Insulin Sensitivity and Fat Loss

Over the years, bodybuilding nutrition has divided itself into three fairly distinct categories (I’m going to leave out the ones I consider voodoo nonsense) which are high-carb/low-fat, moderate carb/moderate fat, and low-carbohydrate. Low carb-diets can be further subdivided into high or low fat as well as cyclical or non-cyclical. I discuss each in more detail in Comparing the Diets.

In theory, you can make arguments for or against any of these approaches in terms of superiority. In the real world, it’s not quite that simple. You can always find folks (and this is true whether they are bodybuilders or just general dieters) who either succeeded staggeringly well or failed miserably on one or another approaches.

Before going on, I want to mention that protein recommendations tend not to vary that significantly between diets and most of the arguments tend to revolve around the varying proportions of carbohydrate and fats in the diet and that’s what I’ll be focusing on here. Simply, I don’t consider low-protein fat loss diets in the equation at all for the simple fact that they don’t work for anybody but the extremely obese. Any dieting bodybuilder or athlete needs 1-1.5 g/lb lean body mass of protein on a diet. Possibly more under certain circumstances.

My general experience has been that individuals who respond very well to high-carbohydrate/lower fat diets tend to do very poorly on low-carb/higher-fat diets. They feel terrible (low energy and a mental fog that never goes away), don’t seem to lean out very effectively and it just doesn’t work.

This cuts both ways: folks who don’t respond well to higher carbs do better by lowering carbs and increasing dietary fat. Sometimes that means a moderate carb/moderate fat diet, sometimes it means a full blown ketogenic diet. I should also note that some people seem to do just as well on one diet as another.

Some of this may simply be related to adherence although this tends to be less of an issue in bodybuilders (who take obsessiveness to a new level). Carb-based diets make some people hungry even if they follow all the ‘rules’; so they eat more and don’t lose fat effectively. For many of those people, reducing carb intake allows better calorie control in the long-term. People who hate moderation tend to like cyclical ketogenic diets, they can handle no-carbs during the week and massive carb-ups on the weekend; moderate carbs drive them crazy.

But how does all of the above help the neophyte dieter looking to diet down. Put differently, how can someone know ahead of the fact what diet might be optimal for them? Current research is starting to explore a link between diet and genetics and suggesting biological differences in how people respond to diet; that might explain some of the real-world results I described above.

With regards to fat intake, studies have identified what researches call low and high-fat phenotypes (phenotype is just a technical word for the interaction between your genetics and your environment) (1). Some people appear to be better able to increase fat burning in response to higher fat intakes; they stay lean in the face of such an intake. Others, however, do no such thing. Other aspects of metabolism and appetite were associated with being either a high- or low-fat phenotype.

Unfortunately, no practical way of determining which one you might be ever came around. It was also never exclusively determined if the effect was due to inherent biology or simply adaptation to a habitual diet. But the point still stands, biologically, some people seem better able to increase fat oxidation in response to higher fat intakes than others. I think this goes part of the way to explaining the response (good or bad) to high-fat ketogenic diets. People who upregulate fat oxidation well tend to thrive on them; people who don’t just get bloated and don’t lose fat well.

More recently, an interaction between diet effectiveness and both insulin sensitivity and insulin secretion after a meal has been proposed (2). Noting that all of the research to date has been on obese individuals (not dieting bodybuilders), I still think it explains some of what is going on. As well as allowing us to predict ahead of time which diet someone might do best on.

A Very Brief Primer on Insulin Secretion and Sensitivity

To understand the research I want to talk about next, I need to briefly discuss two different but somewhat related aspects of insulin metabolism: insulin sensitivity/resistance and insulin secretion.

As I imagine all of the readers of this know, insulin is a storage hormone released in response to eating with carbohydrates having the largest impact on insulin secretion, protein having the second greatest and fat having little to no impact on insulin secretion. Insulin sensitivity refers to how well or poorly the body responds to the hormone insulin. Individuals who are insulin resistant tend to have higher baseline insulin levels because the body is releasing more in response to try and overcome the resistance.

