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How Insulin Really Works: It Causes Fat Storage…But Doesn’t Make You Fat

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How Insulin Really Works: It Causes Fat Storage…But Doesn’t Make You Fat

Many people believe that insulin is to blame for the obesity epidemic. When you understand how it actually works, you’ll know why this is a lie.

 

Insulin has been taking quite a beating these days.

If we’re to listen to some “experts,” it’s an evil hormone whose sole goal is making us fat, type 2 diabetics.

Furthermore, we’re told that carbohydrates also are in on the conspiracy. By eating carbs, we open the insulin floodgates and wreak havoc in our bodies.

How true are these claims, though? Does it really make sense that our bodies would come with an insidious mechanism to punish carbohydrate intake?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s find out.

What is Insulin, Anyway?

Insulin is a hormone, which means it’s a substance the body produces to affect the functions of organs or tissues, and it’s made and released into the blood by the pancreas.

Insulin’s job is a very important one: when you eat food, it’s broken down into basic nutrients (protein breaks down into amino acids; dietary fats into fatty acids; and carbohydrates into glucose), which make their way into the bloodstream.

These nutrients must then be moved from the blood into muscle and fat cells for use or storage, and that’s where insulin comes into play: it helps shuttle the nutrients into cells by “telling” the cells to open up and absorb them.

So, whenever you eat food, your pancreas releases insulin into the blood. As the nutrients are slowly absorbed into cells, insulin levels drop, until finally all the nutrients are absorbed, and insulin levels then remain steady at a low, “baseline” level.

This cycle occurs every time you eat food: amino acids, fatty acids, and/or glucose find their way into your blood, and they’re joined by additional insulin, which ushers them into cells. Once the job is done, insulin levels drop to “normal” and the pancreas waits for us to eat food again and repeat the process.

What’s the Problem With Insulin, Then?

When explained like that, insulin sounds like an alright dude. We can’t live without it.

Why, then, is it viciously attacked by mainstream diet “gurus”? Why are we told it makes us fat and sick?

Because one of insulin’s vital roles in the body relates to fat storage: it inhibits the breakdown of fat cells and stimulates the creation of body fat. That is, insulin tells the body to stop burning its fat stores and instead, absorb some of the fatty acids and glucose in the blood and turn them into more body fat.

This makes it an easy target and scapegoat, and this is why the carbohydrate is often pilloried right next to it. The “logic” goes like this:

High-carb diet = high insulin levels = burn less fat and store more = get fatter and fatter

And then, as a corollary:

Low-carb diet = low insulin levels = burn more fat and store less = stay lean

At first glance, these statements sound plausible. Simple explanations are popular.

But they’re based on myths and pseudoscience.

Insulin Triggers Fat Storage…But It Doesn’t Make You Fat

One of the common charges against carbohydrates and insulin is that by eating a lot of carbs every day, your insulin levels will remain chronically high. This, in turn, (supposedly) causes weight gain because your body will constantly be in “fat storage mode” and rarely in “fat burning mode.”

It sounds good, but it’s a myth.

It’s true that insulin causes fat cells to absorb fatty acids and glucose and thus expand, but that’s not what causes you to get fatter over time…overeating does. 

If that doesn’t make sense to you, let’s quickly review how energy balance relates to fat gain and loss. Energy balance refers to the amount of energy you burn every day versus the amount you give your body via food.

  • If you give your body a bit more energy than it burns every day, a portion of the excess energy is stored as body fat, and thus you gain weight slowly
  • If you give your body a bit less energy than it burns every day, it will tap into fat stores to get the additional energy it needs, and thus you lose weight slowly

You see, any any given time, your body requires a certain amount of glucose in the blood to stay alive. This is vital fuel that every cell in the body uses to operate, and certain organs like the brain are real glucose hogs.

Now, when you eat food, you give your body a relatively large amount of energy (calories) in a short period of time. Glucose levels rise far above what is needed to maintain life, and instead of “throwing away” or burning off all excess energy, a portion is stored as body fat for later use.

Scientifically speaking, when your body is absorbing nutrients eaten and storing fat, it’s in the “postprandial” state (post meaning “after” and prandial meaning “having to do with a meal”). This “fed” state is when the body is in “fat storage mode.”

Once the body has finished absorbing the glucose and other nutrients from the food (amino acids and fatty acids), it then enters the “postabsorptive” state (“after absorption”), wherein it must turn to its fat stores for energy. This “fasted” state is when the body is in “fat burning mode.”

Your body flips between “fed” and “fasted” states every day, storing fat from food you eat, and then burning it once there’s nothing left to use from the meals. Here’s a simple graph from Weightology that shows this visually:

insulin-facts

The green portions are the periods where your body has excess energy due to food having been eaten. The blue portions are the periods when the body has no energy left from food and thus has to burn fat to stay alive.

