Avoiding unwanted fat storage is at the top of the agenda for most people training, alongside trying to maintain a nutritionally sound diet.
However, there is such an abundance of information out there that it can be difficult to separate the fact from the fiction when it comes to simply wanting to know what to eat and when for optimal results.
What is insulin?
Quite simply, insulin is a hormone that regulates the amount of sugar in the blood.
When food is consumed, this hormone is released into your blood stream from the pancreas to move glucose out of the blood and into cells. It is then broken down and used to produce energy. Insulin also plays an important role in fat storage.
What role does insulin play in fat storage?
When insulin levels are high, insulin does its job of moving glucose into the cells as outlined above. When the glucose is used as fuel by the cell, glycerol 3- phosphate is created.
When this happens, fatty acids are converted into triglycerides and stored.
In the opposite scenario, when insulin levels are low, stored triglycerides are transformed into fatty acids which then leave the fat cells and are used as fuel.
Maximise fat burning without going hungry
Many people in the fitness industry consume meals every two to three hours – but this isn’t necessarily the only ‘right’ way to do it. Habit is often a major factor in hunger levels. If you eat every two hours you will get used to this routine.
Should I Eat Every 2-3 Hours?
Eating frequently means you are drip feeding glucose into your system. As a result of this, your body will release insulin to push the glucose from your blood into your cells as described above.
Over-secretion of insulin will actually cause an increase in hunger levels which will be approximately two to three hours after your last meal. Chances are you will eat your next meal about this time if you are following the every two to three hour meal protocol – which will release more insulin and the cycle repeats.
This causes many people to believe they need to eat every two hours to avoid hunger, but in fact if their meals were spaced out further their hunger levels would adjust due to the body adapting and using its own system to maintain blood sugar levels and keep them steady.
This system is called gluconeogenesis and the process is reduced in the body if you eat too frequently.
Eating every couple of hours works for many people – but if it doesn’t work for you and you’re feeling hungry too often – don’t feel ‘wrong’ by having larger meals every 4-5 hours. Everyone is different!
How To Avoid Fat Storage
#1 Reduce carb intake on rest days
Rest days are a good day to reduce your carbohydrate intake slightly; as quite frankly, your body simply does not need the same amount as it would on a day in which you have trained hard.
A good rule of thumb is to reduce carbohydrate consumption by roughly twenty percent on a rest day.
#2 Refeed days are important for dieters
If you are reducing calories, more specifically in the way of carbohydrates in a dieting phase, consider adding in refeed days where you consume a higher amount of carbs than normal.
This will make adherence to a diet a lot easier and can also help you to ramp up your fat loss and recovery.
#3 Consume most carbs around your workouts
Basing the bulk of your carbohydrate consumption around your work outs is a fantastic way to utilise your nutritional intake. This is because pre workout, you will prime the body for a tough session by consuming carbohydrates, and post workout is the ideal time to consume some simple carbohydrates as it will kick start the recovery process.
This will apply whether you train morning noon or night as it is a myth that eating carbohydrates at night will make you fat, but it does make good sense to eat them when your body will get the most benefit from them!
Take Home Message
Insulin will not make you fat, over eating however will. If you exercise frequently and eat a healthy diet suited to your individual requirements, your body will remain sensitive to insulin and your body will have good use for the carbohydrates you consume. If you are sedentary and overweight, this is where you may run into problems.
Lack of exercise will lead to reduced insulin sensitivity, as will obesity and a poor diet. This is where the condition type 2 diabetes becomes a potential issue and the risks that go alongside with it. Don’t be fearful of carbs or insulin, it is crucial to your body staying alive!