Updated: Feb 8
Many people struggle to get fit and keep fat off their body. To understand how fat loss works, you must get to know the hormone insulin, and its primary role in fat storage. So, what is insulin, and what role does it play in physical fitness?
Insulin is a fat storing hormone that when elevated, signals the body to store fat cells. Even when your daily caloric intake is low, if insulin is elevated, your body will store fat. On the other end, when insulin is lowered for a prolonged period of time, your body then taps into the stored fat cells to be used as fuel for energy. This is what makes understanding insulin so important, especially for those looking to get into better shape.
If insulin levels are elevated all day, every day (which they often are, even in the healthiest of diets from our high consumption of carbohydrates throughout the day), then burning fat off the body - especially around the midsection - becomes increasingly hard. The next question is, what raises insulin? Can you regulate this hormone to get into better shape without sacrificing your favourite foods?
The Leading Culprit
The number one culprit for elevating insulin levels in the body is carbohydrates. When consumed, they activate the release of insulin, signalling the body to store fat cells. This is just one reason why processed and refined foods have such an impact on increasing body fat and decreasing physical fitness. At this point you are probably thinking, “I can’t give up my bread and pasta” or, “a low carb, ketogenic diet is too restrictive for me”. Not to worry. While there are other reasons you might want to avoid processed foods and practice a ketogenic diet, when discussing body composition , there is another superpower way to activate fat loss: Intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is by far the easiest way to lower insulin levels safely and effectively, overnight. Through the simple act of consuming all your meals within a set eating window, IF has been shown to be a much more sustainable approach to fat loss than a restrictive diet. You do not have to give up your favourite foods, even if they are carbohydrates. When paired with IF, a ketogenic diet is much better for additional weight loss over caloric restriction, which puts your body into a state of chronic starvation throughout the day and causes metabolic ruin.
Refraining from eating for 12-18 hours a day (this includes sleep), can greatly help you lower insulin levels and burn the fat off your body. It’s that simple. The best part? You can eat 2000-3000 calories each day during your eating window. Yes, it is possible not to starve yourself and get into the best shape of your life.
Another simple way to lower insulin is exercise. Exercise (especially strength training) uses large amounts of stored glycogen in the body to fuel the workout. As glycogen levels lower, so does insulin. Pairing both intermittent fasting and exercising in a fasted state can greatly help you reach your ideal body composition.
The Key Takeaway
Without lowering insulin levels, reducing body fat percentages will be nearly, if not impossible. Yes, you can lose weight the caloric restriction and without lowering insulin but this weight will come in the form of muscle and bone loss, something you absolutely do not want.
So, what can you do right now to begin burning fat?
When you finish your last meal of the day (preferably 3 hours before bed), simply refrain from eating again for 12+ hours or skip breakfast and wait until around lunch time to eat your first meal of the day. You will want to consume a high quality mineral or electrolyte supplement in a fasted state to support hydration, muscle function and pH balance. You can also exercise in a fasted state as well for additional results.