If the green and blue portions balance out every day–if you store just as much fat as you burn–your weight stays the same. If you store more fat than you burn (by overeating), you get fatter. And if you burn more fat than you store, you get leaner.

This is the fundamental mechanism underlying fat storage and fat loss and it takes precedence over anything related to insulin or any other hormones in the body.

Simply put, you can’t get fatter unless you feed your body more energy than it burns, and you can’t get leaner unless you feed it less energy than it burns.

It doesn’t matter how many carbohydrates you eat or how high your insulin levels are throughout the day–this is the first law of thermodynamics at work. Fat stores can’t be increased without the provision of excess energy, nor can they be reduced without the restriction of energy.

That’s why research has shown that so long as they’re eating less energy than they’re burning, people lose fat equally well on high-carbohydrate or low-carbohydrate diets. That’s why professor Mark Haub was able to lose 27 pounds on a “convenience store diet” consisting mainly of Twinkies, Little Debbie cakes, Doritos, and Oreos: he simply fed his body less energy than it was burning.

The bottom line is your insulin levels and the amount of carbs you eat have little to do with losing or gaining weight–energy balance is the key.

(If you want to know more about carbohydrates and weight loss, and when low-carb dieting is actually better, check out this article.)

Insulin Isn’t the Only Substance That Triggers Fat Storage

You already know that insulin causes fat cells to absorb glucose and fatty acids. Well, there’s another reason it’s charged with causing weight gain.

Your fat cells contain an enzyme called hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL), which helps break down body fat into fatty acids to be burned. Insulin suppresses the activity of HSL, and thus is believed to further promote weight gain.

Well, something carb- and insulin-haters like to ignore is the fact that dietary fat also suppresses HSL, and thanks to an enzyme called acylation stimulating protein, your body doesn’t need high levels of insulin to store dietary fat as body fat.

This is why you can’t just eat as much dietary fat as you want and lose weight. And why research has shown that separating carbs and fats doesn’t affect weight loss (eating carbs and fats together or separately doesn’t change anything).

Once again, it comes back to energy balance–regularly give your body more energy than it burns, whether in the form of protein, carbohydrate, or fat, and you’ll get fatter.

Protein Stimulates Insulin Production Too

This is another fact low-carb “gurus” like to avoid.

High-protein, low-carbohydrate meals can cause more insulin to be released than high-carbohydrate meals. Whey protein in particular has been shown to be more insulinogenic than white bread. Beef stimulates just as much insulin release as brown rice.

And in case you think the insulin response to protein is more moderate and prolonged (as if this were somehow better), it’s not–protein causes a rapid rise in insulin followed by a rapid decline, just like carbs.

Ironically, a high-protein, high-fat meal causes more immediate fat storage than a high-carbohydrate meal because dietary fats are stored very efficiently as body fat.

Insulin Doesn’t Stimulate Hunger–It Does the Opposite

This is another myth bandied about, but it’s been disproved by clinical research.

In fact, research has demonstrated that the more insulinogenic a meal, the more full you feel as a result. This correlates with research demonstrating that high-carbohydrate meals induce more satiety (fullness) than high-fat meals.

Insulin Helps You Build Muscle

While insulin doesn’t directly induce protein synthesis like amino acids do, it does have anti-catabolic properties.

What that means is when insulin levels are elevated, the rate at which muscle proteins are broken down decreases. This, in turn, creates a more anabolic environment in which muscles can grow larger quicker.

That sounds good in theory, right? But does it pan in out clinical research? Yes, it does.

There are several studies that conclusively show that high-carbohydrate diets are superior to low-carbohydrate varieties for building muscle and strength.

Researchers at Ball State University found that low muscle glycogen levels (which is inevitable with low-carbohydrate dieting) impair post-workout cell signaling related to muscle growth.

study conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina found that when combined with daily exercise, a low-carbohydrate diet increased resting cortisol levels and decreased free testosterone levels. (Cortisol, by the way, is a hormone that breaks tissues, including muscle, down. In terms of maximizing muscle growth, you want low resting cortisol levels and high free testosterone levels.)

These studies help explain the findings of other research on low-carbohydrate dieting.

For example, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Rhode Island looked at how low- and high-carbohydrate intakes affected exercise-induced muscle damage, strength recovery, and whole body protein metabolism after a strenuous workout.

The result was the subjects on the low-carbohydrate diet (which wasn’t all that low, actually—about 226 grams per day, versus 353 grams per day for the high-carbohydrate group) lost more strength, recovered slower, and showed lower levels of protein synthesis.

In this study, researchers at McMaster University compared high- and low-carbohydrate dieting with subjects performing daily leg workouts. They found that those on the low-carbohydrate diet experienced higher rates of protein breakdown and lower rates of protein synthesis, resulting in less overall muscle growth than their higher-carbohydrate counterparts.

