Insulin: Optimize Your Performance and Recovery
In our last article we covered the role insulin plays in our body and what effects our body’s secretion of insulin. In this article we’ll cover the relationship insulin has with amino acids (protein) and carbohydrates as well as how to optimize insulin for better recovery and performance.
If you missed the first article, make sure you read that one first. This article will build on what we covered in the last article. See part one HERE.
So, let’s get to it!
The Insulin and Amino Acid Relationship:
As we touched on in the last article, insulin needs be present to open insulin receptor sites along our muscles. This allows amino acids to move into our muscle tissue fibers where they will serve as the building blocks for muscle repair and growth. However, when we consume protein alone, our bodies don’t release insulin into our blood stream. As we covered in the last article, insulin transports nutrients from our blood stream to body tissue and opens our insulin receptor sites along our muscles to allow nutrients (including amino acids) to enter our muscle tissue.
For amino acids to do their job, we need to insure our insulin receptor sites are open along our muscles each time we ingest protein/amino acids.
There are two way to insure our muscle’s insulin receptor sites open to allow amino acids into our muscle tissue.
The first way is through exercise, which has an “insulin-like” affect and causes our muscle’s insulin receptor sites to open. What this means is during training and exercise our muscle receptor sites open to allow nutrients into muscle tissue without the presence of insulin. The ingestion of complete protein should be practiced around training sessions, while muscle receptor sites are open.
Serious athlete need to take advantage of this exercise induced “insulin-like” reaction. The more intense you’re training, the more important it will be to ingest complete proteins, which will help your body switch from a state of catabolism (breaking down tissue) to a state of anabolism (recovery/building tissue) and optimum muscle recovery.
The second way to insure that your muscle’s insulin receptor sites are open is by consuming sufficient amounts of carbohydrates along with complete proteins in order to stimulate your pancreas to secrete insulin into your blood stream.
If you do not eat often enough (every three to four hours) your insulin, amino acid, and blood sugar levels will gradually drop off. If there isn’t sufficient insulin present during long periods between meals, anabolism (recovery/building tissue) will slowdown or stop until adequate amounts of complex carbohydrates and complete proteins are consumed. Once an adequate amount of complex carbohydrates and complete proteins are consumed, insulin will be released to carry glucose (carbohydrates) and amino acids to your recovering muscles.
Anabolism (recovery) is most effective when insulin is continually present in your bloodstream, which allows for the continual uptake of glucose and amino acids by your recovering muscle tissue. The most effective way to make this happen is by ingesting complete proteins and sufficient amounts of complex carbohydrates frequently throughout the day. This will provide your body with steady and moderate amounts of insulin.
A key point to note: Since amino acids remain present for protein synthesis for only three to four hours, you should take in complete proteins and complex carbohydrates no less than every three to four hours. (I personally recommend no less than every three hours.) When you’re working to recover and build muscle, it is essential to time your meals in order for insulin to be present and anabolism (recovery) to more efficiently take place.
The Insulin and Carbohydrate Relationship:
As we covered in the last article and touched on in this article, carbohydrates are what causes a release of insulin into the blood stream and insulin is important to transport nutrient from the bloodstream to your muscles. However it isn’t a matter of just eating carbohydrates. When you plan out your meals, you need to make sure you have enough carbohydrates and the right kind.
If you do not eat enough complex carbohydrates with each meal, your blood sugar levels may not be high enough to stimulate insulin release, and anabolism cannot occur even in the presence of abundant amounts of complete proteins.
On the other hand, if you consume too many carbohydrates or fast digesting carbohydrates with your meals, you’ll release too much insulin, and your muscles will be provided with more insulin carried glucose than they can handle. This surplus of insulin will result in the rapid storage of glucose in your fat cells and will leave almost nothing left over for muscle recovery. Your blood sugar level and subsequently, your insulin level will drop, and anabolism will stop until you once again ingest adequate complex carbohydrates and complete proteins.
Putting It All Together:
Once you understand the relationship between the different types of carbohydrates and insulin, you can start to control your body’s secretion of insulin. More importantly, you can start getting insulin to work with you and help you reach your athletic goals quicker.
By controlling you carbohydrates throughout the day, you can keep your body in an anabolic state, and recover more effetely after demanding training session. You will also maintain steady energy levels around training.
During long training and immediately following your training when your glycogen stores are depleted, you want to switch to easily digestible carbohydrates and complete proteins to replenish energy quicker while your muscles are trying to take in as many nutrients as they can.
If you understand what is happening within your body when you eat, you can more easily find the foods you need to create the reactions you want within your body. Using these principles, you can start to plan your meals throughout the day, your post-workout meals as well as your pre-workout meals and start reaching your goals faster.