Last week we pretty much concluded that Insulin has horns, carries a pitch-fork, and resides in generally hot places underground. Right? I mean, that MUST be the conclusion to draw from something that makes you fat, knocks your blood sugar levels way down, and sets your hard-earned muscle up for cannibalization.
Why Is Insulin So Important!
Not quite. For one thing, Insulin is an extremely important protector against yourself. If you didn't have Insulin to kick in when you - knowingly or not - got your blood sugar up to dangerous levels, you probably wouldn't live very long. Secondly, it IS highly anabolic, and is one of the key factors determining your muscle growth. In this case you're getting some of the bad with the good - you gain overall weight, as in some muscle, some fat. This is one of the reasons it's practically impossible to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time (other factors play in as well, as there simply being too little calories available to allow for muscle growth, for example). Moderate Insulin-levels are beneficial for muscle growth, as long as you don't go overboard.
Stick with pasta, rice, potatoes, oatmeal, and other classic bodybuilding sources of carbs, and you'll probably hit the mark pretty well. You may have noticed that I use fairly negative terms about the insulin force-feeding the muscles with sugar. This is on purpose, simply because it is not a really nice thing to do. I like to compare it to blowing air into lungs that are already full. How would you like that?
Now, the risk here is that the receptors in the muscles, the little dude who listens for the Insulin knocking on the door, decides that the Insulin has been knocking just a little bit too frequently lately, and decides not to open the door as much as it used to. After all, the muscle is not a happy camper about the whole thing in the first place. This is not a concern to the insulin-regulation though, as the primary goal is to get rid of the dangerous sugar from the blood. So in order to get the job done, more insulin is released to reinforce the effect. This, in turn, makes the receptors even more numb, and down the spiral you go. If you keep abusing your body like this, you might end up with Type II diabetes, where the receptors simply not longer cares about the insulin knocking on the door. The bad news is that decreased insulin sensitivity in the muscles doesn't necessarily mean decreased fat storage capacity (which can be kinda nasty if you have truckloads of insulin floating around).
Keeping Your Receptors Happy
The best way to keep the receptors - and yourself - in trim is simple: Train, and cut the fast carbs as much as possible. By training, you deplete the stored carbs in the muscle, so when sugar enters the bloodstream, you're not FORCEfeeding the muscles, you're just feeding them something they want and need! This is why there's the one exception to the rule about fast carbs: Immediately after training it's GOOD to have something sugary! This is the one time when there's no Insulin spike. Why is that? Think of cause and effect - when the muscles were full, they needed to be forcefed more. If they're empty, there's no need to force anything, read "insulin knocking in the door", since the door will be wide open anyway!
Another thing worth mentioning is that Chromium picolinate can make the receptors more sensitive to insulin, so that less insulin get the job done. The advantage is obvious: If it'd normally take X amount of insulin to get the job done, that'd result in a certain increase in fat storage. If we cut X by a number of percent, and still get the job done, we automatically cut the increase in fat storage as well! A word of warning though: This is a long term effect, and it's hardly any "miracle pill". Overdosing on chromium will most likely make you more sick than ripped. Keep it sane.
Last but not least, why are we told to take creatine monohydrate with something sugary? I'll put it simple: Fast carbs, sugar, gets shoved into the muscles, pronto. Creatine piggy-backs on the sugar, and gets shoved into the muscles as well. This makes the creatine absorbed quickly and effectively. For the sake of your health, I strongly recommend timing this with the post-workout sugar load you're having to "refuel" your muscles (the one time without an insulin-spike, remember?).
- Eat complex carbs
- Avoid simple carbs, except: Eat simple carbs immediately after training
- Have your creatine with your post-workout sugar
- Take your vitamin/mineral pill every morning