All this is why I never drop my carbohydrate intake lower than about .8 grams per pound of body weight when cutting (and yes I get to 6% body fat eating this many carbs per day), and I’ll go as high as 2 to 2.5 grams per pound when bulking.

Insulin Isn’t the Problem…Being Overweight and Sedentary Is

The bottom line with carbohydrate intake and insulin levels is this:

If you’re overweight and sedentary, regular intake of large amounts of carbohydrates is going to cause problems in the long run. Your body is going to have more and more trouble dealing with insulin, which can, over time, even develop into Type 2 diabetes, and you’re going to be at greater risk for heart disease.

If you stay lean, exercise regularly, and eat at least a reasonably sensible diet, you’ll never have these problems. You’ll maintain insulin sensitivity and your body will have plenty of use for the carbs you eat.

 

What did you think of this article on how insulin works? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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  • Elt31987

    Another Excellent Article!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

  • Justin

    great article i throughly apprciate the backing of proven research. i do have a few question i would like your opinion on though concerning high/low carb diets and those question are based around individauls body types. Ectomorphs, mesomorphs, and endomorphs
    i am personally a mix between a meso and endomorph.
    i have read hundreds of articles that state that endomorphs do much better at reducing body fat on a higher fat, lower carb regiment.

    I would like you take on this concerning high/low carbing and body types!
    Thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

      I don’t know of any research backing up those types of claims. Some people’s bodies do better with carbs than others’, and some people seem to oxidize fats better than others, but I don’t know of any broad “body type” applications of these things. It’s really an individual thing.

  • YES! as it says in this article, OVEREATING is the root cause of weight gain. People have a million of excuses and insulin is just another whipping boy. Thanks for this enlightening article.

    • Michael Matthews

      Exactly! Thanks!

      • Alan Ege

        Mike I have finally began to learn it wasn’t the carbs that were killing me. It was the sedentary lifestyle. Now I am active and have begun eating more carbs and don’t get scared when I see foods that I have a higher carb count than I have been eating. Thank you for all your help in getting me started in this muscle building journey.

        • Michael Matthews

          Smart Alan. I don’t know how many people I’ve told just that: if you just moved your body more you wouldn’t have to worry so much about calories, carbs, etc.

    • Philip

      Check out “Why we get fat- and what to do about it. by Gary taubes. Then I think you will change your perspective on the subject.

  • Nathan

    I love how you make complicated things simple to understand. When’s Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger coming out?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

      Launch starts in a couple of weeks!

  • Luke Sfair

    Hey Mike, great article!
    what do you think about TNT Diet?

    Anxious for your new book!
    you’ll talk about periodization, right?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

      Hadn’t heard of that until now but I just checked it out and it looks like another “carb timing” gimmick diet that overemphasizes the benefits of post-workout carbs?

      Just doesn’t matter that much.

      Yup! It’s launching in about 2 weeks!

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  • Marissa Georgiou

    Hi Mike, do most of these studies focus on males? Have you found that insulin response and the affect of carbs differ for females?

    • Michael Matthews

      No, they involve a combination of men and women. No, not particularly.

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  • Fakju

    Insulin tells your body to turn into “fat storage mode”but, there’s an another player in this game, his name is “glucagon”, it’s opposite to isnulin and that’s the point. Meat raises insulin + glucagon, carbs raises only insulin. No it really isn’t about how much calories can you burn a day. It’s about manipulating your hormones. Anyway you can just try it, Atkins diet. Just fats+meat = you can’t gain weight.

  • Nick

    Hey Mike, I recently changed my diet from a ketosis diet to a moderate-high carb diet. I am extremely active and know my macros well. I experienced about a 5 pound gain as soon as I made the switch. Would you assume its simply water retention? Is there any way to ease this?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yup that’s just water. Nothing to worry about.

  • Adel-Alexander

    Hey Mike, I was wondering.. I can’t really eat any Low GI-food at the moment due to my stomach not really handling insoluble fiber that well, so I actually try and opt for white rice instead brown rice etc etc, but I was wondering if there was something for me to do? Can you recommend some low GI foods but with a relatively low amount of fiber maybe?

    I usually have lots of energy, but I have to admit I have been struggeling a bit in the gym now and I don’t know if I should replace my current carbs, or just increase my calorie intake. Any ideas?

    • Michael Matthews

      Ah okay. White rice will be fine if you’re exercising regularly but I would recommend you get a variety of carbs.

      You can look into various fruits and veggies. Some have less fiber than others. Legumes and tubers too.

      How are your macros?

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

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  • Drew

    Thank you very much for this article. I have been doing keto and lost 30 pounds but now I bought your book and decided to follow what you have there. I have a question though, what is the best way to transition from keto to normal/high carb diet? I don’t want to get all my weight back!

    Thanks!

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  • Andrew

    Hi Mike,

    I have scoured your website and BLS to get a clearer answer on if eating high GI carbs will cause significant issues in either losing fat or building muscle?