And while a great majority of insulin resistance is determined by lifestyle (training and diet play a huge role, as does body fatness), so do genetics. At the same bodyfat level, insulin sensitivity can vary nearly 10 fold for genetic reasons. So it’s possible that even lean athletes and bodybuilders could have some degree of genetic insulin resistant (I’ll talk about how to determine this at the end of the article). As it turns out, individuals also differ in how much or how little insulin they release following a standardized meal; some people release more insulin than others in response to a meal. While this can be related to baseline insulin sensitivity, it doesn’t have to be.

It turns out that both issue relate to fat/weight gain or loss (2). In contrast to what is generally believed, good overall insulin sensitivity tends to correlate with weight/fat gain and insulin resistance is thought to be an adaptation to prevent further fat/weight gain. However, some research suggests that a tendency to release too much insulin in response to feeding may predispose people towards weight/fat gain. One huge confound in all of this, mind you, is that high insulin secretion tends to make people eat more. Studies of diabetics find that decreasing insulin secretion with drugs tends to cause a spontaneously lower food intake (2).

The Impact of Insulin Sensitivity or Insulin Secretion on Response to Different Diets

While the research is in its infancy, there have been studies examining the weight loss response relative to either insulin sensitivity or insulin secretion. For the most part, no major difference in terms of weight loss has been found in subjects with different insulin sensitivities (2). However, at least one study found that the specific diet given interacted with baseline insulin sensitivity to determine the magnitude of weight loss (3). In that study, obese women with either high or low insulin sensitivity were placed on either a high carb (60% carb, 20% fat) or low carb (40% carb, 40% fat) diets.

So there were four groups: high carb/insulin sensitive, high carb/insulin resistant, low carb/insulin sensitive, low carb/insulin resistant. The results were intriguing: insulin sensitive women on the high carb diet lost nearly double the weight as insulin sensitive women on the low-carb diet. Similarly, insulin resistant women lost twice the weight on the low-carb diet as on the high carb diet. Unfortunately, it’s not clear what caused the divergent results. The researchers mentioned a gene called FOXC2 which is involved in energy expenditure and found that it was upregulated in the individuals who responded best to diet; further research into this topic is needed (3).

Even less data relates to insulin secretion status and diet although a recent study suggests that it may (4). In that study, subjects were given either a high glycemic load (60% carbs, 20% protein, 20% fat) or a low GL diet (40% carbs, 30% protein, 30% fat diet) and weight loss was examined relative to baseline insulin secretion. In that study, subjects with high insulin secretion lost more weight on the low glycemic load diet while subjects in the low insulin secretion group lost slightly more on the high glycemic load diet.

Getting to the Point

Overall, I think the limited data available on both high and low fat phenotypes as well as how individuals with differing baseline insulin sensitivity/secretion respond to diets supports the observations occurring in the real world in terms of both subjective feelings on a given diet as well as the weight/fat loss response. So how can we put this to use?

Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to see if you’re a high or low fat phenotype so I’ll focus on insulin sensitivity. There are a lot of complicated and impractical ways to determine insulin sensitivity and insulin secretion. All involve blood work and looking at either baseline insulin or blood glucose or how insulin changes in response to a meal.

However, in practice, there are signs as to whether you have good insulin sensitivity or not and possibly whether you over-secrete insulin. Here’s two very simple questions to ask yourself regarding your response to diet.

  1. On high-carbohydrate intakes, do you find yourself getting pumped and full or sloppy and bloated? If the former, you have good insulin sensitivity; if the latter, you don’t.
  2. When you eat a large carbohydrate meal, do you find that you have steady and stable energy levels or do you get an energy crash/sleep and get hungry about an hour later? If the former, you probably have normal/low levels of insulin secretion; if the latter, you probably tend to over-secrete insulin which is causing blood glucose to crash which is making you sleepy and hungry.

I consider it most likely that superior bodybuilders couple excellent insulin sensitivity with low insulin secretion in response to a meal. This would tend to explain why bodybuilders have often gravitated towards high carb/low-fat diets and been successful on them.

At the same time, mediocre bodybuilders frequently get less than stellar results from that same diet. Lowering carbs and increasing dietary fat seems to be more effective in that case some of the low-carb bulking strategies out there probably work better for those individuals. The same goes for fat loss. Cyclical low-carb diets such as my Ultimate Diet 2.0 or the more generic cyclical ktogenic diet (CKD) described in my first book The Ketogenic Diet allow such individuals to briefly enjoy the benefits of heightened muscular insulin sensitivity.

