Author Topic: Hypothesis on Insulin  (Read 5007 times)

Offline dee

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Hypothesis on Insulin
« on: March 25, 2011, 01:06:32 PM »
This question is mostly for Todd, but anyone can feel free to tell me if I'm not making sense.

So, this is mostly a low-carb question. So here are some points that I've found searching around, of which I'd hope to piece together an idea of how to low-carb diet:

1) When people go low-carb without carb refeeding, their glucose tolerance drops, which is a bad thing (unless you never plan to have carbs again).
2) Protein is also insulinogenic (some are as insulinogenic as carbs, but protein also stimulates the release of glucagon so it isn't as bad)
3) Kitavans have extremely low fasting insulin, with an extremely high-carb diet.
4) Low fasting insulin is a marker for good health.
5) Your body and brain need a certain amount of glucose per day (different amounts depending on the source).
6) Your body converts amino acids into glucose if dietary glucose is insufficient and liver glycogen stores are depleted (the supposed efficiency is also different for different sources).
7) I think that too much protein is not good for you. (lots of different opinions on this, what changed my mind about both fat and protein was Denise Minger's China Study analysis, where fat was shown to be inversely related to cancer and plant protein was shown to be positively related... animal protein was neutral, but since animal protein usually comes bundled with fat, I'd guess that it would end up slightly on the bad side if taken alone)
8) Hormesis!

So adding that all up, here's what I get: Having very large insulin spikes trains your body to get rid of insulin (a guess from the Kitavan thing). It may be beneficial to have a certain debatable amount of glucose daily, so that you don't need to consume as much protein (since less carbs = greater protein requirement), but only enough to at most fill up glycogen stores (so that amount would increase when you exercise) so that it isn't stored as glycerol. So, the idea is occasionally spiking insulin so that your body adapts and thus results in lower average insulin levels (since presumably your body would be more efficient at dealing with it). Lately, I've been choosing to have my last meal of the day as a relatively high-carb (by low-carb standards!) meal to see how it goes. Possible benefits MAY include:
1) better glucose tolerance
2) lowered fasting insulin
3) insulin spike from low-carb meals would be lower or would be cleared out sooner
4) lower protein requirement (protein is just so damn filling, especially with intermittent fasting)
5) some sources say having some amount of carbs spares muscle tissue in ketogenic diets
6) better faster sleep (from the serotonin release associated with carb intake)
7) a more flexible diet
8) much less craving (this is debatable, but I find that I don't really crave anything anymore)

It seems to fit in with the hormesis idea quite well. Chronic insulin is bad; intermittent spikes of insulin teaches your body to deal with insulin better. It would probably be best to not do it everyday, but the effects on sleep are noticeable, and very very pleasant. It's also doing well on the mirror test, even if my occasional choice of carbohydrate is ice cream. So, I'll be playing around with this for a while. What do you guys think?

Offline Todd Becker

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Re: Hypothesis on Insulin
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2011, 01:55:25 PM »
When people go low-carb without carb refeeding, their glucose tolerance drops, which is a bad thing (unless you never plan to have carbs again)....Having very large insulin spikes trains your body to get rid of insulin (a guess from the Kitavan thing). It may be beneficial to have a certain debatable amount of glucose daily, so that you don't need to consume as much protein (since less carbs = greater protein requirement), but only enough to at most fill up glycogen stores...So, the idea is occasionally spiking insulin so that your body adapts and thus results in lower average insulin levels...It seems to fit in with the hormesis idea quite well. Chronic insulin is bad; intermittent spikes of insulin teaches your body to deal with insulin better. It would probably be best to not do it everyday, but the effects on sleep are noticeable, and very very pleasant. It's also doing well on the mirror test, even if my occasional choice of carbohydrate is ice cream. So, I'll be playing around with this for a while. What do you guys think?

dee, I think you are right on the money.  I agree with virtually everything you wrote here.  The combination of a generally low carb diet, intermittent fasting and intense exercise appears to be optimum for maximum insulin sensitivity and ability to opportunistically switch among glucose, fat or ketones as metabolic fuels.  Add to this the judicious use of hormetic stressors such as cold showers, hot peppers, phytonutrients (and perhaps an occasional cigar?) and you likely are stimulating your metabolism, and immune/xenobiotic defenses to stay in top form, ready to take on a panoply of known and unknown assaults from the world.