    The issue here is that my family owns a potato packaging/distribution warehouse so I can get potatoes very cheap, and I love potatoes (standard brown russets).

    Will eating these on a daily basis really hurt my progress as long as I control my macros and calorie intake levels?

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey Andrew,

      Short answer: no, it won’t. I love potatoes too despite the fact that they are incredibly high-GI when baked.

      You’ll be fine.

      • BoandTanya Krop

        Boiled potatoes were rated higher than lean proteins on the satiety index with a score of over 300%. Cooled boiled potatoes (like potato salad) should be very low glycemic (I would presume) due to their very high resistant starch content.

        • Yeah they’re great for satiety and you know I’m not sure if GI would come down as they cool, as they are changed through the cooking process.

          Either way I wouldn’t worry about the GI of potatoes unless you were eating absurd amounts of them every day.

    • BoandTanya Krop

      I’m curious about your perspective on de novo lipogenesis being quite low on those eating high carb diets. Indicating that carbs are inefficiently converted into stored body fat even if consumed above calorie needs. What do you think? Are carbs almost always exclusively oxidized except in very rare over feeding experiments? And is the fat you eat really the fat you wear (to paraphrase Dr. McDougall of The Starch Solution)?

      • Generally speaking yes DNL costs about 25% of the energy contained in the carb but ultimately how well your body is at oxidizing vs. storing comes down to current circumstances and genetics.

        Some people DO gain more fat from overfeeding carbs than others.

        Same goes with dietary fats, even though they’re much more easily stored as fat.

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  • davehorne

    If you eat exactly the number of calories to maintain your weight – not get heavier or lighter – _and_ if I inject you with insulin with every meal, you’ll get fat.

    How do you explain that?

  • ankita

    U Mentioned 20 % Carbs intake in one of ur articles.for fat loss nd here u say 0.8 g per lb body weight.which shd b followed?

    • Vladimir Lialine

      Great article. The info is correct, but incomplete. Fat and protein calories require a tremendous energy expansion. Upto 50% of its energy is used in metobolic processes, where simple sugar requires almost no calorie expansion to be digested. When you eat heavy your blood sugar drops, which will trigger cortisol release. Maintain steady blood sugar levels with simple carbs and your metabolism will sky rocket…

      • That’s not true. The thermic effect of dietary fat is actually quite low. Carbs cost about 25% of energy to digest and process.

  • ScarlettDuchess

    I had severe insulin resistance and I never overate due to a poor appetite. I only lost weight when cutting out the sugar in my diet.

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  • Megha Bormudai

    I get so happy just by reading your articles. It’s like… a great stress free environment that creates around me when I read them. And I get all boosted as I know what is the real factor helping in my weight loss and muscle build up. Must say AMAZING… and yes THANK YOU.

    • Happy to hear you’re enjoying the articles. 🙂

      LMK if you have any questions.

      YW!

  • Mandrakora

    ” This correlates with research demonstrating that high-carbohydrate meals induce more satiety (fullness) than high-fat meals.”
    I liked your article, but I think you have to be very specific while talking about the carbs you are eating, its not the same a High carb diet from junk food, than from fruits and whole cereals.
    If you are on a high carb diet from junk and processed food, you´ll be creating and adiction on high sugar foods and binging on those foods, so you wont feel full for a long time. You´ll also be overstimulating the reward system on the brain, and affecting leptin hormone.
    Thanks for your work!

    • Thanks for the comment! That’s true to a point but it depends what you consider “junk” and “processed” foods…

  • Rajeev Samuel

    “Insulin Triggers Fat Storage…But It Doesn’t Make You Fat”

    Michael Matthews really? I have been on the ketogenic diet for over a year now and I have to say without a doubt that carbohydrates trigger insulin and make you fat.

    There are only four grams of glucose in the bloodstream. If it goes to six you go into a diebetic coma and die – do you really want to eat carbs now?

    • Did you even read the article?

      Also relevant:

      https://legionathletics.com/ketogenic-diet/

      • Rajeev Samuel

        Did YOU read my comment about the four grams of glucose in your bloodstream? Do you understand what a control system is? You eat 500 grams of carbs in the form of rice. If your glycogen stores are full it gets converted into fat. Look at the obesity crisis and you are going to tell me in good concious that I’m not right really? The energy balance theory of thermodynamics can only be applied to components with single control systems like car engines (which only control one fuel source – gasoline) not humans (which have five sources of fuel – alcohol, fructose, glucose, glutamine, fat).

        Fyi – when I put myself in keto I do HIIT and deadlifts everyday to get there faster – weekends socializing is tough to avoid alcohol and carbs. Thank god for C4. I tried bringing grains back into my life over the summer and I gained 15 pounds. And it’s protein that induces satiety(fullness) not fat.