Putting it Into Practice

If you have good insulin sensitivity and low insulin secretion, odds are you will do well with a traditional bodybuilding type of diet which means high protein, highish carbs and low fat. Let’s say you’re consuming 1 g/lb of protein at 12 cal/lb. That’s 33% protein. If you go to 1.5 g/lb, that’s 50% protein. That leaves you with 50-67% of your calories to allocate between fat and carbohydrate. 15-20% dietary fat is about the lower limit as it becomes impossible to get sufficient essential fatty acids below that intake level. So, at 1 g/lb, your diet will be roughly 33% protein, 47-52% carbs (call it 45-50%) and 15-20% fat. If protein goes to 50% of the total, carbs should come down to 35% of the total with 15% fat.

If you’re not insulin sensitive and/or have high insulin secretion, a diet lower in carbs and higher in fat (don’t forget that protein can raise insulin as well) is a better choice. Assuming, again, 40% protein, a good starting place might be 40% protein, 20-30% carbs and 20-30% fat. A further shift to a near ketogenic (or cyclical ketogenic) diet may be necessary, 40% protein, 10-20% carbs and the remainder fat may be the most effective. If protein is set higher, up to 50% protein, carbs would be set at 10-20% with the remainder (20-30%) coming from dietary fat.

Summing Up

Hopefully the above has given you some insight into choosing what might be an optimal fat loss diet without having to go through so much tedious trial and error. However, please don’t treat the above as more than a starting point. Adjustments to diet in terms of calories or nutrient intake should always be based on real world fat loss. You should be tracking your fat loss every 2 weeks (4 at the most); if you’re not losing at a reasonable rate (1-1.5 lbs fat loss/week), you need to adjust something.

Bio: Lyle McDonald received his BS in physiology from UCLA in 1993 and has been obsessed with all aspects of human performance (training, nutrition, supplements) since then. He has written extensively about fat loss, especially low carbohydrate dieting. He is currently working on a book covering all aspects of protein nutrition for athletes as well as an approach to getting rid of stubborn bodyfat. His website is http://www.bodyrecomposition and his books can be ordered there by clicking on the store link.

References:

  1. Blundell JE, Cooling J. High-fat and low-fat (behavioural) phenotypes: biology or environment? Proc Nutr Soc. 1999 Nov;58(4):773-7.
  2. Pittas AG, Roberts SB. Dietary composition and weight loss: can we individualize dietary prescriptions according to insulin sensitivity or secretion status? Nutr Rev. 2006 Oct;64(10 Pt 1):435-48. Review.
  3. Cornier MA et. al. Insulin sensitivity determines the effectiveness of dietary macronutrient composition on weight loss in obese women. Obes Res. 2005 Apr;13(4):703-9.
  4. Pittas AG et. al. A low-glycemic load diet facilitates greater weight loss in overweight adults with high insulin secretion but not in overweight adults with low insulin secretion in the CALERIE Trial. Diabetes Care. 2005 Dec;28(12):2939-41.

Comments

comments

27 thoughts on “Insulin Sensitivity and Fat Loss

  1. Hi Lyle,

    Many have suggested that intermittent fasting can improve insulin sensitivity. Do you have any theories about strategies to reduce insulin secretion in those who tend to over-secrete? Or is one just stuck with one’s genetic predisposition on that?

    Thanks,

    MW

  2. Melissa

    I’m aware of at least one study showing that IF improved insulin sensitivity, there may be more. As I recall the whole early insulin/oversecretion thing is going to be predominantly related to carb intake so reducing carbs may be the only real option for such a person.

    Which is basically what this article and the studies I referenced did.

    Lyle

  3. Intermittent fasting does indeed increase insulin sensitivity.

    The studies you referenced here are quite interesting. For a long time, I assumed that all people reacted the same way to varying diets, but it seems that the “genetic predisposition” camp has some truth to their claims.

    The fat intakes you mention seem quite low to me, however. I don’t know if a paleolithic diet is the optimal choice for bodybuilders, but I know it’s easy to thrive on a high-fat diet containing 60-70% fat.

