Insulin is excreted from the pancreas when we eat sugary foods – basically all carbohydrates. While most people only associate insulin with sugar and weight gain, it also plays an important role in building muscle. Insulin is considered to be one of the most anabolic, or muscle building hormones in the body, so it’s pretty important when it comes to building lean muscle. However, too much insulin will cause you to gain excess fat.
HOW INSULIN WORKS
After eating, blood sugar rises and insulin is released to control blood sugar levels and make sure that it reaches normal levels. Once insulin is released, the blood is stripped of sugar and delivered directly to the muscles to help reload glycogen. However, the muscles have a limited capacity to store sugar or glucose. As soon as the muscles’ glycogen stores are full, the glucose is transported directly to the adipose or adipose tissue for storage.
The key to managing your insulin is using strategic nutrient timing. You should be eating most of your carbohydrates when your glycogen stores are most depleted; B. after training or first thing in the morning. Then you should maintain healthy insulin and blood sugar levels for the rest of the day by eating low glycemic, high fiber carbohydrates like whole grains, vegetables, nuts, and even the occasional fruit. In fact, you should only intentionally increase insulin levels after exercising during the “anabolic window”.
That being said, there are also some supplements that you should consider to help improve blood sugar control and insulin levels throughout the day.
Alpha lipoic acid: This powerful antioxidant is thought to be an insulin mimic, which means that it mimics the effects of insulin in the body. It has been found that ALA activates several pathways involved in the transport of glucose in muscle cells, but also cell signals that lead to muscle growth, improved cells’ insulin sensitivity and increased glycogen storage capacity! You can find ALA in many post-workout supplements to increase glycogen recharge, but also to increase the uptake of nutrients by muscles. That means you can also add it yourself. Try 500 mg to 800 mg of ALA with your post-workout meal.
Gymnema Slyvestre: This herb has been shown to improve glucose control, delay blood sugar absorption, but also improve insulin action by increasing insulin sensitivity. It can also improve the muscle’s ability to synthesize glycogen. An effective dose is 200 to 250 mg taken twice a day.
Fenugreek extract: This plant extract, also known as 4-hydroxyisoleucine, has been found to be very effective in regulating blood sugar levels while increasing glycogen storage capacity in muscle cells. In a study conducted with cyclists, muscle glycogen resynthesis increased significantly by 63% when post-workout supplementation containing dextrose and 4-hydroxyisoleucine was taken while only taking dextrose alone. Fenugreek extract or 4-hydroxyisoleucine can be added after and before a workout to help the muscles absorb nutrients, but it can also be added on its own. Try a dose of 500 mg fenugreek extract or 4-hydroxyisoleucine after exercise, standardized to at least 60% saponins.
Cinnamon Cassia Bark Extract: This spice, which you will likely add to your morning oatmeal, can actually help control insulin and increase the rate at which glucose is cleared from the blood. As an insulin mimic, cinnamon has been shown to increase glucose uptake by activating the GLUT-4 receptor, which is responsible for glucose uptake in muscle cells. Cinnamon has also been shown to have some other positive health benefits, including lowering LDL or bad cholesterol and increasing HDL or good cholesterol. While adding cinnamon to your food can be helpful, research supports using a 4: 1 extract of cinnamon cassia bark to get the results found in research.
Chrome: This micromineral can have some serious insulin control benefits. Chromium can aid in carbohydrate metabolism, increase insulin receptor activity and even make the pancreas more sensitive to glucose levels in the blood. Chromium has also been found to increase the number of insulin receptors and aid in insulin signaling, reducing the risk of insulin resistance. Chromium can be found in post-workout supplements, often in combination with ALA, or in your daily multivitamin. The usual dose of chromium is 200 µg per day.
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