by Nashville personal trainer Dan DeFigio
The Atkins diet. The Zone diet. South Beach. Sugarbusters and Protein Power. The common thread that connects all these popular weight loss programs is emphasis on controlling insulin levels. Chronically elevated insulin levels are responsible for a number of major problems, including adult onset diabetes and the inability to burn fat. Excess insulin is converted to bodyfat within hours, and the end result of high insulin levels is a hormonal cascade that turns on the appetite center to make you crave more and more sugar. Unless you’re diabetic, your body’s insulin production is very predictable, and is directly related to eating patterns. In order to achieve permanent bodyfat control, you must learn to control your insulin production.
1) Never eat too much at one time. A good rule of thumb is to limit yourself to about 500 calories at a time. Any excess is converted to bodyfat. Never get stuffed.
2) Eat often. Going long periods of time without eating causes your body to cannibalize muscle tissue to feed itself. When your body thinks you’re starving, you will secrete large amounts of lipoprotein lipase, which is an enzyme that collects and stores bodyfat. Never go hungry.
3) Always try to combine protein with carbs every time you eat. Protein and fat slow down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, thus reducing the amount of insulin needed to control blood sugar levels. Fiber also slows down sugar entry. Eat a high fiber diet with most of your carbohydrates coming from vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
4) Use organic essential fatty acid supplements. Essential fats cannot be manufactured by the body, and are necessary for a multitude of physiological functions. Fats help to regulate blood sugar levels, and adequate amount of essential fats are necessary for the utilization of bodyfat. A tablespoon of an omega 3/omega 6 blend (1:1 ratio) twice a day should do the trick. One of the major problems with the popular Atkins diet is that it suggests poor choices for fats. Foods with high saturated fat content, such as bacon and whole dairy products, promote elevated cholesterol levels and heart disease. Stick with unsaturated fats whenever possible.
5) Avoid high glycemic carbohydrates. Glycemic index is a measure of how fast a particular food is broken down and released into the bloodstream. Higher glycemic foods enter faster, and therefore promote higher insulin levels. Stick to lower glycemic foods whenever possible, and remember that combining protein and fat with carbs will really help to stabilize insulin production. Try not to eat just carbs, with the exception of a high-fiber piece of fruit, or another low glycemic alternative.
6) Watch your total carbohydrate intake. Depending on your activity levels, the USDA recommendations for carbohydrate intake may be too high. Remember that carbs eaten late at night have little chance of being used as fuel. Guess what happens to them? Don’t go too crazy with your anti-carb quest, though, because if you don’t eat enough carbohydrates, your body will start to break down muscle tissue to manufacture enough glucose to function.
7) Take a mulit-vitamin/mineral supplement every day. This will ensure that you’ve got all the minerals needed for all the important physiological functions in your body, and will prevent your body from turning on the appetite center due to nutritional deficiency. Consider using additional chromium picolinate (200mcg per day). Chromium is vital to an efficient insulin drive.
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