  4. Depends on the specifics. For some situations, high-fat is appropriate. For others it’s absolutely not.

    The paleo diet was not 70% fat. In fact, there was no single paleo diet and humans adapted to what they had available. At one end, the Kenyan diet is very high carb; at the other the Inuit diet is high fat. There is no single paleo diet and to refer to such is meaningless.

    Lyle

  5. Forty percent carb is low/???????????????

    That’s 200 grams of carbs on that mythical 2000 cal/day diet! That is NOT low carb! That’s not even moderate. Talking average folks here, not bodybuilders or athletes.

    And 60% borders on criminal. We know that at 70%, long term, many major health issues arise.

    No wonder researchers don’t get results that the real world does, which is then picked up by the “whatever you say” media. “Researchers found that on a low carb diet……” Some of us will think Atkins when we hear that, but the researchers think 40% carb is low.

    I know that I do best at around 50 grams of low GI carbs a day.

  6. From this, I’m guessing that I produce too much insulin. No problems at BMI 33, now that I’m BMI 25, I have to put up with crashing after high-carb meal. However, I’m not hungry afterwards, for a very long time. I’ve kinda noticed that I feel better eating lower carb meals, I just don’t like them as much. I’m going to look into it a bit more, diabetes runs in my family.

  7. Hello Lyle,

    Is is possible for someone who is not insulin sensitive to gain weight in a calorie deficit by eating a lot of carbs? Or will the weight lose take forever?

    Victor

  8. @Victor –

    I suggest you read this article by Lyle:
    https://www.bodyrecomposition.com/fat-loss/the-energy-balance-equation.html

    The short answer to your question is, if you have a calorie deficit, you have weight loss. Period. Individuals may prefer one diet over another for personal reasons or issues of performance, but the weight loss comes from the calorie deficit.

    Another article on this site you might want to check out:
    “Comparing the Diets”
    https://www.bodyrecomposition.com/fat-loss/comparing-the-diets-part-1.html

  9. Hey Lyle,

    I want to get some of your books, but I’m not sure which one to get. From this article I realize that I’m probably an insulin resistant person. I frequently crash when I eat alot of carbs. So right now I’m doing the Keto diet. I don’t have your book, but I’m around 9-10% bodyfat during the week (low carb). I’m wondering should I get the SFS book, Keto book, or UD 2.0? I need something that’s going to help me get to 6% bf and keep my lean body mass. I currently lift weights three times a week, but I do it in a circuit fashion, and then I do 3 cardio/leg circuit workouts. I burn about 700-900 kcal per workout. Thanks Jaime

  10. I used to get lethargic as hell after a high carb meal. Probably one of the reasons why I am now glucose intolerant/insulin insensitive. Another excellent article.

  11. This article is similar to what I’ve read about Metabolic Typing (i.e. protein type, mixed, carbo type metabolisms). The theory is no diet or ratio is universal, and we function best on what we’re genetically programmed to eat. This explains the insulin sensitivity, digestive enzyme differences (10-100 fold among dif ppl) as say, Northern climate peoples rely more on meats and fats while warmer climate peoples rely more on simple sugars such as fruits, starches and vegetables.

    I for one function well on a 70% fat/protein, 30carb diet consisting mostly of low GI veg and non-wheat grains (wheat digests quickly). I’ve lost all of my weight that I had been carrying all my life so metabolic typing is very real for me.

    What are your thoughts, if any, on metabolic typing? It seems to be new in diet/nutrition but in my opinion, vastly huge potential. I may be biased but I think its the answer period. The book that started this movement is The Metabolic Typing Diet by William Wolcott.

    Cheers

  12. Lyle I am asking this here because comments have been disabled in your Insulin Levels and Fat Loss Q&A.

    Let’s say you are in a glycogen depleted state and consume say 50g of whey isolate. If the whey isolate spikes insulin, and insulin levels inhibit lipolysis while they are elevated, what does the body use for fuel? With no carbohydrates available, would the body ramp up gluconeogenesis? or would it directly oxidize the whey that has just been consumed? And if it did ramp up gluconeogenesis, would it do so using skeletal muscle, or would the whey isolate directly be metabolized in the liver to glucose??

