Keeping your insulin low is the most important skill you can learn in order to lose fat.
It’s simple, but not easy.
The good news is there are only 2 things you need to avoid.
But the even better news is there’s more you can do to keep it low.
Here are 8 highly effective ways to lower your insulin (and cortisol) without the over-complication…
… with examples of tried and true real-world applications from yours truly.
1. Avoid sugar
If it’s sweet, it’s got sugar. The End. 🙂
Fruit is sweet. Its sugar name is fructose.
Sugar substitutes are sweet. The mere taste of sweet in the mouth can raise insulin even if doesn’t raise blood sugar.
I don’t count carbs, but I read food labels. It doesn’t go in my grocery cart if sugar or starch is listed in the first 5 ingredients, or if the carb count is more than 2 grams per serving.
2. Avoid refined, processed carbs… and carby (starchy) vegetables
Bread, pasta, chips, flour, tortillas. They don’t come out of mother nature looking like that. They were “refined” and “processed” in a factory.
Grains, beans, yams, potatoes, corn, carrots. Yes, they do come out of the earth looking like that. But your body will respond by secreting plenty of insulin because they’re high in carbs.
I think of it like honey. It’s nature’s superfood. But it won’t stop our bodies from secreting insulin because it’s sweet, it’s sugar.
3. Eat friendly carbs
If there’s one thing that put carb counting to rest for me, it’s this: Fiber. Especially soluble fiber.
Vegetables have carbs but it’s got plenty of fiber.
Fiber keeps you full.
It slows down digestion which results in reduced insulin after eating.
If fiber reduces insulin, I want more of it!
Think all kinds of green, leafy vegetables. All kinds colorful non-starchy vegetables.
When I focus on what I can have, I’m never deprived.
My all-time favorites are avocado, flax seeds, chia seeds, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, eggplants, and bitter melon. Raw, roasted, or sauteed.
4. Fast intermittently
Hard core isn’t always better. Sometimes all you need to do is quit snacking. Sometimes it’s spontaneously skipping a meal because you’re not really hungry. Sometimes you skip 2 meals effortlessly because you got so busy you forgot to eat.
Longer isn’t always better. Consider a guy who fasts for 4 days but can only pull it off once every 2 months. Versus another guy who fasts 36 hours 3 times per week every other day for 2 months. Who’s getting in more fasting time? The 36-hour guy beat the 4-day dude in his first week.
Cleaner isn’t always better. Will a teaspoon of heavy cream in your coffee or a cup of bone broth break your fast? Technically, by a little bit… yes. But if you can’t keep going without it, what’s the alternative? A feast! And that’s okay too.
What used to work isn’t working anymore. Because our bodies are designed to adapt to changes in our environment to keep it stable. It wants homeostasis… balance.
That’s why we sweat on a hot summer day. To release heat so we don’t burn up. Our body has to keep our body temperature constant so we stay healthy.
But it also likes to keep everything relatively the same, including our weight. In this case, it adapts to our eating pattern.
When your current eating pattern isn’t working anymore, just change it. Mix it up. Keep it guessing again.
Here’s how I do it…
- I normally eat 2 meals a day in a 4-6 hour window.
- I’ll do a 48-hour or a 24-hour fast in between the days I eat 2 meals. I’ll do these longer fasts anywhere from 1 to 3 times per week.
- On the weekends, I stay low carb but I’m unpredictably all over the place in terms of eating pattern. (Who knows?)
The secret is the “intermittent” feature. Fast and feast. Adjust and tweak. But there’s no need to change if it’s still working.
*Don’t try fasting without talking to your doctor, especially if you have a medical condition, or if you’re on any medication.
5. Time your meals (meal timing)
Our feeding hormones are predictably secreted in a 24-hour body clock or circadian rhythm that responds to daylight.
Skip the meal when you’re least hungry. For most of us, this is breakfast. Because the hunger hormone ghrelin is lowest in the morning around 8 AM. It’s a lot easier to skip a meal when you’re not hungry.
Try to eat your biggest meal between 12-3 PM so you can take advantage of the non-hungry morning hours. And because in the evening around 7-8 PM, hunger is strongest and insulin is most stimulated. It’s a good strategy to refrain from eating a large meal when you’re most hungry and when insulin is most stimulated.