        • So much wrong here but honestly it sounds like you’ve already made up your mind so believe what you want.

          Just know you’re making things far more complicated than they have to be.

          • Rajeev Samuel

            Well I say you are a liar and a dumbass. When you get an engineering degree and take a course called thermodynamics you will be allowed to tell me that I’m wrong 🙂

  • Ozan

    Hello. I am 32 years old insulin sensitive man. For 2 years I am lifting weights 3 to 5 times a week. Trying to eat as much as healthy I can. But my muscles are neither growing nor I am getting any stronger. I am taking mutli vitamins, fish oil in the morning. Amino acids and bcaa during workout. Whey protein after work out. Creatine and glutamine post workout and casein protein before sleeping. I am avoiding carbs etc. But the improvement of my body is very very slow. Do you have any recommendation for me.

  • Arnq

    Wow, so you’re saying that a prediabetic or diabetic person can eat all the bread or pasta they want and it will have zero effect on their weight gains or losses? That’s just not true. This post refers only to insulin sensitivity in normal people. People who have insulin resistance or prediabetes and those with diabetes maintain higher levels of insulin for longer than a normal person would, so their fat loss due to reduces insulin is decreased comparatively. Also due to the over production of insulin they store more fat than a normal person might in the first place, meaning that less of it makes it’s way out of the body. Not everyone absorbs the same amount of cals from the same meal, some people pass some of those cals out, others absorb them all. The same is true for fats. Now back to the claim that there is no connection between carbs, insulin, and weight gain… you yourself have contradicted this many times in other places on this site. I know that most of this information is geared to normal healthy people, but there is little to no information out there for insulin resistant people to go from being in an unhealthy to a healthy state, sometimes they land here, lured by the fact that you actually sound like an informed individual, but all they find is ‘no you don’t have a legit illness, you’re just a fatty that can’t keep their mouth shut.” Super hash man.

    • When metabolic disorders enter the picture, things change. I talk about this all the time, lol.

      That said, things don’t have to change as much as some people think. I’ve worked with thousands (literally) of very overweight people that have done fantastically well with a high-protein, high-carb diet that was laid out properly.

      You can find plenty of examples of the same in the literature.

    • Andrei Jerdetski

      Well said, couldn’t agree more. “you are fat because you overeat, so its your flault” is what i got out of the article, which is plain wrong and relying on several limited studies is somewhat absurd. Ketosis (a term you failed to mention even once) is proven to make people loose weight and im sure you know a human body gets into the state of ketosis. In the comments below some just said they gained 5 pounds when they switched to higher card diet. Water retention, are kidding me, 5 pounds? You have to understand that not only healthy insulin tolerant people will look at this article, truth is A LOT on people are very sensitive and not necessarily diabetic.

  • amanda

    I have learned so much from you’re writing – it’s my go to when I’m looking things up. THANK YOU SO MUCH! !!

  • waleed arda

    I couldn't agree with you more.  Insulin is not a third party playing by its own rules. It conforms to the nature of the meal and removes the trafficking nutrients to their targeted stores.  In that sense it should be looked at as Blood clearer rather than cell's opener. Insulin serves to keep all the nutrients in their stores and regulate their reentry to the blood in a orderly fashion. If it weren't for the insulin; the blood would be fully saturated with glucose and fatty acids waiting to be used as energy but wreaking havoc on blood vessels. Insulin resistance is a normal healthy response where the body needs more insulin to keep the fat in place but less insulin to avoid hypoglacemia. The body  to induce IR to do this brilliant  trick. The only problem  is when the pancreas reaches its full capacity and can no longer satisfy bodily requirements of insulin, and this is when diabetes comes to surface.

  • Andrei Jerdetski

    Everything you say in your article has been disprove by extensive research (apart from insulin for muscle growth)

    ‘Once again, it comes back to energy balance–regularly give your body more energy than it burns, whether in the form of protein, carbohydrate, or fat, and you’ll get fatter.’

    In the classic force-feeding studies, volunteers can be made to gain weight in the short-term by massive overfeeding. However, the body responds dynamically: the volunteers lose all interest in food and their metabolic rate tends to increase in the body’s attempt to burn off the excess calories. Indeed, volunteers in overfeeding studies characteristically report feeling intensely uncomfortable. Once the protocol ends, weight typically decreases back to baseline [Leibel, Roberts, Norgan, Sims] — a phenomenon that has also been well documented with experimental animals. Consistent with the Insulin-Carbohydrate model, the metabolic responses protecting against long-term weight gain with overfeeding may not fully engage when excess calories are provided primarily as high glycemic load carbohydrate (candy) rather than protein and fat (peanuts) [Claesson].

