Unlock Glucagon: Your Body's Fat Burning Hormone
Insulin vs glucagon: How they are affected by the foods you eat.
Written by Kelley Herring
This may come as a surprise, but burning body fat and sculpting a lean, healthy physique is not about eating less food. It’s about eating the right kinds of foods. If you’ve been reading Healing Gourmet for a while, you know that high-glycemic foods promote weight gain by stimulating the “fat-storage hormone,” insulin. But keeping your blood sugar stable with foods that have a low glycemic impact is only half the fat loss equation.The other half involves the “fat-burning hormone,” glucagon. By understanding the interplay between these two important hormones and how they are affected by the foods you eat, you can truly win the battle of the bulge.
The hormones insulin and glucagon are both produced in the pancreas, but that’s where their similarities end. In fact, these hormones are antagonistic or inversely paired. Just like a see-saw, when one goes up, the other goes down and when one goes down, the other goes up. These two hormones also serve opposite functions. The job of insulin is to lower your blood sugar by shuttling glucose into the muscles and liver as a source of energy. When glucose is present in your bloodstream, insulin blocks access to your body’s fat reserves. After all, why burn fat, when you have sugar around? Insulin also causes the body store excess glucose as fat. Glucagon can actually raise your blood sugar by converting glycerol in your fat cells into glucose for fuel. Glucagon also signals the fat cells to release free fatty acids (a process called lipolysis). Glucagon signals the body to release stored fat to be used as fuel.Numerous research studies illustrate the effects of these two opposing hormones. The simplest of these was featured in the Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology. In the study, researchers injected one group of rats with insulin and another group of rats with glucagon.The rats that received the insulin gained body fat and ate more. The rats that received the glucagon lost body fat. The take home message: Insulin promotes fat storage and it keeps you fat by blocking access to your fat reserves. Glucagon is essential for breaking down body fat and burning it for energy.
If you want to convert your body to a perpetual fat-burning state, it is essential that you keep your insulin and blood sugar levels low. That’s because burning sugar always takes precedence over burning fat. The more carbohydrates in your diet, the higher your blood sugar and insulin levels will be.And in the end, being a “sugar burner” means you’ll end up being a “fat accumulator”.But that’s not the worst of it, because once you get on the sugar-burning track, you’ve started a vicious cycle that’s hard to stop.Since your body is accustomed to burning sugar for energy, as soon as it is shuttled out of the bloodstream (courtesy of insulin), your body will start begging for it again. As your blood sugar rises and subsequently crashes, you will become edgy, depressed and fatigued until those cravings are fed. When you feed those cravings with more carb-rich food, the cycle continues.
As I mentioned earlier, the production of insulin and glucagon are like a see-saw. So the first thing you need to do to stimulate the production of glucagon is to reduce total carbohydrates in your diet and be sure those you choose are low glycemic.But there’s another important step to crank up your body’s production of glucagon: Eat a protein-rich diet!Protein directly stimulates the production of glucagon and sends the signal to your body that the “hunting is good” and it is safe to shed excess fat. Protein also promotes a long-lasting feeling of fullness, helping you to stay satisfied on a diet of fewer calories. Here are the high quality protein sources you should choose from and include at every meal and snack:
-Grass-fed beef and lamb
-Wild seafood (sardines, mackerel, wild salmon, etc)
-Game meats (bison, elk, rabbit, etc)
-Grass-fed whey protein
The plan for shedding fat and keeping it off forever is very simple and requires no deprivation.The key is to consume plenty of protein and healthy fats. And be sure that the carbs you choose are low glycemic and high in fiber. By eating this way, your hormonal state will shift from that of a “sugar burner” to a “fat burner.”You will soon discover that you feel more satisfied on less food. Your between-meal cravings will subside. And best of all, your metabolism will fire on all cylinders, locking your body into a perpetual fat-burning state.