Exercising with a Pump, Nutrition Management, Pumping, T1D

Lowering your total insulin levels to lose weight

Insulin is a powerful hormone that helps regulate glucose levels and energy metabolism in the body. When we look at the total daily dose delivered we get a sense as to how well you are fueling up or fueling down.

By taking a 14 days average of insulin we can see an approximation of what is needed for a balanced level of energy. This number represents the “size” of ones “gas tank”. Lets say the total daily dose of insulin works out to be 30units. When you take 32 units per day, you put more gas in the tank than it can hold and you will be much more likely to gain weight. Conversely, when you are under this number, lets say 29units per day, you are slightly under-fueled and your gas tank is “light”.

Creating a lower level of insulin during periods of your active life is important in the process of leaning out. Often times lower carbohydrate diets can help in a similar way as can some level of calorie restriction. However, the key to leaning out and losing weight with lower levels of total insulin in the body is by timing.

When you take insulin before being active you are telling your body to “store fat” and “burn glycogen”. Your body during exercise will largely go after the carbs you have stored up vs the fat stores we all have ; ) ….So how do you unlock all those fat stores?? The key is to have a meal prior to your activity that is 2hrs or more before your said activity so that there is little or no insulin on board prior to being active. Cant eat 2hrs before? Limit your choices to good fats and or lean proteins so you do not have to take much insulin and at times none at all. You can also lower your basal rate prior to activity to have a completely low insulin exercise and fat burning type of session.

Examples of this in action;

Poor timing

An ill timed session is one where you take insulin and food just before activity (Whether for carbohydrates or for high blood sugar corrections), the amount of insulin needed at this time is far greater than post activity. You might take insulin prior and then also need food during activity to prevent you from going low. Physiologically speaking this also means that you are topping off your energy stores by adding additional carbohydrate which makes you less sensitive to insulin overall. Net net this means more insulin prior, more food and insulin during activity and less insulin sensitivity post activity

Good timing

A better execution is to eat two hours prior, or satiate with proteins and a small amount of good fats just before your activity. Note you don’t have to eat during or even before an activity only if you need to. What this does for you is allows lower insulin on board (which tells the body to store fat and burn carbs) and with lower insulin on board you are now burning fat as a fuel source. When you finish your activity, the amount of bolus and basal insulin needed is far less for any incoming carbohydrates. Note that this entire sequence can be more challenging with lantus or other long acting insulins that you “lock into” over a 24hr period.

As a result of these two different approaches the insulin difference could be several units and as much as 5 or more units. This could mean burning more fat calories when done right which helps you to lose weight more readily. This approach repeats itself over and over again with your day to day exercise and can lead to positive gains in leaning out and weight loss over time.

The type of activity

The type of activity you chose and intensity does in fact matter. If you want to increase the positive insulin imbalance (where you are lowering your total daily doses and basal rates) you will need to work in the following ways.

-At or above heart rate zone 1. (This is very easy to do!) and below heart rate zone 4.

-A rate of perceived effort of 4 and up to 6 maximum on a scale from 1-10.

-Duration; 15+ minutes.

Post activity it is critical to get in a recovery meal of carbohydrate with a small amount of protein and to leave out the good fats at this time saving them for later in the day.

By following these rules you can greatly enhance your overall lean body composition and over time lose weight.

Cliff Scherb, principal Coach - Glucose Advisors/ Tristar Athletes LLC