Insulin resistance is a real kicker. It is the difference between dietary carbohydrates being stored in muscle cells as glycogen to fuel intense exercise and growth, or those very same carbohydrates being stored in fat cells as adipose tissue.
Now apply that predisposition in nutrient partitioning to drive fat storage over performance over a 12 month period and you have the difference in physiques of the Michelin Man vs Hercules, all from how your body has handled carbohydrates!
Therefore, increasing insulin sensitivity (IS) should be the focus of any trainee trying to gain lean muscle or even just to encourage your body to utilise carbohydrates more efficiently.
This can be achieved by:
- Carrying a lower body fat percentage in the off season
- Intermittent fasting
- Introducing fasted cardio into a weight training regimen
- Utilising carbohydrates primarily for fuel in your pre and post workout protocol only.
For a more in depth look at these strategies to help maximise IS see the article “Lean Muscle Gain For Endomorphs” where many of these tips have been covered in considerable depth.
As for the focus of this article, however, supplementation to improve Insulin Resistance (IR) is definitely an area we are about to become intimately familiar with!
There are several herbs and amino acids that have a brilliant reputation (with scientifically sound reasoning) for improving the body’s ability to partition blood sugar and we will now look at how these can be implemented into your daily regime!
Supplements To Increase Insulin Sensitivity
1. Chromium Picolinate
Chromium works by activating AMPK (Adenosine Monophosphate Kinase), which acts as one of the main “sensors” in cellular energy status, whereby it promotes glucose uptake to the cells. There are over 30 scientific studies suggesting that chromium is essential for blood pressure control and maintaining insulin sensitivity, and with its ability to modulate AMPK, there is a strong case for implementing this inexpensive supplement into your daily regimen!
500mg is the recommended dosage.
2. Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) (1)
Dosed between 600mg-1.8g, ALA is shown to significantly increase IS as well as provide a mild anti-inflammatory effect within the body, as is the case with many of the essential fatty acid chains. Being a fat soluble vitamin, look for oil based capsules or liquid forms and split up doses throughout the day (i.e. 600mg 2-3 times per day around meals).
3. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar has innumerable health benefit from stimulation of digestive enzymatic action to improve digestion, to improving insulin sensitivity when taken with a high carbohydrate meal. This was demonstrated in a recent study from the Arizona State University (2) which included subjects with insulin resistance vs a placebo group utilising apple cider vinegar after a high carbohydrate meal.
The Insulin resistant subjects supplemented with 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar immediately after a high-carb meal, and the second group got a placebo solution right after the same meal.
The apple cider vinegar group achieved 34% better insulin sensitivity scores against placebo which is a statistically very significant result.
To put that in real terms, a 34% improvement in insulin sensitivity scores will reap a visually notable difference in body composition when applied to a body shaping campaign over several months as the body will become nearly 1/3rd more efficient at the efficient disposal of carbodhydrate derived glucose!
The research points to the beneficial mechanisms behind this improvement in IS scores as being linked to the high acetic-acid content of apple cider vinegar so try implementing 20grams of Apple Cider Vinegar after your next high carbohydrate meal to acutely aid in increasing Insulin sensitivity!
Berberine (sourced from barberry berries) is well known as a natural compound to battle lifestyle diseases related to Insulin resistance. The primary mechanism that makes Berberine truly appealing is its ability to stabilise blood sugar levels rather remarkably, while also combating insulin resistance. In human studies, its efficacy has even been comparable to many pharmaceutical compounds for such purposes! This has been demonstrated in Human and animal research (4) where 1500mg of Berberine, taken in three doses of 500mg each, is equally effective as taking 1500mg of metformin or 4mg glibenclamide, two pharmaceuticals for treating type II diabetes. Berberine works through increases in AMPK, the fat burning receptor in layman’s terms, as well as reducing production of glucose in the liver which make it a natural partner to both Chromium and Apple Cider Vinegar. Take 500mg just after a carbohydrate rich meal to take advantage of the sensitising effects of this wonderful supplement!
Utilise any, or all, of these supplements as part of your daily regimen and you will arm yourself with a holistic, natural arsenal to combat insulin resistance and can pave the way to a leaner, healthier physique!
(1) Free Radical Bio-Med. 1999 Aug;27(3-4):309-14 ‘Oral administration of RAC-alpha-lipoic acid modulates insulin sensitivity in patients with type-2 diabetes mellitus: a placebo-controlled pilot trial.’
(2) Vinegar Improves Insulin Sensitivity to a High-Carbohydrate Meal in Subjects With Insulin Resistance or Type 2 Diabetes. Carol S. Johnston, PHD, Cindy M. Kim, MS and Amanda J. Buller, MS
(3) Ebihara K, Nakajima A: Effect of acetic acid and vinegar on blood glucose and insulin responses to orally administered sucrose and starch. Agric Biol Chem 52:1311–1312, 1988
(4) Vuddanda PR, Chakraborty S, Singh S. Berberine: a potential phytochemical with multispectrum therapeutic activities. Expert Opin Investig Drugs. (2010). (Abstract Only)