They are almost like evil twins.
Insulin is “black hat” twin for those who want to lose weight. It’s the hormone that tells our body, “Store up the fat. Winter is coming. Slow down and fatten up.” Too much insulin can do lots of other harmful things to our bodies, too. More about that in a later post.
So is there a “white hat” hormone? One which tells our body to spend fat instead of save it up? Good news! There is. It is called glucagon.
Let’s go back to our airplane analogy. You just ate a meal that is high in carbs, which the stomach digests and turns into sugar in a flash. The autopilot sends the message to the pancreas that a heavy load of sugar has just been dumped into the bloodstream. The pancreas buckles down and pumps out a big load of insulin. Insulin travels through the bloodstream, screaming at the cells to open up and pack in the extra energy and save it as fat. The body remembers that message and keeps on stuffing it away and slowing down to conserve it. Glucagon production is squashed because the pancreas is otherwise engaged and the evil twin triumphs.
But suppose the stomach doesn’t receive the heavy load of easy-to-digest food. Instead it receives a load containing mostly protein, fiber and some fat. It has to buckle down and work at getting it digested, turned into sugar and released into the bloodstream. The sugar is released slowly instead of in a major dump.
The autopilot signals the pancreas with a different message this time. “Easy load today,” it says. “Just send out a little insulin to handle it.” The pancreas happily complies and produces a moderate amount of insulin which goes out and gives a gentle reminder to the cells that we might need some of this some day.
Meanwhile, the pancreas is not overwhelmed and overworked, so it can continue doing its other jobs — like producing glucagon, the hormone that gives the cells the message, ”Hey we need some of that stored energy. Empty out those fat cells.” Instead of stuffing themselves and hanging on to fat, the cells start turning it loose. Exactly what you want them to do!
So eating a low glycemic diet can be a huge help in stimulating glucagon. There’s something else you can do, too. When you exercise, you use up the available energy (calories) that are stored in your liver for immediate use. The autopilot sends the message to the pancreas, “Running low on fuel. Tap into the reserves.”
The pancreas pumps out more glucagon which runs through your body telling the cells, “We need those extra energy stores. Give.” The cells comply and you start burning up your stored fat. They remember that message long after the exercise is over and your walking shoes are put away, and you continue burning more fat for hours. The good twin wins the day!
Let me hasten to say that calling them good guy/bad guy is not strictly accurate. We need both and in the right set-up they are made to work together. But it just makes sense to do the things that slow down the hormone that tells our body to save the fat and stimulate the one that says to get rid of it — instead of the other way around.
We do that by using the very tools we’ve already talked about. We eat mostly from the green/low glycemic list with some from the yellow/moderate list. Click here to learn about the Green Light/Red Light eating plan You can see those lists in previous posts. That doesn’t mean some foods are forbidden forever. We just need to focus on eating the things that won’t cause a constant insulin spike, and limiting the others.
It’s all about balance.
We also will incorporate an easy, doable exercise into our lives and gradually increase it as our body gets stronger and leaner. Click here to learn about an exercise plan you can actually do from now on. There is a balance in that, too.
Our bodies “want” to be well and strong and are always trying to get there. Let’s do what we can to give them what they need to be successful. And remember, we aren’t doing this to be gorgeous. We want something better and are going for “beyond gorgeous!”
Eating to live and living for Christ,
Susan Jordan Brown