Here’s my own example…
- I don’t eat breakfast, I drink coffee throughout the morning.
- I “could” always fast after 3 PM and skip dinner to avoid a meal that maximizes my insulin rise, but I choose not to. Because dinner is when I get to share a meal with my family.
6. Get enough sleep
Get at least 8 hours of sleep per night.
Sleep deprivation can cause a rise in the stress hormone cortisol by more than 100% and up to 45% the next evening.
Persistently high cortisol levels will raise glucose levels, which then causes insulin to rise.
Here’s how I try…
- I switch to decaf coffee or herbal tea after 2 PM so caffeine is out of my system by bedtime.
- I turned on the “Night Shift” setting on my iPhone. This filters out the “blue light” starting at 10 PM so my brain doesn’t think it’s still daytime when I’m reading a book on my phone on Kindle.
- I deleted the Netflix app out of my phone and replaced it with a meditation app called Calm, so I can relax myself to sleep instead of binge watch into the early morning hours. (Stranger Things.)
7. Be more active
Nope, this isn’t about burning more calories. It’s about how exercise makes you more sensitive to insulin.
- Insulin sensitivity is a good thing. When you’re sensitive to insulin, it means you need less insulin to process your meal.
- Insulin resistance is a bad thing. When you’re resistant to insulin, it means you need more insulin to process your meal.
Not into CrossFit? No problem. Just don’t sit too long. Breaking up prolonged sitting every 20 minutes with just 2 minutes of light-moderate intensity walking lowers your insulin response after a meal.
Moderate-high intensity exercise. A single bout of exercise improves insulin sensitivity for at least 16 hours after you exercise.
Combined aerobics and resistance training. It shows better results in improving insulin sensitivity. But strength training are not just weights, machines, and resistance bands. There are those that use your own body weight like Yoga and Pilates.
Here’s my routine (mostly):
- I have a standing desk so I can alternate from sit to stand when I’m writing or when I’m on the phone coaching.
- I walk. I enjoy a good hike on nature trails.
- I do yoga. Bonus: Yoga is an awesome stress reliever so I also get a cortisol lowering fix with my insulin.
8. Take vinegar with your meals
Taking 2-4 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar before a high carb meal has been shown to reduce insulin response by up to 34%.
- This was easy for me because Asian cooking puts vinegar in, well … everything.
- I’ve always eaten with a vinegar-based dip or sauce, also an Asian thing.
- Sometimes I add 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in a mason jar of ice cold plain sparkling water rimmed with pink Himalayan salt and I drink it before and during my meal.
Herein lies the confusion
But I thought berries, Stevia, and erythritol were okay?
Yams and beans have fiber!
Nuts and cheese are okay but not too much?
Here’s the deal…
If we’re driving a Camry, we can’t go 0-60 miles an hour in 3 secs without crashing and burning… but we can do it in 8 secs – easily. We’re not driving a Corvette (yet).
If it were that easy to go from a steady diet of cupcakes to eating absolutely nothing sweet in one fell swoop, then none of us will need help.
But behavior change doesn’t work that way.
We force ourselves to go fast and perfect on those turns, and then when we crash, we blame ourselves. Yet even if we didn’t crash, sooner or later we get pulled over for going 85 miles an hour (we run out of gas), and we’re forced to slow down anyway.
But what if we just stayed on the road? Sometimes going slow, sometimes fast, sometimes taking detours, maybe even stopping once in a while… but always back on the road again.
Because that’s how a real journey looks like.
There’s always a new and exciting destination after we arrive at each point. We enjoy the trip instead of getting stressed out by it. And we’re getting better, healthier, and losing fat along the way.
Coming up next
In [Part 3] of this 4-part series on How to Break through a Weight Stall, we’ll talk about how to map out [Your Own Journey] that works:
- What do you need to do differently?
- What do you need to do more of?
- And why small changes, not massive efforts lead to bigger results.
Did you miss the first 2 installments? You can read them here:
- [Introduction] How to Break through a Weight Stall without the Confusion
- [Part 1] How to Break through a Weight Stall: The Compass
Be on the lookout for [Part 3] How to Break through a Weight Stall: Your Journey!
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