The one point I've been thinking about is timing.  What is the ideal frequency and time of the day or week to add in carbohydrates? Your suggestion of ice cream every evening certainly sounds nice, but I'm not sure about it.  For one thing, I would tend to avoid the combination of high fat + high carb in the same meal.  If you are going to consume insulinogenic carbs, its probably best to do it in a low fat way, unless you keep the portion small.  Secondly, the best time of day for lipolysis and fat oxidation is during your sleep. I've found that most of my own weight loss occurs while I sleep. So anything you do that raises insulin right before bedtime will block those benefits.  If you are lean and muscular and otherwise low carb, perhaps you can be a bit more forgiving on that point. If it gives you some pleasure and helps with sleep, that's a plus.  But I'd still think about limiting the amounts and frequency of desserts.  

The best times for carb consumption, I think are after one has gone for a stretch with low basal insulin (e.g. first meal of the day), or better yet, after exercise, because your insulin sensitivity is at a maximum, your glycogen levels are depleted, and your muscles and liver are "hungry" for carbs, so they have plenty of room to absorb them.  Better yet, combine the carbs with protein (but no fat), and the insulin spike will aid in synthesizing new lean muscle tissue.  I generally eat Paleo, but I love to have a chocolate croissant with coffee in the morning once or twice a week.  On those days, I typically skip lunch, so that little pastry is all I eat until dinner!

I'm also sympathetic to Art DeVany's suggestion that we should not get into too much of a routine in our diet, our exercise patterns, or anything in life.  Keep your body guessing, and you remain versatile and able to readily adapt to change.  So I think that eating carbohydrates occasionally and at varying intervals of time makes sense.

All of us are different. Some may be able to eat carbohydrates more frequently or in higher amounts. The bottom line is to establish whether you are able to return quickly to a low basal insulin level and low blood glucose level.  I've measured my own blood glucose at various times for more than a year to understand how food, exercise, fasting, sleep and other events affect me.  And I've tracked my insulin levels every year and seen them come down from 14 to now 4 IU/ml.  At the same time my fitness, as measured by running speed and weight lifting have increased significantly.

Thanks for a stimulating post, dee!
« Last Edit: March 25, 2011, 02:05:19 PM by Todd Becker »

Offline aelephant

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Re: Hypothesis on Insulin
« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2011, 05:25:57 PM »
I really enjoyed the posts above.

I have recently been adding some carbs back into my diet after a 2 week stretch of almost completely eliminating them. IF + low carb seems to work as an excellent protocol for fat loss while preserving strength / muscle density. Muscle volume will suffer due to depletion of glycogen and water loss, but when carbs are added back to the diet... WOW. Unfortunately I didn't measure during the IF + low carb period, but by the mirror test, my triceps have exploded in size since adding carbs back in. Overall I am much "fuller" now and weight has started to increase again without a noticeable change in my mid-section thus far.

One approach I've taken is to make my 1st meal of the day a protein / fat based meal. As was mentioned, sleep is prime time for lipolysis, since it is an effective fast. Why not extend that lipolytic effect by keeping insulin low and skipping carbs for the first meal? I want some carbs before my workout (to give me added, immediately available fuel) and lots AFTER my workout to trigger that insulin response I've been trying to avoid hitherto.

Offline dee

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Re: Hypothesis on Insulin
« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2011, 12:24:13 AM »
I don't have ice cream everyday! I have it on occasion. I think that it's just a nice bonus that ice cream can be in a diet. Just wanted to clarify that. I usually have paleo style veggies (because I love tomatoes and onions) with starchy tubers (to maximize the insulin spike).

I completely agree with you on timing and everything, especially what Art says, but I've found through my own experimentation that sleeping hungry affects the quality of my sleep. And I think I'd sacrifice a bit of fat burning for better quality sleep (it may even aid lipolysis more by allowing me to sleep longer and uninterrupted!)

