The key to unlock Muscle Gain
What is one of the greatest naturally occurring muscle building or anabolic agents made in your body? If you are quick to answer testosterone, you would only be partly correct. One of the body’s greatest naturally occurring anabolic hormones is insulin. Insulin can make you fitter, or it can make you fatter. It can make you weaker or it can make you stronger. The key to this dual-edged sword is knowing when and how to use it to your advantage.
Insulin’s primary job is to make nutrients in the bloodstream available to body tissues. The proper, consistent function of insulin is vital to everyday life. The reason this hormone is often overlooked for its anabolic properties is because America is currently in an epidemic of obesity and diabetes, both of which can lead to insulin intolerance. Thus, labeled with this negative connotation, anything remotely related to the word insulin has become taboo. But let’s take a closer look……
Your body goes through a complex process that involves insulin production; here is a quick summary. Your body breaks down all ingested carbohydrates into simple sugars in your small intestine. This breakdown of carbohydrates is efficiently accomplished by the enzyme amylase. In turn, these simple sugars are absorbed into the bloodstream and enter the liver. The liver then converts them into glucose, the body’s only usable form of simple sugar. Glucose is then re-introduced back into the bloodstream. When the newly ingested glucose raises the blood sugar level in excess of the normal 80 – 100 dl /ml, the pancreas releases insulin into the bloodstream to transport the excess glucose to body tissues. This excess glucose is said to be “insulin – carried”. Remember this point; insulin must be present for the uptake of glucose in the liver, where it is stored as glycogen.
The liver has the potential to store about three to four hundred calories of glycogen. When the liver stores are filled and if there is an excess of “insulin – carried” glucose still present in the blood, the next stop is the muscle tissue. This “insulin – carried” glucose enters through “muscle cell receptor sites” which open only in the presence of insulin or just as importantly when needed during intense exercise. When there is an excess amount of “insulin – carried” blood glucose in the blood (after the liver and muscle tissue have taken in all they can handle), the remainder will be rapidly stored in extra-muscular fat cells.
Note: the liver and muscle tissues take up “insulin-carried” glucose slowly compared to the speed at which it is rapidly taken up into fat cells.
Another significant point is that insulin must also be present to open the insulin receptor sites located along the muscle. This enables the building blocks of protein, amino acids, to move into the tissue fibers and perform their job repairing and growing muscle. And as we already mentioned, carbohydrates are the primary stimulants for the release of insulin. With this in mind, it is essential to consume adequate amounts of carbohydrates along with complete protein sources.
If your meals are more than approximately four hours apart your insulin, amino acid, and blood sugar levels will gradually drop off. Without insulin, anabolism (or recovery and growth) will subside until such time as an adequate amount of complex carbohydrates and complete proteins are ingested, which cyclically will once again cause insulin release to transport glucose and amino acids to recovering muscles.
An anabolic state is most conducive to build and repair muscle primarily when insulin is continually present. The most effective way to indulge this is by frequently ingesting complete proteins and sufficient amounts of complex carbohydrates throughout the day (approximately every 3 to 4 hours). This will provide a steady stream of insulin and amino acids for uptake into the muscle cells. Therefore, if you are working to build lean muscle tissue, it is crucial to take in enough, but not an excessive amount of carbohydrates. If absent your blood sugar levels will not be high enough to stimulate insulin release and anabolism will not occur even after eating adequate amounts of protein.
However, if there is an overabundance of carbohydrates in your meals, you will release too much insulin, and the muscles and liver will be provided with more insulin-carried glucose than they can handle. This over-abundance of insulin-carried glucose will result in its unwanted storage in fat cells leaving nothing left over for muscle repair. Even if you consume adequate amounts of proteins (amino acids) there will be nothing remaining to transport them to the muscle cell receptor sites because all the insulin would have been used to transport the superfluous glucose to the fat cells.
Not only does an over-abundance of carbohydrates cause this phenomenon, but so does the glycemic index of the carbohydrates you consume. The glycemic index is a rating system originally designed for diabetics to monitor blood glucose levels. The glycemic index assigns a rating or value to foods based on how quickly they cause blood glucose levels to rise. The higher the number the quicker the spike in blood glucose, the lower the number the more steady the blood glucose levels. If you consume simple sugars (i.e. high glycemic foods), your blood sugar will rise too fast, causing an over release of insulin. This sudden surge of insulin will quickly remove glucose from the blood stream. But since liver and muscle tissue are slow to uptake glucose, and fat cells are quicker, most of this insulin-carried “simple sugar” will end up in fat cells. This halts any muscle repair until such a time that complex carbs and complete protein are consumed. To utilize this metabolic juggling act to our advantage, carbohydrates would best be taken in a post workout meal, so long as it’s limited and consumed with complete protein, thus sparking protein synthesis.
In summation, it is clearly evident that insulin in not just a hormone that stores fat or a frequently misunderstood term used when discussing the treatment of diabetes. It can also be adopted by resistance trainers for greater gains in muscular hypertrophy. As long as you make sound decisions when, what and how much carbohydrates and complete proteins you are consuming, insulin can help you get fit and stay fit.