  13. Lyle,

    i don’t agree with your response to Victor. if an individual reduces calories, they might lose some weight but then their body with stabalize and they won’t lose weight anymore. so what then? more calorie reduction? or a lot of exercise—which just makes an individual hungry? i mean, how low in calorie reduction are people suppose to go to lose weight? i’ve done the calorie restricting thing with exercise over and over and finally realized it just doesn’t work—maybe in the very short term—-but not the long term. I know you’ve written your own books, but read the book “Good Calories, Bad Calories.” i suspect it’ll change your view of calorie restriction. low insulin levels lead to less fat storage, more adipose fat burning and therefore weight loss. Period.

  14. Thanks so much for this article. What works for one may not work for another. Experiment with your carb intake and write down how you feel after each meal. I have to keep my carbs in the 20-25% range to keep body fat levels down.

    Mark

  15. I have found that my best results have come from managing my blood sugar levels through many methods. Some supplements help… typically bitter melon has been useful for me in the past. Lately I have been using Chromium. Much easier on the stomach…

    Of course, increasing dietary fat and reducing carbohyrate consumption is the best as you describe. On that note, are there easy ways to manage the percentages of fat, protein and carbohydrate? Besides weighing food or measuring it to some degree? Having a little trouble on that side.

    Thanks for the great post!

  16. This is an excellent article summarising and synthesising some very complex concepts and research into useful and useable information. I’m not a bodybuilder just someone trying to lose weight intelligently and avoid diabetes. Many thanks!!

  17. Can someone gain weight during caloric deficit? Absolutely. Me! It’s why I’m trying to learn all about insulin sensitivity.

    You see, about 2 months ago, I decided I had to do something about the 30-35 lbs I gained in the last 5 years. I’m almost 50, 5’4″, and from age 16-30 I weighed 97lbs, no matter what I ate or did. (…And, like many young people, probably would have pompously told my future self to just eat less and exercise more, even though I wasn’t doing jack to maintain my own weight.) I gained about 20-25 lbs rather quickly, upon entering my 30s. But then maintained it naturally, no matter what I ate or did. By age 38 or 39, with no significant lifestyle changes, the weight started to pile on. I tried my very first “diet” (Thurman’s 6 Week Body Makeover) at around age 40. (I was “perfect on plan” as the devotees say, yet didn’t lose even a pound at the end of 6 weeks.) So, that’s proof positive simply cutting dietary calories and expending more calories won’t automatically lead to weight loss. I started thinking my metabolism was slowing to match the level of caloric deficit.

    Skip ahead to 2 months ago. I cut my calories in half (easily) and began working out (strenuously) every day, for 1-2 hours. I don’t have a pre-determined “off” day, because there always seems to be one day a week where at least the morning exercise routine is not possible. But my intention is to workout every day.

    Yet, despite consuming A LOT fewer calories per day, never eating at night, and being A LOT more physically active, I’ve not only not lost weight, but I usually have a net gain. For example, when I began, I weighed an embarrassing 160.7. That was with eating whatever I wanted and never exercising. This morning, with a lot of daily exercise under my belt and eating a very healthy, mostly low GI, diet for the past few months, I weighed 161.8. Yesterday, I weighed 164.1, and 162.7 the day before that. In short, in the past 2 months of measurable caloric deficit, I went below my stating weight just once (159.6), for less than 24 hrs.

    I do have POS, about which I only recently learned one of the common side-effects is weight gain and/or inability to lose weight, due to the condition’s effect on insulin production and/or sensitivity. Hence the reason I’m trying to learn more about insulin. Weight loss being said to be 80% diet, I can always exercise more, but can’t eat any less (and be healthy). My food diary shows my common meals/snacks are things like celery sticks (GI rating 0) and hummus (GI rating 6). I have 1 tiny cup of clear or lentil soup, or 5-10 nuts, or a half glass of low sodium tomato juice, for example. That’s fine for me, since I don’t really care about food. But I am aware how little I’m eating. It’s been a humbling experience to see the scale not move, and even go up, in the face of all this.

    Nearly all the women in my family were thin as young women, and then ballooned in their 40s and 50s. I would say I was generally the thinnest, longest, although my 2-years-older sister was also very thin, until her death from breast cancer, a few years ago. My oldest sister, 62, is a healthy weight, if not on the slightly plump side. My 3-years-older sister was always a bit fatter than the rest if us UNTIL her 40s, when she lost weight and has managed to keep it off through some combination of diet, exercise, and a stressful life.