Okay, this high-fat with high-carb thing was bothering me when thinking up the diet, because it seemed like a perfect storm for making triglycerides and thus storing fat, but I think if you are not insulin resistant, the glucose would be stored as glycogen, especially if you glycogen stores are depleted, as probably is assuming that your carbohydrate intake is low enough. So as long as it doesn't go straight to fat, I'm fine. As for burning fat or carbohydrate when I sleep, I really don't care. I mean calories in - calories out = weight change still does apply. I don't change my calories in because I only eat what I cook, and I don't see why burning fat would make me burn more calories (maybe if I pee ketones, but that makes it complicated), so I don't think the difference would be that big.

As for the exercise thing, I know that lots of people think that you need to spike insulin post workout (lots of research shows that this aids both protein synthesis as well as glycogen creation post workout), but I think whether or not you have an insulin spike results in the same or similar total protein synthesis and glycogen). I also believe that our bodies are smart enough to partition resources to where they are needed, assuming resources are available. So if you need protein to make muscle, your muscles should probably get that protein, with or without the aid of carbs. Talking about Art, he also mentions the concept of autophagy, which is in my opinion, really really interesting. I think it involves working out fasted, and not eating for a while after, so that your cells recycle it's damaged parts and proteins. I believe Robb Wolf mentioned it in one of his recent podcasts as well (on the topic of protein fasts).

Finally, this is true for me as well as probably some of you low carbers out there, but I find that carbs make me sleepy and my mind lazy and slow. It's a hard feeling to explain, but you should know it if you're used to burning fat. I just wouldn't eat them any other time of the day, cause my productivity and focus will just drop.

Offline dee

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Re: Hypothesis on Insulin
« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2011, 12:25:43 AM »
One more note, I hear that insulin blunts growth hormone secretion, so Art's autophagy work outs maybe on to something. Growth hormone being linked to both increased lipolysis and more muscle.

edit: and just remembered another possibly important note: I remembered that ice cream had another important benefit (it's a secret for now). I'll post about it when I'm done with the research (unfortunately, it doesn't have to do with hormesis).
« Last Edit: March 26, 2011, 12:27:56 AM by dee »

Offline thomas_seay

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Re: Hypothesis on Insulin
« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2011, 12:27:26 PM »
Just a note about ice-cream.  Of the commercial ice-creams, best to go with Haagen-Dagz, especially their Vanilla flavor.  It's delicious and has only about 4 ingredients.

Offline dee

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Re: Hypothesis on Insulin
« Reply #6 on: March 28, 2011, 05:48:42 AM »
With a bit of testing, I find that I only crave carbs after intense exercise. I find that interesting. Perhaps I'll try minimal carbs most days (enough so that I don't need to eat more protein) and spiking insulin during exercise days. Thoughts?

Offline shadowfoot

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Re: Hypothesis on Insulin
« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2011, 07:37:50 PM »
Wow. Good job dee. You got to this before I could. I literally came to this section looking to start a post on carbohydrate tolerance, and there one is. I have one thing to say directly to you, and then I will do into my spiel. First, fat also blunts growth hormone, although not quite as much as carbohydrate. This is part of the reason it is recommended to exercise in a fasted state.

Okay. Onto carbohydrates. I agree with a lot of your points, and I hope you don't mind if I repeat you for clarity. There are various groups of people who are perfectly healthy (e.g. the Kitavans) on a high carb diet. They have low blood sugar, and actually tend to have been blood sugar control than native people on low(er) carb diets. This is hormesis at work perfectly. From these people we see that lots of carbohydrate, if your body is functioning properly and you are adapted to it, is not a problem. To me, the problem in our Western diet appears to be the source of carbohydrate (grains, particularly wheat, and sugar).

Given our understanding of hormesis, the traditional view that carbohydrate consumption taxes the system over time just doesn't make sense. We need to have a better mechanism. And we do. Certain elements of our Western diet appear to directly promote insulin resistance and thus metabolic syndrome, such as excess fructose, which does not even raise blood sugar.

Basically what I am trying to say is that unless there is some existing condition, the diet is free of industrial toxins and grains, and you properly adapt yourself to it, that carbohydrate in the diet is not a problem. This is why when I say I eat paleo (there is some WAPF thrown in there too but that's a discussion for another time), I do not mean low-carb. Paleo to me means food I can find in the wild and could have eaten as a primal man. This most definitely includes fruits and starchy roots.