    ‘Insulin Doesn’t Stimulate Hunger–It Does the Opposite’

    The metabolic problems following a high glycemic load meal occur several hours after eating. The review by Guyenet from 20 years ago examined glycemic and insulinemic responses 2 hours after the meal. As extensively reviewed [Ludwig], the metabolic problems with high glycemic load foods emerge in the late postprandial period (after about 3 to 5 hours), when availability of metabolic fuels is reduced [Ludwig, Walsh, Ludwig, Roberts]. Analyses that fail to distinguish between early effects (when blood glucose surges) and later effects (when metabolic fuels decrease) will be uninformative

  • Andrei Jerdetski

    Ok here we go.

    ‘Once the body has finished absorbing the glucose and other nutrients from the food (amino acids and fatty acids), it then enters the “postabsorptive” state (“after absorption”), wherein it must turn to its fat stores for energy. This “fasted” state is when the body is in “fat burning mode.”’

    The problem is that the body will enter into fat burning mode as you call it much later as the glucose levels in blood remain elevated for longer from carbohydrate rich meal http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23483989 , low carb meal (60% fat 10% carb) and it is not only until 180 minutes after the meal when carb rich food finally catches up. Which is when referring to your own word will mean that so called fat burning mode will happen much later when compared to high fat meal.

    ‘Well, something carb- and insulin-haters like to ignore is the fact that dietary fat also suppresses HSL, ‘
    Perphaps, but the true effect of the study requires further research, the subjects were not given proper meals not even junk meals.

    ‘Protein Stimulates Insulin Production Too’

    Agree with you on that with a big BUT protein stimulates the release of Glucagon while carbs do not. There is a positive link between Glucagon and satiety, i.e. you stay fuller for longer.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6635010

    ‘Insulin Doesn’t Stimulate Hunger–It Does the Opposite’

    Wrong. The study you are referring to looked at 4 hour interval. A quote from Dr Ludwig:

    As extensively reviewed [Ludwig], the metabolic problems with high glycemic load foods emerge in the late postprandial period (after about 3 to 5 hours), when availability of metabolic fuels is reduced [Ludwig, Walsh, Ludwig, Roberts]. Analyses that fail to distinguish between early effects (when blood glucose surges) and later effects (when metabolic fuels decrease) will be uninformative.

    Further to support this refer to http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3590159/figure/pone-0058172-g002/, low fat high carb meal had the highest hunger rating, the food that spiked insulin the most (the same link).

    and finally

    ‘It’s true that insulin causes fat cells to absorb fatty acids and glucose and thus expand, but that’s not what causes you to get fatter over time…overeating does.’

    While this study http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19396658 compared one extreme with another (candy and peanuts), showed that carb diet had more negative effect on metabolism. To expand on that i will quote Dr Ludwig once again

    In the classic force-feeding studies, volunteers can be made to gain weight in the short-term by massive overfeeding. However, the body responds dynamically: the volunteers lose all interest in food and their metabolic rate tends to increase in the body’s attempt to burn off the excess calories. Indeed, volunteers in overfeeding studies characteristically report feeling intensely uncomfortable. Once the protocol ends, weight typically decreases back to baseline [Leibel, Roberts, Norgan, Sims] — a phenomenon that has also been well documented with experimental animals. Consistent with the Insulin-Carbohydrate model, the metabolic responses protecting against long-term weight gain with overfeeding may not fully engage when excess calories are provided primarily as high glycemic load carbohydrate (candy) rather than protein and fat (peanuts) [Claesson].

    • Thanks for the comment!

      Playing poker with studies (“I’ll see your low-fat, high-carb study and raise you two low-carb, high-fat studies!”) is silly and gets nowhere.

      What is your point/position?

      • Andrei Jerdetski

        My point is no dietary argument is black and white and also that the traditional “calorie in, calorie out” diet is outdated. “You are getting fat because you overeat” is the excuse used by junk food companies for decades. Coca-Cola recently “donated” to a research which would support exercise over a diet. http://www.smh.com.au/business/consumer-affairs/what-cocacola-isnt-telling-you-about-its-health-funding-in-australia-20160217-gmx3l3

        Yes, your body needs to burn more energy than it consumes to lose weight, no question. Calorie in, calorie out approach should be easiest way to shed killos, so is the lack of will power to blame for the obesity epidemic? We are consuming more calories from carbs (and most highly importantly processed carbs) than ever in the human history.

        The research I cited supports an argument that insulin spiking carb foods make you hungrier over the long term [emphasis added] and fighting the hunger will only slow down your metabolism, meaning your body will be burning reduced amount of calories on idle, so you have to eat even less BUT your brain will respond by slowing down the metabolism even more. Unless you got an incredibly strong will power, you will give in to hunger and chances are you will reach for that highly process piece of carb thus starting the vicious cycle again.

        This is not so much of an issue for a fitness freak who will work out and use the blood glucose from carbs very quickly, hence entering into ‘fat burning mode’ quickly. Building muscles with carbs for that person is hardly a hurdle. But what about an office clerk on 50 hours working week (as I am for example), 3 kids and little or no time to exercise, I’m still relatively young (early 30s), no diabetes and can still force myself to exercise at 10pm when kids are asleep.

