Fat-burning explained: Diet, insulin and body fat!

  1. Fat-burning explained: Diet, insulin and body fat!

    First in a series

    By Hal Walter

    Through proper diet and lifestyle habits you can program your body burn fat all day, every day, for the rest of your life. Your body is designed through millions of years of evolution to burn large amounts of fat, and all you need to do is provide it with the proper food, exercise and stress levels.

    In this article, the first in a series on fat-burning, we'll discuss the effects of diet and eating habits on the fat-burning system, especially as it pertains to insulin production. Future articles will discuss the effects of exercise and stress. For those who wish to stay ahead of the class, or who want more detail, please consult Dr. Phil Maffetone's ABCs of Burning Body Fat or In Fitness and In Health.

    Fat is the most efficient of fuels, containing more calories per gram than carbohydrates or protein; however, when it is not used as a fuel it is stored. Burning fat as the main fuel for all your daily activities also spares blood glucose for use by the brain - so fat-burning can improve mental performance as well as physical.

    In terms of diet, the body's fat-burning mechanism is largely determined by the types of food you consume. Much of this is due to the actions of insulin. This hormone is produced every time you eat and its task is to distribute glucose, produced mainly from carbohydrates, throughout the body. In most people about half of this glucose is put to use for immediate energy in the body's cells. About 10 percent is stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen for reserve energy. The remaining 40 percent is converted to fat and stored.

    Some types of carbohydrates, those with a higher glycemic index, cause even higher production of insulin. And some people, those who are intolerant to carbohydrates or insulin resistant, will produce more insulin in reaction to eating these higher-glycemic foods. Numerous scientific studies have implicated foods with a high glycemic index in the development of obesity and disease.

    Those foods which have a higher glycemic index include mostly fiberless refined carbohydrates such as most bread, rolls, cereals, sweets, and some types of pasta, but also some vegetables such as corn and potatoes, and fruits such as bananas. Eating carbohydrates in combination with protein or fat can help reduce the overall glycemic index of the meal or snack.

    Higher production of insulin, not only results in more fat being stored, it also prompts less fat to be burned. Since blood glucose is available in overabundance when you eat too much carbohydrate, the body shifts to sugar-burning rather than fat-burning. The result is more stored fat and less fat-burning.

    In addition to the type of food you eat, another factor contributing to insulin production is how often you eat. Eating more often - five or six times or more per day - can help stabilize blood sugar levels and help your body to produce less insulin. As discussed earlier, less insulin means more fat-burning. For many people, three regular meals with mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks works well. For some an evening snack is also helpful. Of course eating more food than you need will also promote weight gain, so the trick is to not eat more food, but to eat the proper amount of food spread out between meals and snacks over the course of the day.

    By sticking to foods with a lower glycemic index and increasing the frequency of your meals and snacks you give your body one edge it needs to increase fat-burning. In order to optimize fat-burning you will also need to fine-tune your exercise habits and reduce stress; these will be discussed in future weeks on this website.

  2. Method
    Method's Avatar

    great article. Very few realize how one's diet can hijack even the best training/supplement regimens. However, I just want to add in one thing that some people don't often realize in response to the following:

    Some types of carbohydrates, those with a higher glycemic index, cause even higher production of insulin.
    to this, I would have to say yes...IN MOST CASES. However, there isn't always a direct relationship between how a food rates on the insulin index and its glycemic index. For example, take yogurt, which has an extremely low (it's in the 30s/40s depending on which standard you're using) GI value. However, yogurt illicits a large insulin response, far greater than straight milk-- even though milk is higher on the GI list-- and far greater even then some starches like oatmeal/yams. Often there's a correlation, but not always, and-- for those who don't realize it-- that's why oatmeal kicks ass: it's GI is about 20 pts higher than its rating on the insulin index (and its the same for brown rice). Ching Ching. Just something folks should keep in mind...

  3. It usually depends on the fat content. The lower the fat, the lower the the II in most cases. Thats why whole milk's II is higher than Skim Milk and so on...On the other hand skim milks GI is slightly higher but nothing drastic at all. Lower-fat Yogurt on the II isn't that high. The fat content seems to really spike the II in most cases. Also remember that II measures the load, not the spike. So you could realease more insulin with a higher fat meal than a high carb meal, its just produced over a longer peroid of time rather than a short burst with a higher GI carb meal. Also just because the II is high doesn't mean its bad. If there isn't a significant amount of circulating glucose present the dangers of insulin (adipose storage) aren't that great. I do agree a diet with a low II AND GI are the best overrall but the dangers of the II have been blow overboard slightly.
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