Want to lose weight?? Stop eating carbs.Sounds familiar!! Of Course it does, the fear of carbohydrates is being fed into the minds of general population relentlessly by some so-called fitness experts who stop at nothing to try and prove carbs to be the root of everything evil in the world. From obesity to inflammation to cancer and what not. Truth however cannot be further.When it comes to obesity, low carbers think insulin to be the main culprit and often point to the ‘carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis’ to validate their argument. Let’s have a look at what insulin is before we try and understand what carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis is.
Carbohydrates, when eaten are broken down into glucose which enters your bloodstream. This rise in blood glucose levels is sensed by pancreas and it secretes a hormone called insulin. Insulin then shuttles that glucose to your liver, muscle tissue and fat cells from the blood to get the blood glucose levels back to normality again. When insulin is spiked, it decreases body’s fat burning ability and turns on the “storage mode.” When blood sugar levels go down, insulin levels drop simultaneously with it. This elevation and then going down of insulin levels happens every time you eat a meal.
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As we now know what insulin is, let’s look at what the carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis is.High carbohydrate meal/diet results in higher insulin levels which results in increased fat storage because of decreased lipolysis(fat burning) which in turn result in increased body fat. This is the logic low carbers/ketoers use to validate their arguments, according to them:Low Carbohydrate Diet = Low Insulin = Decreased Lipogenesis/Increased Lipolysis = Decreased Body Fat However this logic is flawed because protein increases insulin secretion as well. In fact, some studies have shown that protein can spike insulin even more than simple carbohydrates, especially dairy protein (due to higher leucine concentration). So following this hypothesis protein should be fattening as well, when we know that this is not true. Also, your body does not need elevated insulin levels to store fat. Insulin has the effect of suppressing Hormone sensitive lipase(HSL), which means the body is unable to burn body fat.
However, fat also suppresses HSL, even when insulin levels are low.Let’s try to understand how insulin works with a simplified explanation. Essentially, insulin acts as the “signal” to store the incoming energy.Think of it as cars arriving at a parking lot to be parked, with the cars representing the incoming and outgoing energy i.e food(calories) which is to be stored as fat, and the valets representing insulin.Even if there are more valets present, the the number of cars in the parking lot won’t increase, unless the incoming cars are more than the cars leaving the parking lot.
In the same way if your maintenance is 2000 calories and you eat 1700 calories, then any amount of insulin won’t be able to increase the body’s fat stores because there’s no energy to store in the first place. Calories in vs out is what drives weight loss or gain, not insulin. End of story.