Body composition and role of insulin

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Most people think they are meant to look like their parents. They think body composition is inherited.

It’s not.

It’s mostly because of you live in the same environment and follow what they do. Genetics plays a part in the way you look, but with respect to body composition it’s only how you store excess body fat.

80% of your body composition is determined by how you eat. That means you can only blame your parents for 20%. You look like your parents because your parents fed you for the first years of your life. You generally look like your parents because you grew up in the same environments as them. You ate similar foods as them. You did what they did. Their patterns were ingrained in you.

How and where you store excess body fat is a consequence of your familial genetic predisposition.

Your familial genetic predisposition to store body fat with a combination of the amount of carbohydrates you consume results in your body’s ability to produce insulin and regulate your body fat percentage. I’m sure you heard of someone talking about “skinny fat”. Just because you are skinny or even have low body fat doesn’t necessarily mean you are healthy. That’s another topic for a different day.

While exercise plays a part of your body composition it’s only a small part of it. Insulin is considered the master hormone. It facilitates the transport of nutrients and hormones throughout your body. When you eat carbohydrates your body produces insulin. High carbohydrate diet, I’m talking in the 200+ grams range, causes excess insulin production. If you keep producing excessive insulin, your body starts to become insulin resistant, meaning it needs more insulin to move the nutrients around your body. If you are not exercising to meet the demands of the nutrients you are taking in, then your body stores those nutrients, mostly as fat. As your body becomes more insulin resistant your body can only produce so much insulin at a given time. Eventually your liver and muscle cells become desensitized to the storage signals of insulin and your body starts only storing it as fat.

Chronically high insulin also suppresses the immune functions. Insulin helps regulate growth factors in the bloodstream. Excess of those growth factors can increase the aging process by fast-tracking accelerated cell division and deregulation of healthy cell division. A healthy level of insulin production can help with recovery and storing energy for future use.

I can always tell when I’ve had too much carbohydrates at a meal because shortly after that meal I find myself hungry again. This happens because your body just burned quickly through the carbohydrates. Instead of using the readily available storage of fat, your body just increases its appetite because it “wants” some quick energy carbohydrates, which then kicks in more insulin. Now you see where this is going. It’s a terrible cycle. But good news is, you can reverse this in a month or two following a lower carbohydrate diet. Add in exercise and you’ll see results potentially even quicker.

Now losing excess body fat means you need to use a certain portion of your daily energy requirements from stored body fat. When you eat a lower carbohydrate diet your insulin levels are moderated and your body can tap into those access stored sources of energy like fatty acids from fat cells, glycogen from the liver and muscle tissue, and ketone bodies your liver produces as a by-product of fat metabolism.

Once insulin is leveling out there are several things happening within your body to reach optimal body composition. As calories are eaten they are easily burned off as energy instead of getting stored as body fat. Second, your body will start to kick up the metabolism to burn off extra non-carbohydrate fuel sources. Your brain loves ketones. If you are eating excess protein and fat greater than your daily expenditure you might not see the body composition changes you are hoping for but at the same time you shouldn’t be seeing extra body fat being stored either.

Understanding what your body needs on a daily basis and your energy output is crucial to changing your body composition. Some people can figure it out on their own and some need help from a coach. Either way you need to figure out what works best for your body and don’t be afraid to experiment. It’s not time wasted. Its value learned.

~Jess