    I, myself, have lost weight recently, without trying. Chalk it up to stress or other environmental factors. But in 2008, starting at around maybe 140-145lbs, I know I bought a pair of size 4 jeans in November of that year. (I rarely weighed myself, so I don’t know how much I actually weighed when I fit into this pants. I wasn’t trying to lose weight. Looking back, I was just very busy with various things.) I will say I typically wear size 10 jeans now, with some clothes needing to be up to size 13. I was also very ill a few years ago, and didn’t eat for a week, with the following three days consuming just a few crackers and tea. I didn’t lose weight then, either, so… …If I didn’t lose a measurable amount of weight not eating anything and vomiting for 7 days, I don’t know what will work.

    Hence the reason I’m scouring the ‘net, not just for diet and exercise tips and motivation, but specifically trying to decipher what is happening to me. I’m not lying about either my diet or my activity level, so it’s clearly not a simple matter of calories in/calories out. If that were the case, I’d have lost 10lbs by now…or more!

    What I can say is, there is a coincidental (but maybe more?) relationship between the days I consume more fat and SLIGHTLY lower readings on the scale. …Still no net loss, but even that one time I weighed 159.6 came after I ate some fatty food the day before, as a bit of a treat. Yesterday, I weighed 164.7 and had some bruschetta my husband asked me to make for dinner, with too much olive oil and some Parmesan cheese. This morning I weighed the least I have in a week (161.8). Yet, there are other days where I’ve had something arguably fatty, and weighed more, the next morning. Either way, 2 months of diet and exercise and I weigh more than when I started.

    I’m still searching for some formula that will help me. I’m hoping that by learning more about insulin sensitivity and production, I can use that information to my advantage…or at least take it out of the equation. My body is behaving nothing like it did in my 20s and 30s, and nothing like my (younger) husband’s.

  18. Jody,

    You might want to look into the effects of a severe caloric restriction, too much exercise in general and in the presence of a severe caloric restriction, exercise duration and stress response, overtraining etc.

    Basically if you do a lot while eating very little the energy expenditure create such an extreme negative balance that your body does a number of things which you really don’t want it to do when trying to lose fat. So moderation and consistency are key rather then trying to do everything at once. And yes i speak from experience, 2 months of p90x on a 1000 calories deficit completely wiped me out, and while the weight was flying off initially towards the tail end of the first month progress slowed and by half way through the second if i was losing anything it was my mind lol.

  19. Well…it’s been a few more weeks and, since my last comment, I learned a thing or two. I learned that PCOS is associated with insulin resistance, and that a common remedy for this is cinnamon. (Apparently many people know about this…just not me. No doctor ever told me bout it, and no online “experts” suggested my symptoms might be linked to insulin resistance, much less that cinnamon might be an easy thing to try. …Even though my symptoms are echoed almost verbatim by other PCOS women.)

    I haven’t been taking cinnamon supplements for very long. However, so far, it’s doing the trick. Having gone a few months with zero weight loss (despite eating next to nothing, and working out strenuously every day), I’m now finally losing weight. I’d say that, on average, once starting the cinnamon regimen, I’m losing about 2.5lbs/week. At least, at this early stage, the results speak for themselves. I’ve not changed anything; only added the cinnamon. I’m eating so little, I couldn’t really eat less (and be sustainable), and my workouts are already almost too strenuous, so I wasn’t really interested in doing more. The difference (at least in this short period so far), has been solely the cinnamon.

    Thank goodness for the Internet, and those who took the time to share this kind of information, I first learned about the PCOS/cinnamon link via an online message board, then researched it further. Until that point, I’d just been told I was lying about how much I was eating or exercising. You will always lose weight in caloric deficit, right? Well, my case shows that with the same diet and exercise, I was gaining/mantaing without cinnamon, and have been losing weight (for the first time since I inexplicably began gaining weight 5-6 years ago) with cinnamon.

    I’m currently taking 3g/day. But if/when I reach a sustainable weight, I hope to reduce that down to 1g, or eliminate the daily supplement entirely, if possible. With at least 40 more lbs to go, at this rate it’ll be at least another 4 months to get there, though. I hope the cinnamon effect continues, because diet and exercise, alone, sure didn’t do the trick.

