When I think about insulin sensitivity, my mind wouldn’t directly go to bodybuilders. How would it make sense that some of the fittest people could experience it? You wouldn’t think a lack of insulin sensitivity would be an issue for competitors (I certainly didn’t), but it happens to be more common than you think! Before we dive into my personal experience from the past few months, let’s go over exactly what insulin sensitivity is and why it is so important.
Insulin is the hormone responsible for lowering our blood sugar. Insulin sensitivity refers to exactly what it sounds like – being sensitive to the ingestion carbohydrates via an insulin response. If we become resistant to insulin, it becomes harder for glucose to enter our cells. Because of this, it instead builds up in the blood and raises our blood sugar. For reference, our fasting blood glucose should be below 100mg/dL. A fasting glucose level of 100-125mg/dL is considered pre-diabetic, and 126 and higher is in the diabetic range. If you’re looking to optimize body composition, consistently being below 100 and closer to the mid 80s range is more ideal.
Once I was a few months post show, I knew something was off. I felt ‘puffy’ and ‘swollen’ and overall I didn’t feel great. I know how I normally respond when I reverse diet or have an untracked meal, and I could see things weren’t the same. My weight started spiking up faster than we’ve seen previously. If I had an untracked meal, it would take me a day or two to feel back to normal, whatever that currently was. To top it all off, my training didn’t feel great at all. I can’t recall having any good sessions, and that says a lot to me. I couldn’t get a good pump and I constantly felt very run down.
Working with Laurin as my coach for 2+ years now, we could see things weren’t right and we began looking at my fasting blood glucose. It was 113 the first day I tested it. I had become less insulin-sensitive so our next move was to get on top of this so I wouldn’t continue to feel like this. I found it hard to wrap my head around this at first, but it turns out to be more common than you think. Lots of things can go into this depending on the individual but with my history of dieting on my own years ago plus two years of competition preps, where the past year we pushed extra hard, it is understandable that my body was fighting me. Now it was time to take a step back and work on getting me back to a healthy baseline.
What We Did Next
Getting blood work done. This one is listed first because it is the most important! Getting an idea of where your sex hormone, thyroid and cortisol levels, to name a few, are at can help rule some things out and give you an idea of what you’re working with.
Supplementation. Looking at my blood work, I had sub optimal thyroid levels so I started supplementing with iodine for thyroid health. I also take ashwagandha (specifically the Sensoril trademark) for cortisol management.
Reducing carbohydrates. We significantly reduced carbohydrates for several weeks until we started seeing consistently lower blood glucose levels and I also started to feel better in and out the gym.
Added in cardio. We added back in some steady state cardio as we had taken most of that out in the previous months and my life is fairly sedentary.
Implementing 10 minute post-meal walks. These help immensely with digestion and glucose tolerance. They also help keep to NEAT up (which is NEAT ☺).
Using a glucose disposal agent. These help to shuttle carbohydrates to muscle cells instead of fat stores. GDA’s are ideally used your a pre-training meal and any other meal that is not post-training, since you’re already insulin sensitive from training.
Focusing on my carb sources. I started being more mindful of whole foods and choosing those nutrient-dense sources over ‘fun’ carbs.
These are all small changes that made a big impact through consistency and trusting the plan. I started feeling back to myself again in just the first couple of weeks, and that pushed me even more to continue to work on this! In part 2, I’ll elaborate more on the next steps we made and how I am maintaining my progress.