-shadowfoot

Offline aelephant

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Re: Hypothesis on Insulin
« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2011, 01:03:53 AM »
I just posted a link in the "Getting Fitter" thread that discusses this idea that physiological levels of hormones effect muscle growth. The author's conclusion based on the research is that physiological levels do not effect muscle growth. Obviously we know SUPRAphysiological levels DO, but eating or not eating carbs or fat before your workout is going to amount to nothing compared to injecting massive amounts of testosterone or growth hormone. I suppose there might be a small effect (perhaps statistically "insignificant" due to the sizes of the studies reviewed) but I think there are much more important things to focus on to stimulate muscle growth and better reasons to adhere to one diet over the other.

Offline thomas_seay

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Re: Hypothesis on Insulin
« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2011, 08:34:52 AM »
Paleo to me means food I can find in the wild and could have eaten as a primal man. This most definitely includes fruits and starchy roots.

That and having a picture of Denise Minger hanging in your room!

Offline shadowfoot

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Re: Hypothesis on Insulin
« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2011, 10:13:04 AM »
@thomas_seay

hahaha. She really is quite beautiful.

Offline dee

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Re: Hypothesis on Insulin
« Reply #11 on: March 30, 2011, 11:41:08 AM »
Wow, you guys made me google that (the pic)... *facepalm*

shadowfoot, based on what I read, only pre-meal fat had a negative effect. And that could be exercising and digesting don't mix very well (since blood is routed to your muscles instead of digestive system). I doubt the difference in hormones would be extremely significant, but I was just mentioning possible bonuses. It could be though.

I don't think anyone actually thinks that carbohydrates are unhealthy*, except the carnivore zero-carbers. It's just that a low-carb diet is a useful tool for weight loss and athletics. I wasn't trying to pitch the healthiest diet ever, just trying to suggest ways to put the tools together to make a different one.

Now, what the carbohydrates usually come bundled with is a different story (and I don't want to get into it!)

* Maybe also the people who think that AGEs contribute to aging. I actually find this a bit believable when seeing how very low carbers look when they're older.

Offline stephenmarklay

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Re: Hypothesis on Insulin
« Reply #12 on: April 23, 2011, 12:32:31 PM »
Can anyone tell me the eating habits of the Kitavans?  I know what they eat but I mean how much, when etc...

After getting a bit chunky (very relative 6 feet 185 vs 6 feet 165 at my lightest) on Paleo Ketogenic but not at all eating low calorie.  I have to think that the most important things are not the macronutrient amounts but just not eating so much (as advocated here)

We are fairly (greatly) adaptable creatures and I have to assume that we can exist and thrive on fairly wide dietary practices.  A lot of evidence points in that direction.  It may be that we can adapt to the Kitavan diet with the proper hormesis type of introduction.  Changing our gut flora, and our metabolic adaptation to a different diet.  Speculation

However, deconditioning, with all of the excess, seems necessary.  I was looking in my fridge this morning after eating a large portion of steak leftover from dinner deciding what to eat next.  A pickle?  Some of that jicama?  Maybe that hard boiled easter egg (farm fresh mind you), oh look some cashews.

So I ate them!  Now if I had a couple of berries in my pouch and the fish I clubbed in the river I would have stopped at that.  My hunger would have been gone and I would have moved on.

*Everything in moderation has been my wife's plan for years.  That is again very relative so it has to be judged accordingly.  So from my view, I eat too much and it is not in moderation compared to what I would have access to without modern conveniences.

I don't think everything should be included in that moderate approach however.  That is a moderate amount of snickers bar is not the same to me as a moderate amount of berries and a moderate amount of margarine is not the same as a moderate amount of butter...

When I started Paleo I did do a bit of skipping breakfasts and IF and felt great.  I stopped to get my sleep a bit better but while my sleep is still a work in progress my pants are getting tight!

I will rotate some of the different fasting schedules like fast 5, skip lunch. etc and get back on track.

I am looking forward to feeling a bit of self control.