For many years, scientists, nutritionists and numerous other weight loss professionals have continually preached that weight loss comes down to a very simple equation – kilojoules in versus kilojoules out. While this principle is true to a certain extent, there are a number of increasingly common hormonal shifts that can occur that do alter this relationship. Insulin resistance, the clinical condition that precedes Type 2 diabetes is one such diagnosis. Individuals with insulin resistance will struggle to lose weight via traditional weight loss prescriptions simply because their body is not burning fuel the way it should be.
Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas and used to digest carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are found in plant based foods including bread, rice, breakfast cereal, pasta, fruits and sugars. When carbohydrate rich foods are consumed, insulin is secreted by the pancreas to take glucose from the food to the muscles for energy. For a number of reasons, over time, insulin may fail to work as well as it should. Weight gain, where fat is clogging the cells is one such reason, as is a lack of physical activity. Your genetics can also pre dispose you to insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. The highly processed nature of our daily carbohydrate food choices including breads, breakfast cereal and snack foods, which require much higher amounts of insulin than less processed low glycaemic index carbohydrates is too thought to be a significant contributing factor to the increased incidence of insulin resistance.
Resistance to the hormone insulin builds up over time, with the body gradually producing more and more insulin in an attempt to get it to work better at taking glucose to the body’s cells for energy. As insulin is also a fat storing hormone, the more of it that is circulating in the body, the harder it becomes to actually burn body fat. High levels of insulin can also make you feel tired, bloated and craving sugar, as the body is not getting the fuel it needs to the cells as efficiently as it should be. Individuals with insulin resistance also tend to have distinct abdominal fat deposits, and carry much of their weight round their belly.
The good news is that once diagnosed by a physician or endocrinologist, insulin resistance can be managed and tight management can actually prevent the development of Type 2 diabetes. While some cases will warrant medication, the diet and exercise prescription does not change. Individuals with insulin resistance need a reduced carbohydrate, increased protein diet as developed by a dietitian who specialises in the area, as well as a highly specific training program that integrates high intensity cardio sessions in conjunction with a light resistance training program. Individuals with insulin resistance need to learn to become extremely fussy with their choice of carbohydrate foods. High GI, refined sources of carbs including juices, white breads and refined cereals need to be completely eliminated from the diet long term for the best weight loss outcomes long term.
Signs that you may have a degree of insulin resistance that may be worth investigating with your doctor include an inability to lose weight despite demonstrated diet and exercise compliance, distinct abdominal fat, feeling unusually fatigued, bloating and cravings sugar regularly. The benefits of identifying insulin resistance early and committing to a 6-12 months diet and exercise intervention will ultimately help you avoid getting diabetes.