        I can speak from personal experience that high fat diet decreased my long term hunger (by high fat I mean 50%, 30% low GL carbs, and 20% protein) when I started it I was 91kgs and 180cm, now I’m 85kgs and have no idea how many calories (because I stopped counting) are in my meals, my life style otherwise stayed exactly the same.

        • Alok Mishra

          So as if I ask you about my meal plan what it should be? Low carb high protein or high carb high protein or high carb low protein. Being 85kg and I am 25.

        • That’s great you’ve found something that works well for you but keep in mind I’ve worked with thousands of people and am speaking from that experience.

          If someone is overweight and sedentary, low-carb is a good call. Carbs are primarily energetic so if you’re not burning a lot of energy, you have no need for them.

          If someone is exercising regularly, though, and especially if they’re lifting weights regularly, they are probably going to have an overall better dieting experience on a higher-carb diet.

          • Jo Mormont

            I agree with you but what does higher carb actually entail? How many grams of carbs are we talking about here ballpark wise as far as macros are concerned?

          • Eh yeah around there. I consider .5g/lb of bodyweight or lower low-carb dieting.

        • JML

          Really appreciate your comments. Context is key to proper comprehension.

        • The Poetry Lady

          Andrei, you have managed to explain my life! I’m joking but I’m not. You have shared the only plausible explanation I’ve found as to why the calories in calories out regime ends up backfiring on me after I’ve cleaned houses all day and burned 700+ calories, yet still have a slow go at not only losing weight but sticking to the regime.

        • Jerome Bryson

          Exactly. An outdated and incomplete explanation. I hope people can grasp this…even the ones that seem totally EDUCATED on the subject. But the 1st Law of Thermal dynamics has everything to do with PHYSICS, NOT PHYSIOLOGY. The food industry…the health industry have all used this application for decades. And you wanna know what has happened over those decades? An gargantuan rise in diabetes and obesity. So please, stop shoving this know-it-all/matter of fact knowledge down our throats.
          Some of us know a whole hell of alot more about how this all works now.

  • Forrest

    Can you explain why type 1 diabetics who don’t get insulin waste away, but those who do gain weight? There is now a phenomenon known as Diabulimia which describes type 1 diabetics who purposely don’t take their insulin to lose weight. This is regardless of how many calories they take in. This at least points to a correlation, if not causation, that insulin is a dynamic player in weight management, unless you know something I don’t?

    • I’ve worked with quite a few people with T1D that don’t experience any of that. They do quite well, actually.

      • BROBRO

        Mike, I’m a type 1 diabetic for 30+ years. I don’t produce any insulin naturally. If I stop taking my insulin (which is essentially the condition every type 1 finds themselves in when we are diagnosed), I lose a ton of weight very quickly while my blood sugars remain sky high. This is a situation of “glucose glucose everywhere, but not a drop to drink.”. With no insulin present, the body is forced to tap into fat stores for survival and large ketones are produced This is not scientifically controversial. Someone shifting to a low carb diet is essentially forcing themselves into this low insulin state, and it’s not at all surprising that weight loss would follow. I know in my own experience as a well controlled diabetic that if I take a total daily dose of less than 70 units of insulin a day, I tend to lose weight. I don’t need to guess because I have empirical data to prove it in my continuous blood sugar data, my total daily insulin data from my pump, and my body weight trends as it maps to this data.

        There is cognitive dissonance when someone on one hand acknowledges that insulin is responsible for fat retention, but on the other hand says “energy in, energy out”, which is broadly true but not specific enough to body metabolism to be meaningful or relevant.

        The real answer to “how do I lose weight” is not “stop overeating” but rather “stop overeating foods that stimulate insulin production.”

    • Daniel Plotkin

      Type 1 diabetics gaining weight on insulin isn’t a sure thing, lots of factors are at play here. Not taking insulin as a type 1 diabetic however will make you lose weight, you are essentially leaving your body with potentially no means to utilize glucose(among other processes necessary for nutrient partitioning) but this is extremely dangerous for numerous reasons the most acute being life threatening ketoacidosis. Please don’t do that.

  • Hey Mike! Awesome article.
    Question I have after reading this is, if Whey protein spikes insulin levels, is it preferable to not have a shake before a workout and just take BCAA rather for pre-workouts, and just get more of a natural protein from Fish, meats etc? Or is it a case of using whey moderately to maximize protein synthesis? Thanks in advance!

  • Darth Folwart

    Pseudoscience. Sit down, quit posting.

