| Article Summary:
Mind & Body Transformation (Part 2):
An Excerpt From "Transformation: Unlock Your True Potential"
Most of us in the fitness and iron game are acutely aware of the latest and greatest training style or supplement. The area that many trainees don't focus on however is one that has been around for centuries.
It is an area that when understood and manipulated correctly, can have a more dramatic effect on our physique than any program or pill. In fact, understand these little secrets and you will truly maximize the effects training and supplements have on your body. The secrets I speak of are called hormones.
How often to you hear people say, "I really need a new program," or " I just can't get any leaner." Many think that the answer lies in a new supplement or training program.
While new supplements or training styles can initiate change, it can often be as simple as manipulating the most potent chemicals we naturally produce: hormones. Hormones such as growth hormone (GH), testosterone, and insulin can dramatically affect how much fat we lose and muscle we gain.
Many friends of mine have spent hundreds of dollars on the latest and greatest supplements, only to fall short of their goals by not taking advantage of natural hormone production.
In fact, I was once one of those who failed to maximize the hormonal effects my body could have produced with training, diet, and nutrient timing. I promise you that the chemicals your body produces are more influential than most trainees think.
You might be thinking, "Hormones? What are you talking about? I train hard, eat right, what else can I do? Plus, I'm all natural." Exactly right and I commend you for that. However, whether we like it or not, we are producing these potent chemicals everyday. So, why not use them to benefit us? A simple understanding of how the basic hormones influence our gains can make all the difference in the world.
The word insulin though often brings visions of diabetes and poor health. What most of us fail to realize however is that although it does aid a large part of the diabetic population, it is also the most anabolic, or muscle-building hormone we produce.
The Basics Of Insulin
Now, although testosterone is anabolic, or muscle building, we can't control testosterone as well as insulin. In fact, in regards to testosterone, all we can really do is train hard, and consume adequate amounts of red
cholesterol to make sure we produce enough natural testosterone. It is however our ability to manipulate insulin that will allow us to maximize fat loss and muscle gains to the greatest extent.
Insulin is produced by the beta cells of the pancreas and allows the nutrients we take in to be used by our body. It can also be our worst enemy, if our goal is to get leaner and decrease body fat. The key is knowing how and when to naturally manipulate the output of this potent hormone.
Carbohydrates are the foods most likely to cause an insulin release as they are broken down into our primary energy source called glucose, often referred to as blood sugar. Any time we eat carbohydrates, such as breads, cereals, or pasta, we convert them into glucose, and the pancreas releases insulin. The purpose of insulin then is to shuttle the glucose into the muscles and liver, to eventually be stored as glycogen.
Glycogen is essentially stored energy and can be used for fuel later. How is it used later? Well, another hormone released by the alpha cells of the pancreas, called glucagon, is released when blood sugar levels drop and energy is needed. This hormone essentially converts glycogen back into glucose, and dispenses it into the bloodstream, so we again have a source of energy. Simply stated, insulin is released to store energy, and glucagon is released to provide energy.
As a meal containing carbohydrates is eaten and digested, blood glucose levels rise, and the pancreas secretes insulin. Glucose from the portal vein enters the liver cells (hepatocytes). Insulin acts on the hepatocytes to stimulate the action of several enzymes, including glycogen synthase.
Glucose molecules are added to the chains of glycogen as long as both insulin and glucose remain plentiful. In this postprandial or "fed" state, the liver takes in more glucose from the blood than it releases.
The body's first priority after it eats is to fill the liver glycogen stores first, which have a capacity of about 100 grams. The muscles are next, and have a capacity of around 250-400g.
After the muscles are full is when we need to be careful. Any food consumed after this will be shuttled, with the help of insulin, to fat cells for storage. Not at all what we want.
So the trick is to consume just enough carbohydrates, at the appropriate times, to make sure we don't store them as fat. When we need energy again, all our body has to do is release glucagon, which initiates the breakdown of glycogen, and thus provides energy in the form of glucose.