  20. Bobo, just reading your reply now…. thanks for that. I appreciate any reasonable advice, especially from personal experience. I’m taking it all in, and at least considering everything.

    At THIS stage, that effect is more of an issue (now that I’m finally starting to lose weight). But, I would occasionally hear that concern, during the first 2 months where I was only gaining weight….and completely baffled. So, it just didn’t ring true for me, then. I mean, most of my adult life, I weighed 97lbs. For about 8 years, I weighed 120-125lbs. Then, suddenly, I began gaining weight, up to a high of 167lbs in just 5-6 years. Still, in my mind, that’s 50-60lbs too much. (I don’t have a specific weight goal. …Just how I look and feel.)

    I couldn’t wrap my brain around ANY scenario where eating so little and exercising that hard would lead to (albeit minor) weight gain. It just doesn’t work like that, right???

    But here it is. Eating and exercising the same as I was, and just adding cinnamon, and suddenly my “normal” daily weight is in the 150s. (I even had a caloric “blow out” yesterday, with no obvious penalty today. i.e. no weight gain. I had a filling breakfast, lunch with 27g of fat and, for dinner, a veggie sub sandwich – with cheese…on white bread – plus dessert!) If the trend continues, next month, my “normal” weight will be in the 140s, and so on. (knock wood) If I plateau, then I’ll start trying other things, like adding more calories, changing my workout, etc. But, so far, my weight chart is a steady, gradual, downward trend. (I currently do several different workouts, including treadmill, weights, ballet, yoga, and Pilates. I try to incorporate HIIT, and plyometrics, when I can.)

    I just wish I could get even more weight off faster. I’ve never had to lose weight before, and it’s still a bit of a surprise that it’s such a slow process. I hear stories of people losing 10lbs or more in their first week. I know that’s probably mostly water weight but… Man! If I could just lose 10lbs one week, that would be hugely motivating.

    I’m looking forward to the point where just eating and working out is a normal part of my life, and I’m not so concerned about tenths of a pound. I suspect that won’t happen ’til I’m in the 120s, though. It’s so strange being a fat person on the outside, but mentally a very thin one…if you know what I mean.

  21. This is a great article Lyle – thank you! After reading this, it seems like I’m fairly sensitive to insulin and secrete fairly small amounts.

    Does insulin sensitivity play a role in building lean mass vs fat mass? I’m wondering if there’s any truth behind the idea that getting down to a low body fat percentage before trying to build muscle would lead to more easily making leaner gains.

    (And at what body fat percentage does insulin sensitivity tend to be best, if so?)

    My best,
    Shane

  22. How would I know, when the time is to raise carbs again?

    Do I need a refeed?

    I lost a lot on keto but despite being on 2000kcal (2500kcal before) my set point/weight doesnt change a bit… what gives? what else can I do?

    I also tried nutritional ketosis and high protein low fat…

    Or should I try PMSF?

    Might an oxidation analysis (carbs/fat) be usefull (also for kcal amount)?

  23. Hi Lyle,

    I really like this article and refer back to it often. I apologise if this is semi off-topic yet wanted to ask your opinion about something in relation to insulin, which is leptin.

    While I understand it’s not the topic for discussion here directly, I am currently studying post-graduate nutrition and I recently asked a lecturer of mine about leptin, which I have looked into quite a bit and (with many thanks to following you) felt I had a reasonably good idea of it (even though it seems to do so many things and it gets so horribly tedious looking at all it’s minutiae). However following his response earlier today it had me head scratching again.

    I had basically asked him about leptin and it’s use in dieters/dieting and his response was (basically to paraphrase, so as to not plagiarise): Leptin was something very exciting in the mid 90’s upon discovery but since then it has not been a key hormone to utilise and attempt to modulate in weight loss…

    My understanding from papers, texts and your work is that it is basically the key hormone with regards to centralising weight regulation as it acts in so many areas and interacts with so many other hormones and compounds. I’m aware that resistance is an issue (be it obese folks or those more genetically unfortunate) but when it’s serum concentrations are low, I was sure that when it was (or perhaps still is) given, it does some pretty amazing things?

    Thanks for all of your great work Lyle, would be great to see you lecture in person one day.

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