A couple of days ago, a young diabetic Twitter friend from Baghdad asked me if insulin can make you fat. The quick answer is yes, absolutely. I thought that would make a good blog article, so here goes.
I don’t remember exactly when I started my insulin pump therapy, but I think it was 6 or 7 years ago. When I started asking around about it before getting my first pump, everybody told me that I should expect to gain about 20lbs. I said “WHAT?!!!” There was no way I was going to get a pump if that was a side effect. Well, when I checked into it, many people do gain weight, but it’s because using a pump is so much easier than shots, that people just start gorging their pie holes with carbs like they’re no longer diabetic. More carbs + more insulin = more fat. I was working out like a bodybuilder at the time, in the gym 4 days a week, lifting seriously, and I knew I could avoid this pitfall. So I went ahead and got my pump, . . . and never gained a pound.
You see insulin is an anabolic hormone. That’s a fancy scientific word that means it’s a growth hormone. When you eat carbs, first they are turned to glucose for transport in the bloodstream, and then they are stored in your muscle cells and liver as glycogen. When the muscle cells and liver are full, the rest of the glucose is stored as fat. Insulin is the key to this process. Without insulin, muscles won’t grow, and neither will fat cells. So if you’re body can only store 20 carbs per meal (just as an example) in muscle and liver, but you’re eating 60 carbs per meal, and you’re bolusing for 60, then 40 carbs per meal will be stored as fat. That ratio of what you store in muscle vs. what you store as fat, is different for everyone. So I’m afraid I can’t give you a magic formula to help you lose weight. What I can tell you, is that when you start insulin pump therapy, don’t go crazy eating whatever you want just because you don’t have to take shots anymore, and you should do fine.
If you’ve recently become diabetic, and you’re not on a pump yet, like my friend from Baghdad, a different scenario applies. You see, if you’ve recently been diagnosed as type 1 diabetic, then you’ve not had the right amounts of insulin for a while. This means limited muscle growth, and limited fat storage. This is what causes the symptom of sudden, un-explainable, and rapid weight loss before you’re diagnosis, which is a telltale marker of un-diagnosed type 1 diabetes. So now you get diagnosed, you start taking insulin, and now your body has what it needs to store the glycogen and fat properly. So you start to gain weight again.
The key for everyone, diabetic or not, is that to control your weight, you have to control your insulin. To control your insulin, you have to control your carbs. Low fat diets won’t make you lose weight, and they won’t reduce your cholesterol. A lower carb diet will (not necessarily low carb, just less carbs), and there’s science to explain why it will. It’s not calories in, calories out, like so many trainers, doctors, nurses, and dieticians will tell you. Insulin control is the key to weight loss. For an amazing book that can teach you about insulin, that’s disguised as a simple diet book, read “Protien Power“.
********** Now ya know, and knowing is half the battle. Go Joe!!! **********
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