There is a lot of confusing information out there online about how you should eat and what you should eat in order to achieve the physique you are after. What I would like to do here is to clear up the confusion and help you understand how carbs, protein, and fats affect your body.
Usually when I pick up a book about macronutrients and how you should eat to reach your desired goal they get into so much detail that it gets pretty confusing. Especially when I run into scientific terms that I am not to familiar with and then I find myself looking up terms instead of focusing on the main point.
When it comes to the keto diet it is pretty easy: 75% fat based diet with 15%-25% protein and 0%-10% carbs. Why are the ratios like this for keto you may ask? Because fat, protein, and carbs stimulate insulin differently.
Understanding what insulin does and what effect these macronutrients have on insulin will help you pick out some easy keto food at the grocery store or a keto friendly meal when eating out at a local restaurant.
Before we get into how carbs, protein, and fats (macronutrients) affect insulin, we need to understand insulin and what role it plays when dieting and how it affects the body.
Insulin is a hormone that regulates glucose (sugar) in the body. Think of it as a key that allows your cells to use sugar (glucose) for energy. Insulin will also store sugar in the liver and muscles which are known as glycogen (stored sugar) which your body uses for back up in case you ever need extra energy.
The main job of insulin is to lower blood sugar. When we have too much sugar in the blood insulin will store it as fat. Normally an average person has a gallon and a half of blood and only a teaspoon of sugar is supposed to be in that gallon and a half of blood.
Any sugar over that amount in your bloodstream will be considered excessive and your body will use insulin to store it as fat! The average person will consume about 30tsp of sugar or more a day! Now you can understand why some of us are so overweight! We are consuming way more sugar in a day than we should be and spiking insulin levels to the max!
You must understand that as long as your insulin levels are up YOU WILL NOT BURN FAT!!
Why? Because you are using sugar (glucose) as fuel and storing the rest as fat. I hope you are starting to understand what is going on here…. insulin is a fat-making hormone.
Insulin does have other roles which I do not want to get into too much so I can keep things to the point.
Here is a list of other roles that insulin plays in the body:
- Helps absorb amino acids
- Helps absorb potassium
- Retains sodium
I do not want you to think that insulin is your worst enemy. It is an important hormone in our body and does have its benefits as well. But you need to understand how it works so you can use it to your advantage!
*(Some of us are more insulin sensitive than others and respond to macronutrients differently. To have a good idea on how you may react to insulin you must understand your body type.)
Turn Your Body To A Fat Burning Machine
Like mentioned before when insulin levels are up you will not burn fat, it’s as simple as that. Remember when insulin levels are stimulated your body is using sugar as its main source of energy and storing the rest as fat.
In order to switch this around and have our body start to burn fat as its main fuel source, we must keep insulin levels low. The way we achieve this is by not consuming anything that will convert to sugar like refined carbohydrates such as pasta, cereal, bread, rice or alcohol.
As a matter of fact, anytime you eat you will stimulate insulin! This is why intermittent fasting is so powerful. Fasting will help you keep insulin levels down and your body will go into a state of ketosis. In ketosis, your body will switch from sugar to fat as its main fuel source.
Once your body is using fat as its main fuel source just continue with a fat-rich diet and your body will become a fat burning machine! The ketogenic diet is the right diet approach to help your body get into a natural fat burning mode. Just stay disciplined and you will see the benefits,
I hope you are starting to see the big picture at this point. Next, I will get into macronutrients and the way they affect insulin.
Out of the 3 macronutrients, carbohydrates will spike insulin the most since it converts to sugar in the body. (carbohydrate = glucose = sugar). When consuming a large number of carbohydrates you will feel bloated, tired, sluggish and heavy soon after eating. Some of us process carbs better than others and may not feel these effects as much but it will kick you out of ketosis and stimulate insulin nonetheless.
Consume carbs that are rich in fiber which will help you feel full longer and help with digestion.
Even though fiber does not get absorbed it will help slow down the digestion of nutrient eaten in the same meal which will help keep blood sugar levels from peaking. In doing so it will help keep insulin levels down.
