Hormones and Food
Ever heard of Tony Sinclair? He’s thatguy who says: “Everything in moderation- and that’s how you Tanqueray”. (Since we are on Whole30 these days, I better quit thinking about Tanqueray...) There are three hormones which I want to touch on: insulin, glucagon, and eicosanoids. The major point of the first two hormones is to regulate blood sugar levels.
Insulin is like a syringe that is injecting carbohydrates in the form of glucose into the cells of the body (the liver, the muscles, and fat tissue) where it is then stored as glycogen (muscles and liver storage) and triglycerides (fat tissue). This is fuel for the body. Glycogen is necessary and it’s AWESOME. This is what gives us our energy to perform a high percentage of the work we do. However, when blood sugar levels become high, insulin levels also spike up, and cause the body to store that energy (most as triglycerides in fatty tissues, since the storage space for glycogen in the liver and muscles is very small and saturates quickly), stop being able to use fat as an energy source (yep, that body fat gets locked down and the key gets thrown away with high levels of insulin present in our body), and attempts to ‘regulate’ the blood sugar levels by craving more carbs and crashing with bigger spikes of insulin.
When we eat high glycemic-load carbs such as refined and processed and juiced sugars/foods, insulin levels spike and it’s like this hypothetical syringe is being pushed way too fast and jamming glucose into the cells of the body. This becomes a big problem when this is repeated and happens frequently. The cells of the body start to become insulin resistant and they say “no, please and thank you, I’ve had enough” and the hormone is like “but take more, I have much more to give” and then the cells are like “but I don’t want any more I’m stuffed, leave me alone.” Anyway, the pancreas only knows that blood sugar is still too high, so it releases even more insulin.
See a really bad cycle starting here? This is where we get slammed with hyperinsulinemia and potentially type 2 diabetes, and it’s very difficult to get out of this cycle once it’s started. By eating whole veggies and fruits with fiber and lower glycemic-load carbohydrates, we don’t spike our insulin levels as much and we stay far far away from this cycle!
Glucagon on the other hand is released when blood sugar levels drop. Its ultimate role is to prevent hypoglycemia, and it does this in a fairly complicated way. It first tells the pancreas “Hey we need to make a sacrifice to the sugar god,” and the pancreas decides, "ok we must start glycogenolysis and release glucose into the blood stream."
If you balance the levels of glucagon and insulin, blood sugar levels stay relatively the same as they were before you ate, but now all the sudden your muscles and liver are full of energy again. Zone-diet eating does exactly this. Once your blood sugar levels are balanced and in symbiotic harmony, your body will burn fat VERY efficiently as it's optimal fuel source. With moderated dietary fat intake, body fat melts off, being utilized as energy. Eventually, you will need to increase dietary fat in order to have enough energy and not be too lean for optimal performance. WHOA I know that just blew your mind.
The last hormone to talk about is eicosanoids. These fast-acting signaling hormones are super powerful and control inflammatory levels in the body, and are created from omega-3 and omega-6 fats (oils, nuts, seeds, avocado, etc). They act upon and control the immune system, inflammation system, vasodilatation, vasoconstriction, sleep patterns, adipose tissue differentiation, and the list goes on. This means that eating a good ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats and the right levels of insulin and glucagon will give you better sleep, less body fat, a better working blood delivery system, reduced inflammation after a workout, you’ll get sick less, and you’ll have more energy. We get more than enough omega-6's from our food and not enough omega-3's, hence our recommendation to supplement with omega-3 fish oil. I know it’s crazy, and the system is so complex it’s not fully understood. But the discovery of these signaling hormones won the Nobel Prize. So this stuff is legit.
adapted from CF Verve