Insulin; fascinating molecule. So, the pancreas secretes pro-insulin and then breaks it into two pieces; insulin and C-peptide. C-peptide was an orphan for a long time; legitimate sibling of insulin though it is, its more famous brother ‘insulin’ has kept it in the shadows for a very long time. Now we know that C-peptide has a raft of physiological functions just like its more famous brother. It helps heal nerves, kidneys, muscles, up-regulates the nitric oxide that its brother down regulates. All very cool. Give me more! Right?
No, like insulin, in higher than ideal levels it too is toxic. So the end game here is not how do I regulate insulin, C-peptide, grehlin and so on but how do you eat, train and relax in such a way that the inbuilt, self-balancing, homeostatic mechanisms can do this for you? And then if you do these things how do you know you have hit upon the Golden Mean, the Aristotelian perfect pitch? Well, you measure its most easily manipulated, trackable surrogates and insulin is the most accessible and affordable of the bunch. Its concordance with the other markers is not 100% but close enough for government work. (Old saying; not sure if you guys are old enough to remember this one).
Now insulin and C-peptide, when you get one you get the other, have a large role in regulating inflammation. Inflammation is bad and the simple version is the more you have of both the more inflammation you have. Not good. Now this link to inflammation is mediated through fat stores, liver response and overall glucose management so insulin should always be looked at in the context of other markers as I alluded to in ‘Part One of Part Two.’
As with other variables, what the lab reports as normal and what is ideal are, especially here, radically different things. Some labs report as normal as high as 20 which is statistically related to the need to be standing outside of the emergency room waiting for the next gout attack, heart attack or new onset of malignant high blood pressure. Yes, even gout- but that’s caused by uric acid I hear you say- is closely linked to insulin levels. So, where I was going with that was, your goal is somewhere between 2 and 4; drive to this goal slowed only by your body’s insulin receptor sensitivity rate of adaptation; diet AND exercise driven by the way. If you drop this before your receptor sensitivity has increased your blood glucose will go up too much too soon. This can usually be compensated for and over time will adjust too but I recommend a stepwise approach where you lower them together.
So get out your Excel spreadsheet and track your insulin. This marker is a days-to-weeks marker and not a weeks-to-months one so frequent testing, as much as every 2-4 weeks will help keep you on track. Had a really stressful week but ate well and trained well? That insulin still might have gone up.
Eat, sleep and train to live long and well. Insulin is an awfully good guide. At least for the cohort for whom this tends high. Now for those of you who are rail thin, can’t gain muscle mass and are hungry all the time you very well could have the opposite problem; your fasting insulin may run in the 0-2 range and quickly fall back to that level even after eating. You will need a different diet and eating pattern as well. You still don’t need any Snickers bars but you can use healthy whole grains like barley. With grains be careful of course if you are gluten intolerant.
But even here, low basal insulin levels, you can upregulate your basal insulin levels in such a way as to aid in muscle gain; you will also be more prone to happy moods as those with low basal insulin levels, or even transient ones, are susceptible to depression as this state makes it more difficult for the brain to uptake tryptophan. And remember trytophan is just two short steps away from being serotonin. Think of that! Now you even have a way to track your risk of smiling.
Make a graph, get some blood tests, Smile, Have Fun and God Speed,