If losing weight and burning fat are what you’re after, there are two hormones you could do with knowing more about. The way they work together and maintain your blood glucose levels are key to you looking, feeling and performing better. In this article, I’ll give you a brief summary of how they work plus some tips on using them to reach your body shape goals quicker.
I’m not sure how weight lose has been made to appear so complicated. I suspect it’s thanks to the fitness and diet industry. The need for companies and coaches to make themselves appear like they have the ‘secret sauce’ and pushing whatever new fad they can come up with. It’s become part of my mission to guide you through this noise and give you practical tips for getting the most of our time and effort.
The first friend to meet is insulin. This hormone helps move energy from the blood stream to cells which need it. Insulin is generally more known about nowadays through an increased awareness of diabetes mellitus and the development for this disease through chronically high calorie and carbohydrate intakes by a Western World population steadily becoming more and more overweight. Insulin is created by our bodies to either maintain blood glucose levels or after we’ve eaten. All meals will create some level of insulin response with carbs having the greatest impact, protein much less so. If blood glucose is raised above its normal maintenance level, insulin looks to bring that back in to range by removing excess glucose/energy.
The partner to insulin and our second hormone of interest is glucagon. This may be a new one to you but is crucial to proving the body with energy in the absence of carbohydrates. Glucagon tells the liver to breakdown its energy stores for release in to the blood but also activates our system of creating energy from fat and protein stores. When blood glucose falls below its normal maintenance level, glucagon is released to create glucose and bring back balance. The body is also smart and tends to use energy stores which it has most available. For overweight populations, this is mainly fat stores but as we move towards being slim, this shifts to slowly using more protein for energy.
As the presence of insulin switches off the fat burning effect of glucagon, here are a few ways you can gain maximum benefit by limiting certain nutrients at particular times of the day: -
- Before training - If your mission is to burn fat, try to avoid eating carbs during the few hours before your session. This will push your body in to tapping fat stores for the additional energy it needs.
- Better training performance - As many people become sluggish after eating carbs, a second benefit of avoiding them before activity should be feeling sharper and achieving your best possible performance.
- Breakfast time - Given the above, consuming a breakfast high in protein, moderate in good fats and low in carbs should prolong your bodies use of fat as an energy source during the day. Maybe its time to question the bowl of cereal you’ve been eating every day for as long as you can remember?
- After training - Having put in all that effort, your body is primed for replacing the energy it has used (with the help of our friend insulin). This is why the two hour window after training is the best time to eat any starchy and sugary carbs you feel you need. See my video on the ideal time and type of carbs to eat by clicking here.
By starting to understand that all our body really wants to do is stay the same, we can experiment with limiting or consuming carbs at certain times to help us achieve a healthier physique. Alongside a slight calorie deficit (consuming fewer calories than we use up), the above strategies will give your body a helping hand to use fat stores for a greater proportion of the day. Plus, with the added benefits of better performance during training and improved recovery before your next session, you’ll be fast tracking your efforts all round.
Written by Ben Lawrence, Precision Nutrition Certified Coach