The breakdown of glycogen back into glucose is called glucogenolysis. As long as there is glycogen present in the body, it can be converted into glucose and provide a source of energy to keep us functioning.
When Is Insulin A Good Thing?
What if we don't eat, don't supply the body with any nutrients, what happens then? Well, the body won't call a draw and just stand still. It will still release glucagon as blood sugar levels fall, and once all the glycogen is depleted, our body will begin to break down muscle and fat to produce glucose through another process called gluconeogenesis.
Gluconeogenesis is the generation of glucose from non-carbohydrate sources, such as muscle tissue and fat, and is exactly what occurs when glycogen levels run low. The body has various survival tactics and this is one of them. While breaking down fat is a good thing, the loss of muscle makes this situation unacceptable.
The bad news doesn't stop there. The body also releases an unfriendly hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone, the body releases it in times of severe stress, poor nutrition, or sickness. While it is needed in some sense to keep us alive, it essentially does nothing but hurt our gains when it comes to building muscle.
The good news is that insulin opposes cortisol release, so by consuming healthy carbohydrate sources at the appropriate times, we can prevent this hormone from arising. Not only that, but after working out, be it
cardio or lifting, the body is in a very fragile state. It has used all its energy reserves in the form of glucose and glycogen to get us through the workout.
Now is the time when insulin is an absolute must. The insulin released with the consumption of a post-workout meal will create a vacuum effect. Rather than being stored as fat the muscles and liver will absorb the nutrients, which remember, is priority number #1!
I discuss this in more detail in my book Transformation, but for now, realize that consuming foods that spike
insulin levels is never more important than after a workout.
Is Insulin Ever A Bad Thing?
Now, it's not all-good news for insulin, as there are times when you don't want an insulin spike. These times happen to be when you already have full glycogen stores, or anytime you are trying to burn fat. We want insulin to be non-existent at these times.
The body shuts fat loss down and initiates the uptake of nutrients anytime insulin is present. So, if you have full glycogen stores, an insulin release will shuttle nutrients into fat cells, as the liver and muscles are already full.
Click Image To Enlarge.
The Body Shuts Fat Loss Down & Initiates
The Uptake Of Nutrients When Insulin Is Present.
If you are trying to burn fat and insulin is released, the body will terminate fat loss and initiate storage. That is why it is frustrating to see people doing
cardio in the morning while drinking Gatorade, orange juice or a fruity drink. Insulin is being produced with each swallow and fat burning stops. The sad thing is, most don't know it, and will continue to drink these beverages while seeing few gains.
So now we know that if glycogen is already stored in great amounts, or if insulin is present in the blood, the body will not burn much fat. In fact, if insulin is present it most likely will cause the storage of more fat! After all it is a "storage" hormone.
Anytime we exercise our body's first reaction is to use stored glycogen or glucose in our bloodstream. However, what if you exercised when very little glycogen was left, and no glucose or insulin was present at all? Say, first thing in the morning after not eating all night? You would burn fat like crazy!
Whoa! I thought you just said we would burn up muscle if we didn't eat? I did in fact say that, but there is a trick, and I'll tell you all about it in my book and the articles to come.
The key at this point is to understand the power of exercise, specifically cardiovascular training in the morning before breakfast. You see, during an eight-hour fast while sleeping, the body just doesn't stop working; it uses the stored glycogen from the previous day to keep the engine running at night.
While liver glycogen stores will supply energy throughout the night, the muscles aren't as cooperative, and will only use their stored glycogen during resistance training. That is why lifting weights is so important, not only will it initiate muscle glycogen use during your workout, but it will further deplete the overall glycogen stores, making it easier to tap into fat stores when you exercise.
In the next article of this series we will discuss one of the most controversial aspects of nutrition. Carbohydrates! Each and every article out there seems to recommend various intakes of this macronutrient and for good reason. It truly varies for everyone. So where do you fit in? Tune in next time and find out!
This was an excerpt from Dr. Yehyawi's new book Transformation: Unlock Your True Potential.