Carbs rich in fiber are:
- whole wheat bread
- brown rice
- kidney beans
- brussels sprouts
- chia seeds
- sweet potatoes
Protein has a moderate effect on insulin. But consuming a high amount of protein will stimulate insulin. Eat 3-6 ounces of protein per meal so that insulin levels do not rise so much.
Consider eating your protein with fats in the same meal instead of mixing it with carbs. Consuming carbs & protein in the same meal can cause insulin levels to rise significantly.
Here are some good sources of protein:
- Lean Beef
- Cottage Cheese
- Greek Yogurt (plain)
- Protein Shakes
As you see from the chart above fat has a very neutral effect on insulin. Out of the 3 macronutrients, fat will keep your insulin levels low and help you stay in ketosis. Not all fats are created equal. Knowing the difference between good and bad fats can help you promote good health.
Trans Fat: By far the worst type of fat you can consume. Eating a large amount of trans fat increases the amount of harmful LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) in the bloodstream and decreases the amount of HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol). Trans fat can also create inflammation which is linked to strokes, chronic conditions, diabetes, and heart disease. It also contributes to insulin resistance which increases the risk to develop type-2 diabetes.
Trans fat can be found in:
- Baked Goods (cookies, cake, pie, crackers, frosting)
- Microwavable Popcorn (check packaging)
- Fried Food (french fries, fried chicken, doughnuts, fried fish)
- Refrigerator dough (cinnamon rolls, frozen pizza, canned biscuits)
- Coffee Creamer
- Processed Food
Saturated Fat: Saturated fat isn’t as bad as trans fat but when consumed in large amount it can raise the levels of LDL cholesterol. Most nutrition will recommend keeping saturated fats consumption under 10% of your daily calories. There have been several studies on saturated fat but not enough evidence has been shown that can link it to increase the risk of heart disease.
Saturated Fat can be found in:
- Red Meat
- Whole Milk
- Whole-Milk Dairy Food
- Prepared Baked Goods
Monounsaturated Fat & Polyunsaturated Fat
These type of fat is good for your health in several ways. Monounsaturated fats can help lower LDL cholesterol levels which reduce your risk of heart disease, strokes and clogged or blocked arteries (blood vessels). It will also help you develop and maintain healthy cells in your body.
Polyunsaturated fats (omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids) are essential fats! That means that your body requires them for normal function but can not produce them so you must get these fats from food.
Polyunsaturated fat is needed for blood clotting, inflammation, and muscle movement. It also used to help build cell membranes and the covering of the nerves. Replacing refined carbs with polyunsaturated fats reduces harmful LDL cholesterol and lowers triglycerides. It can also protect you from heart disease, stroke, and help reduce blood pressure.
Good fats come from vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fish. Next time your out getting groceries to consider the following list to get some good fats in your diet!
Monounsaturated fats can be found in:
- Olive Oil
- Peanut Oil
- Canola Oil
- Sunflower Oil
- Peanut Butter
- Sesame Oil
Polyunsaturated fat can be found in:
- Un-hydrogenated soybean oil
- Corn Oil
- Safflower Oil
All In A Nut Shell
This could be a lot of information to take in at once but do not worry too much about all the small details. All you have to do is start reducing your carbohydrate intake little by little and replace them with healthy fats and protein. Work you way into this, you do not have to switch your entire diet overnight.
Replace all the soda, juices, energy drinks, and sugary beverages with water or tea. You can drink plain black coffee if you need help waking up in the morning. Keep a healthy fat diet to not spike insulin so much and have some protein along with your fats ! Keep carbs low on your diet, when you feel a need to load up on carbs focus on the ones that are rich in fiber.
Remember that insulin levels rise every time you eat anything. It does not matter if its fat, carbs, or protein. You can use intermittent fasting to help you get into ketosis or stay in ketosis longer.
And lastly do not feel like a slave to any diet. It’s OK to have a cheat day here and there. As a matter of fact when you stay in a ketogenic diet for a while you will find that your body metabolizes carbohydrates a lot quicker than it use to. This is because you have depleted all your glucose and glycogen storage in your body. The same affect goes when you practice intermittent fasting !
I hope you got some good information out of this and be able to select some easy keto food next time your at grocery store. Now you can see how carbs, protein, and fats affect your body and insulin. If you have any question or found this helpful please comment below !
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