Your insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism are directly correlated to your body composition. Impair your body’s ability to efficiently store glucose, and you’ll be fighting an uphill battle against fat loss. Here are 10 ways you can increase insulin sensitivity and make it easier to change your body composition for the better.
Eat Low-Glycemic Carbohydrates
The glycemic index measures a given food’s impact on blood glucose levels. High-glycemic foods cause a rapid rise in blood glucose, which results in your body releasing large amounts of insulin. The constant bombardment of insulin on your cells causes them to become insensitive to insulin’s effects over time – meaning more and more insulin is needed to achieve a similar result. Eating a low-glycemic diet can improve glucose uptake and increase your insulin sensitivity .
Make Exercise Part of Your Lifestyle
Exercise causes a reduction in blood glucose and plasma insulin levels for days after physical activity . One of the main mechanisms for why this happens is the translocation of GLUT4 in fat and muscle tissue. GLUT4 transports the glucose from the food you eat into your cells. When you exercise, a higher number of GLUT4 translocate in muscle cells as compared to fat cells – resulting in a better ability to store glucose in muscle tissue without the presence of insulin. The result? You increase insulin sensitivity via a reduction in plasma insulin levels.
Drink Green Tea
Similar to exercise, green tea significantly reduces glucose uptake by fat tissue, and significantly stimulates glucose uptake in muscle . Green tea improves insulin sensitivity by increasing GLUT4 translocation in muscle tissue. EGCG is a catechin antioxidant believed to be responsible for the majority of tea’s health benefits. Green tea also has numerous health benefits. It has been shown to reduce the risk of stroke, cognitive impairment, and osteoporosis .
Eat Your Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) cannot be manufactured by the body, so they need to be ingested through your diet. Besides these 33 health benefits of omega 3 fatty acids, they also affect inflammation, hormones, mood, metabolism, behavior, and cellular signaling. Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are the two fatty acids that are essential. A diet supplemented with omega 3 fatty acids improves insulin sensitivity and lowers triglyceride levels .
The problem with modern nutrition is that the ratio of omega 6 to 3 in our diets has been skewed over time. Western diets have a ratio of 20:1 (or more) in favor of omega 6. You really want that number closer to 1:1. That means you need to be eating more foods that are higher in omega 3 fatty acids. Foods like salmon, tuna, flax seed, walnuts, and omega 3 eggs will all help bring that ratio into line. You could also supplement with fish oil. I personally use Carlson’s Cod Liver Oil. It has a lemon flavor. I just take a tablespoon, chase it down with some water (or add it to my smoothie), and then eat my meal. I find it to be very palatable. Trust me, it’s not as bad as it sounds!
Increase Your Fiber Intake
Increasing insoluble dietary fiber intake for 3 days significantly improves whole-body insulin sensitivity . Fiber intake is also inversely correlated with the risk of developing insulin resistance and type II diabetes . In other words, the higher your fiber intake, the better your insulin sensitivity, and the lower your risk for diabetes. Adding fiber to your meals lowers the glycemic index of your meal, which will in turn increase insulin sensitivity and slow down the release of glucose into the bloodstream. Eat your veggies!
Avoid Trans Fat
Trans fats are nasty little man-made fats (there are some healthy natural ones) used to extend product shelf-lives and change the consistency of unsaturated fats to make them more saturated. Trans fats cause fat gain around the stomach – even in the absence of excess calories, and are associated with insulin resistance . Trans fats cause impaired insulin binding to insulin receptors – resulting in decreased insulin sensitivity.
Cinnamon is a great tasting spice used in many foods. The good news? Cinnamon can increase insulin sensitivity and lower blood glucose levels  . You can add cinnamon to your food many different ways. You can add it to your oatmeal or other food, your protein shakes, or your liquid beverages. If you need a healthy snack idea, might I recommend some baked cinnamon apple chips to satisfy your sweet tooth. Cinnamon is one way to have your cake and eat it too.
Limit Fructose Consumption
Most people know fructose as “fruit sugar”. It’s true that fruit contains varying amounts of fructose. However, fructose is also ingested from processed food sources that contain high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and also from sugar. Sugar is made up of fructose and glucose, and is a major source of fructose consumption.
Fructose is metabolized by the liver. Exposing the liver to large quantities of fructose leads to the rapid stimulation of lipogenesis (fat formation) and triglyceride accumulation, which in turn contributes to reduced insulin sensitivity . Don’t go and ditch your fruit though. Small amounts of fructose are beneficial, and can lower the glycemic index of a meal. Avoid processed foods, and you should be safe from the detrimental effects of fructose.
Avoid Fast Food
This one is fairly self-explanatory. Fast-food consumption has strong positive associations with weight gain and insulin resistance, suggesting that fast food increases the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes . Fast food is loaded with trans fats and high-glycemic carbohydrates – both of which reduce insulin sensitivity via different methods. If you want to increase insulin sensitivity, fast food should be way down on your list of indulgences (should be anyways!).
Get Your Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that scavenges free radicals. People that have low vitamin E concentrations in their blood have a higher risk of insulin resistance . Supplementation of vitamin E increases glucose disposal and improves insulin action . The good news is that you don’t have to take supplements to get your RDA of vitamin E. You can get it by eating whole foods such as nuts and seeds. However, if you’re already taking cod liver oil, it gives you 100% of the DV (daily value) in every tablespoon.