Do you gain weight faster than your friends, even though you eat the same foods and consume the same number of calories? There is a metabolic reason, and it can be fixed. I explain how in this article.
Why You Gain Weight Easily – Summary
- How well your cells respond to insulin determines whether the food you eat gets burned as energy or stored as fat.
- If you gain weight easily, your cells may be insulin resistant, making it easier to store fat.
- You can improve insulin sensitivity for faster weight loss.
- Choose slow-digesting whole carbs over quick-digesting refined carbs
- Limit your overall carb intake
- Boost Your Intake of Healthy Fats
- Practice Intermittent Fasting
- Lose Weight and Exercise
Do You Gain Weight Faster Than Your Friends? [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- The relationship between insulin sensitivity and weight loss.
- How to know if you’re insulin resistant.
- Ways to improve insulin sensitivity.
Insulin Determines Fat-Burning vs. Fat-Storage
We live in complex biological machines, and the rate at which we gain or lose weight is dependent on many factors. But there is one hormone that reigns as the king in this arena, and that hormone is insulin.
How well your cells respond to insulin determines what is going to happen to the food you eat. Will it get burned up as energy, or will it be stored as fat?
Insulin’s job is to prevent your blood sugar from going too high. It does this by moving sugar (glucose) out of your blood and into your cells.
When your cells are sensitive to insulin, they take the glucose that insulin delivers, and they say, “Thank you very much, this will come in very handy, I can burn this for energy.”
Insulin Resistance and Weight Gain
Your cells can become resistant to insulin. When this happens, insulin heads over to a cell and knocks on the door, but the cell ignores the knock.
As a result of insulin resistance, sugar builds up in your blood. This rise in blood sugar causes more insulin to pour into your bloodstream, and now you have a problem. This high insulin level creates inflammation, and the extra sugar is put through a series of metabolic processes that convert it to body fat.
If you gain weight very easily, more quickly than your friend, it could be that you are insulin resistant, and your friend is insulin sensitive. So, you can go out together and order a pizza. You eat half, and your friend eats half. Same food, same calories, you put on weight, your friend stays slim.
The pizza went inside both of you, and the carbs from the pizza got broken down into sugar. Insulin rushed into your bloodstreams to get the sugar moved to your cells. But, your friend’s cells are sensitive to insulin, so they opened up, took in that sugar, and used it for energy. Your cells resisted insulin. They refuse the sugar, it builds up in your blood, and with nowhere else to go, it got converted to fat.
Determining if You’re Insulin Resistant
Unfortunately, there is no home testing kit to determine if you are insulin sensitive or resistant. You can get an idea of how efficiently your body clears sugar out of your blood by purchasing a home blood glucose monitor.
These simple monitors require a finger prick to analyze a drop of blood. From this test, you can discover your fasting blood glucose level in the morning or how long it takes for your blood sugar to return to normal after eating a meal.
You can also gather clues about your level of insulin sensitivity based on how your body responds to food. If you gain weight easily or have a hard time getting it off, then insulin resistance is a likely suspect.
How to Improve Insulin Sensitivity
There are ways to improve insulin sensitivity. Here are the main dietary and lifestyle changes that you can implement today to improve insulin sensitivity.
Choose the Right Carbs
The type of carbohydrates you eat matters. Carbs are the foods that spike your blood sugar. But the thing with carbs is that they run the gamut from broccoli to double-stuff Oreos. Broccoli and other non-starchy vegetables increase insulin sensitivity, whereas cookies and other refined carbs worsen insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance is the result of an assault on your cells. When you eat a lot of quick-digesting carbs and drink sugary sodas all day, your blood sugar never drops. Therefore, insulin is continually pounding down the doors of your cells. It’s like the telemarketer calls; after a while, you just stop answering the phone. Your cells do the same thing. You need to give your cells a break by eating slow-digesting carbs.
Increasing Slow-Digesting Carbs
Resistant starch is a substance that is not easily digested (2).
Beans are an example of resistant starch foods, and a salad is one of your best meal choices for fiber. While beans contain carbohydrates, adding a small portion (i.e., ¼ cup) of black beans to a salad is a satisfying way to start improving your insulin sensitivity.
Reducing Quick-Digesting Carbs
Eliminating sugary drinks and refined carbs will improve insulin sensitivity. Refined carbs are what we often think of as our white foods: white bread, pasta, and white flour used to make baked goods. These foods quickly digest, which spikes your blood sugar and insulin. If you are insulin resistant, these foods are feeding your fat cells.
Limit Your Overall Carb Intake
The number of carbs matters when it comes to improving insulin sensitivity and stabilizing blood sugar levels (3).
We learned earlier that a constant barrage of insulin leads to insulin resistance within your cells. By limiting your overall carb intake, you prevent blood sugar and insulin levels from rising. As a result, your cells get a break from the demands to drop off sugar.
Boost Your Intake of Healthy Fats
The research linking high-fat diets and insulin sensitivity is limited. Some studies recommend limiting saturated fats and focusing your choices on polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (4).
This shift in fat choices was shown to increase insulin sensitivity. Mono and polyunsaturated fats include omega 3s, olive oil, and fats you get from whole foods, like avocados, nuts, and seeds. These healthy fats can be added to a daily salad to help your cells regain sensitivity.
Intermittent Fasting and Insulin Sensitivity
From a logical standpoint, it stands to reason that because intermittent fasting involves periods when no food is entering the body, this practice would keep insulin levels low, and therefore help improve insulin sensitivity.
Lose Weight and Exercise
Losing weight and exercising creates a snowball effect that improves insulin sensitivity (7).
In other words, the more weight you lose and exercise you perform, the better your cells become at responding to insulin.
If you gain weight easily, there are ways that you can change the course you are on to improve weight loss, regain insulin sensitivity, and become a better fat burner.
What it comes down to is giving your cells a rest: eat slow-digesting carbs and healthy fats that don’t spike insulin, lower the overall carb content of your diet, practice intermittent fasting, and exercise.
Thank you for reading and have a wonderful week!
(1) Chandalia, Manisha, et al. “Beneficial effects of high dietary fiber intake in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus.” New England Journal of Medicine 342.19 (2000): 1392-1398.
(2) Bindels, Laure B., et al. “Resistant starch can improve insulin sensitivity independently of the gut microbiota.” Microbiome 5.1 (2017): 1-16.
(3) Nielsen, Jörgen V., and Eva A. Joensson. “Low-carbohydrate diet in type 2 diabetes: stable improvement of bodyweight and glycemic control during 44 months follow-up.” Nutrition & metabolism 5.1 (2008): 1-6.
(4) Imamura, Fumiaki, et al. “Effects of saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, monounsaturated fat, and carbohydrate on glucose-insulin homeostasis: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled feeding trials.” PLoS medicine 13.7 (2016): e1002087.
(5) Halberg, Nils, et al. “Effect of intermittent fasting and refeeding on insulin action in healthy men.” Journal of applied physiology (2005).
(6) Park, Sunmin, et al. “Intermittent fasting reduces body fat but exacerbates hepatic insulin resistance in young rats regardless of high protein and fat diets.” The Journal of nutritional biochemistry 40 (2017): 14-22.
(7) Camps, Stefan GJA, Sanne PM Verhoef, and Klaas R. Westerterp. “Physical activity and weight loss are independent predictors of improved insulin sensitivity following energy restriction.” Obesity 24.2 (2016): 291-296.
About the Author
Becky Gillaspy, DC graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.