If you want to maximise muscle gain and fat loss – do this!
By Fahad Maniar
Everyone I speak to these days has one goal when they contact me. They want to lose the body fat and look good whilst doing it. So, let’s be honest, you want to look good in the mirror buck nekkid! (Well, I know I do!)
And to achieve that kind of physique you need to build muscle tone whilst burning fat.
But before we go on, let’s get one thing clear. Seeing as our philosophy at TEAM FIGHTING FIT is about health and fitness being something more than just about looks, we want to spell out from the outset that burning fat and building muscle is not just about aesthetics!
It’s about the feeling of achievement you’re going to get, it’s about the confidence and self-esteem boost, it’s about how that will then affect you in your work, your business and your relationships in a positive way!
In fact, what you’re about to learn will have a significant impact on your health.
So, back to maximising burning fat and building muscle and what you need to do to achieve that.
The key word here is insulin sensitivity.
You may have heard that term before or heard the word insulin thrown about. Insulin is a hormone that is a transport agent which is made by the body in the pancreas. When you eat carbohydrates, they are broken down by the body into glucose to be stored as energy in the muscle in the form of glycogen. Excess glycogen is converted into fat by a process called Lipogenesis.
When you eat carbohydrates, the simple sugars that they’re broken down into can enter the bloodstream. This is very dangerous and the body secretes insulin to transport these sugars out of the bloodstream and into the muscles or fat cells where they are safe.
So far so good, but insulin is an anabolic hormone which means it promotes growth – again, sounds good if you’re trying to gain muscle but sadly, most of that growth these days is in the fat cells. One of the reasons we have such a high obesity epidemic, in my opinion, isn’t because we’re eating more fats than ever before but because we’re eating more carbohydrates and sugary foods than ever before and our bodies are on an insulin overload.
The body can not burn fat well when insulin is elevated by the pancreas. This is one of the rationales behind low carbohydrate dieting but low carbohydrate dieting isn’t the be all and end all solutions.
What is insulin sensitivity and insulin resistance?
When your body gets used to something, such as insulin, the effects tend to not be as strong so you need more and more to get the same effect. This is known as insulin resistance. If your body is insulin resistant, it means your pancreas needs to release more insulin to get the desired effect which means you’re going to have more chances to store body fat! Furthermore, when insulin resistance gets too high, the body shuts down its ability to create insulin and the result is type 2 diabetes!
The answer though is not to completely cut out carbohydrates because insulin, being anabolic, can help you build muscle too. The trick though is to make your body insulin sensitive as possible so you don’t need to produce as much insulin to transport sugars out of the bloodstream.
Tips to become insulin sensitive:
Strength Training and High-intensity interval training – These are our two favourite forms of training at TEAM FIGHTING FIT. Exercise has been shown to increase a cells insulin sensitivity but strength training and anaerobic training such as high-intensity interval training have the ability increase lean muscle tissue. The more lean muscle tissue you have, the more insulin sensitive your body is due to the muscle accounting for 60-90% of the consumption of glucose in your body.
Moderate your and eat carbohydrates at the right time – No two people are the same and therefore, no two people’s carbohydrate intake requirements will be the same but, if you struggle with fat loss, or you’re quite overweight, chances are, you’re probably more insulin resistant than someone who is lean and athletic. Therefore, the advice is to moderate carbohydrate intake to green vegetables mostly. Eating starchy carbohydrates like rice is not forbidden but would be suitable around a workout to help you replenish glycogen stores and boost muscle building.
Caffeine and insulin sensitivity – Good news for coffee drinkers. According to the Diabetes Journal, habitual coffee drinkers had increased levels of insulin sensitivity which meant a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Though a recent study has shown short-term effects of coffee drinking to raise blood sugar levels, after a period of extended coffee and caffeine consumption, overall insulin sensitivity was elevated.
Supplements – Supplementing your diet with minerals such as Magnesium have been shown to increase insulin sensitivity. Taking Alpha Lipoic Acids supplements (ALA) have also shown to have a positive effect on insulin sensitivity. Vanadyl Sulphate has also been known to increase insulin sensitivity.
Good fats and Omega 3’s – Dietary fat has always been looked at as the bad guy when it comes to optimum body composition however, the right type of fats will increase your insulin sensitivity and help you get lean and build quality lean muscle mass too! Fats to avoid are processed hydrogenated and trans fatty acids. It’s also important to have a good balance of Omega 6 fatty acids to Omega 3. In reality, our diets have caused us to have too much Omega 6 and not enough Omega 3 which can be bad for insulin sensitivity. The key is to balance your Omega 6 and Omega 3 consumption by avoiding or minimising omega 6 such as vegetable oil, nuts and seeds (nuts and seeds have many good properties so a small amount of these in the diet are still okay) and replacing them with Omega 3 fatty acids such as fish oils, walnuts, chia seeds and flax seeds.
In particular, the EPA and DHA found in fish oils have been shown to be increasingly beneficial for insulin sensitivity and we always recommend supplementing with up to 3g of EPA or DHA from fish oils per day due to their amazing health benefits.
Vinegar – Vinegar has been shown to reduce insulin resistance, in particular, many experts suggest supplementing with apple cider vinegar. Adding vinegar such as Balsamic or Apple cider vinegar to foods will not only enhance the flavour of your food but also help you create a more insulin sensitive environment in the body.
Sleep – Sleep is by far one of the most underrated things we can do for our health that is totally taken for granted. We live in a society where it’s cool and trendy to brag about how little you sleep because you’ve been burning the midnight oil hustling and “Smashing it” – But could this practice of sleep deprivation be making you fat? When you sleep, your leptin levels go low and your hunger hormone ghrelin increases as does insulin response. When you’re not getting enough sleep, typically 6-8 hours of quality sleep per night, you’re not allowing your body to recover and get the peak hormone levels which in turn make your body insulin resistant. Get 6-8 hours of quality sleep per night!
The bottom line
The bottom line is, one of the best things you can do to help you get lean and pack on muscle is to create an insulin sensitive environment in your body. We do this with all of our clients by introducing them to a 2-week nutrition course when we start working with them and helping them create long-term health habits to encourage insulin sensitivity. By following the tips above, you’ll be well on your way to improving your own insulin sensitivity.