It seems like everywhere you turn, someone is pushing the high protein, low carb diet, including myself. But does anyone really know why? Most fitness professionals will argue that carbohydrates spike your insulin (a blood sugar regulating hormone) which has been shown to do the following…
1. Increase lipogenesis (the creation of fatty acids)
2. Decrease lipolysis (the breakdown of fat)
3. Degradation of muscle tissue cells
Wow! So, based on that scientific evidence, we should avoid carbs at all cost, right? Well, what if I told you that protein intake spikes your insulin HIGHER than carbohydrates? I know what you’re thinking, but relax, it’s ok, and it makes a lot of sense. Other than the effects mentioned above, insulin is also responsible for…
1. Allowing cell membranes to become permeable allowing certain nutrient in the blood stream enter the cells
2. Satiate hunger (which is why, if protein spikes insulin more than carbohydrates, it makes sense why we tend to feel fuller after a meal comprised of protein and fat versus carbohydrates)
So, even though insulin breaks down our muscle tissue, it also allows amino acids from protein to enter our cells to repair that muscle tissue (I’ll be doing a future post on why amino acid supplements are pretty awesome). Carbohydrates will not have that same effect. The intake of dietary fats will also decrease our insulin resistance, making it more efficient to clearing sugar from the blood stream and transporting nutrients to the cells, and possibly decreasing the rate of lipogenesis.
Lastly, the aspect of your nutrition health that should be monitored most are your sources of calories, which should lean toward protein sources, vegetables, low glycemic fruits (see my article on https://ryancarsia.wordpress.com/2013/12/26/fruits-to-eat-or-not-to-eat/), and healthy dietary fats (poly&monounsaturated fats), and your portion sizes! Being that both sources of calories spike your insulin, the intensity of insulin spike is determined by quality and quantity of those calories. Below is a diagram illustrating one studies results of the effect of certain protein sources on insulin
There are times, such as the hours following our workout when our body is craving nutrients, that insulin spikes are not only good but imparitive to our muscle recovery. This is why whey protein is used in recovery shakes, to get those nutrients into the cells for repair most efficiently and effectively. I’ve also stated that eggs are the highest quality protein source available, which is why they ALWAYS are a great meal.
In conclusion, insulin spikes are not a bad thing. It is one major regulator of our metabolism. We just need to be certain that we are fueling ourselves with the right things. Making sure we stay away from processed grains and eat a diet higher in protein and dietary fat will help ensure that these insulin spikes are put to good use.