & insulin?
There are two primary ways to elevate the blood sugar and that way insulin:
1. Food – when we eat carbohydrates and also proteins, they will be digested and taken up into bloodstream. Then carbohydrates broken down to sugars will elevate the blood sugar directly. Also proteins broken down to short chain peptides and some amino acids will elevate the blood sugar indirectly.
2. Hormones - there is one hormone that lowers blood sugar, thats insulin. Then there are five hormones that elevate blood sugar. The main hormone of these five is cortisol which is often considered to be the stress hormone. Cortisol can also be seen as the hormone of life and energy, as its the primary life saving hormone in high stress situation and its also the primary hormone that releases energy substrates and stimulate the production of physical and cognitive energy.
These two factors of blood sugar elevation put the initial statement into perspective. Blood sugar can rise without eating any carbohydrates. Clients that say that they don't eat any carbohydrates, yet have blood sugar fluctuations actually do often speak the truth.
Hormones, primarily Cortisol can even increase the blood sugar in huge spikes and also consistently over hours and days. Having done many continuous blood sugar analysis with dozens of clients this year, its very common that someone who works a lot, has a high position or is self-employed and therefore release higher levels of cortisol often has an average daily blood sugar that is 20 -30 mg/dl higher during the week than on the weekend, despite eating no carbohydrates during the week. Which without having these blood sugar measurements that clarify this point often leads to frustration about lack in fat loss based on blood sugar fluctuations.
For a client like this next to optimizing food intake it is also crucial to optimize stress management. A better stress management means that the same stressor in daily life while leading to a lower stress response. Poor stress management is a high stress response to a minor stressor. We all have experienced this at one point in our life. Great stress management is a much lower stress response to a certain stressor. This can be influenced by micronutrients, herbs, food choice and lifestyle to great degree. A simple example is the concept of "hangry".
Hangy = hungry plus angry.
One reason for being hungry is a low blood sugar. A low blood sugar is a stressful situation that there fore decreases stress management. So when something bothers you - a stressor - while you are hungry the stress response - getting angry - will be much greater. A simple every day sign of poor stress management. That can be easily managed by eating the right foods more frequently to avoid the low blood sugar and therefore getting "hangry".
Optimal stress management is highly underrated in optimizing blood sugar and insulin. For greater physical and cognitive performance in daily life and sports. And for accelerated fat loss.
So carbohydrates don't matter?
Carbohydrates definitely do matter. Decreasing carbohydrate intake is still clearly a crucial factor in optimizing blood sugar management especially in those that eat plenty of refined carbohydrates and sugars. Food is still just a part of the equation. Hormones have a huge impact on blood sugar, too. And hormonal balance therefore needs to be addressed and optimized to achieve optimal blood sugar management.
To read my article on Cortisol & Blood Sugar click here
All the best for optimizing insulin levels through optimizing food and hormones!
For more info on how to manipulate food and hormones for faster fat loss attend the YPSI Nutrients, Hormones & Skinfolds (Module 4) Seminar in english .
Picture: Refined carbohydrates.