  • Erik Rokisky

    Hey mike, check out the insulin and serotonin relationship! I think it might interest you.. great article! http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pbio.1000227

  • Jay Vincent

    okay you are missing one huge point here. What makes us sedentary and fat? Chronically elevated insulin does. When insulin levels are spiked, the result is insulin resistance. Insulin resistance causes internal starvation of the muscle cell. This causes a majority of the calories you eat to be shunted to body fat rather than lean tissue which is essentially causing your body to starve. In order to survive, the body “thinks” it must eat more (gluttony) and move less (sloth) to provide enough survival energy for lean tissue.

    Elevated insulin levels also inhibit Ghrelin and Leptin from reaching the hypothalumus Ghrelin tells you when youve eaten enough and to stop eating. Leptin signals your body to stop storing energy and fat cells and to burn it. (The cost of carrying the extra weight out-weighs the benefit ofextra energy reserved).

    This is the cause of fat storage and the obesity epidemic. not too many CARBS, but too much SUGAR and REFINED CARBS. Carbs which contain fiber slow the rise in blood sugar and are great to eat. So carbs should not be villianized, but foods with a High Glycemic Load should.

    • Jay Vincent

      I’d like to make one more compelling point that might seem interesting. Our metabolism evolved over what… 1 million years or so? It evolved based on what is available in our environment. If you were to hunt/gather food as all animals did over the course of that period of time, what would they find? Meat, a small amount of fruits and berries (when they’re in blood), some veggies depending on availability and a lot of calories would come from meat fat. The least abundant macronutrient you would find is carbohydrate, and NO refined carbohydrates.

      This is the first time in evolutionary history where carbohydrates (more specifically refined carbs and sugar) are abundant and excessively eaten. Our metabolism is not involved to accommodate this huge amount of glucose. In response, we become fat, insulin resistant, chronically inflamed and sick. If you plot a chronological curve of average carb intake vs obesity rates over the last hundred years, they go hand in hand.

      If anybody can find a logical counter argument, please feel free to share. But to me, it’s obvious.

      • The Paleo mythology makes for good marketing but not good science. I talk about it here:

        http://www.muscleforlife.com/the-definitive-guide-to-the-paleo-diet/

        And again, these articles are relevant:

        http://www.muscleforlife.com/glycemic-index/

        https://legionathletics.com/low-sugar-diet/

        • BoogerSanchez

          Neither is your stuff. Calories are not anything. Energy is simply a number as Alan Guth notes.

        • Emmie

          The Paleo mythology really is exactly that, a mythology. As an Archaeologist I can clear this up. The only reason we think cave man ate a lot of meant is purely based on Hollywood and the fact that bone survives in the archaeological record wheras organic matter does not. Ancient man survived on a diet of legumes, pulses and berries.

          • John W Smith

            You are absolutely correct. To believe otherwise is promoting the ‘Donner Party hypothesis’; that is, what some geographically isolated humans and protohominids ate to survive somehow translates into the best diet for humans. It is wrong headed. Both Richard Leaky and Charles Darwin stated unequivocally that humans and our human ancestors were frugivores and herbivores. Our distant ancestor’s teeth (molars) show the adaptation to eating vegetation from a period of some 27 million years ago. We lost the ability to synthesize vitamin C. because we no longer needed to, since we ate large amounts of fruit that contained the vitamin. All carnivores must synthesize the vitamin. All carnivores lap water; herbivores sip water. Humans have binocular vision and color perception to find ripe fruits, and dexterous hands to peel and manipulate them. These adaptations preceded hunting, as opposed to being gradually acquired once we started hunting. There is not a single anatomical or physiological adaptation that demonstrates that we are carnivores. Let’s have any readers of this list even one please.

      • Josie Q

        Everything you say is true, Jay. Mike is an idiot and his article is shit.

      • Jess Walters

        I totally agree with you. This is what I studied in my human metabolism class. Calories in vs. calories out is not the best way of looking at fat loss. The human body varies and does not exactly follow the laws of physics. To look at weight loss…the laws of biology need to be looked at. While yes, eating less calories can lead to weight loss for many it can slow the metabolism down and once people start eating more calories…that are supposed to be maintenance level they start gaining weight again. The quality of the calorie does make a difference and hormones play a huge part in fat gain and loss.

      • Honey has been eaten for a long time.

        Cave paintings in Spain from 7000BC show beekeeping. Fossils of honey bees date back about 150 million years.

        So people have been eating carbs for a long time.

        And it’s over ⅓ fructose.

      • Sheri Knauer

        I agree with you Jay. It only makes sense. These refined carbs and sugars were pushed on people and being touted as convenient, affordable, and good for you by the govt, food (mainly big oil and sugar) and pharmacy industries and eggs, fat, butter etc were vilified by shoddy manipulated studies funded by these same people who want to make a profit from selling there fake food manufactured in their factories. And lets not even talk about all the physicians who don’t care to do any kind of research regarding diet and nutrition and go by what they learned in chapter 6 in medical school 30 years ago. All a lot of them do nowadays is if you have a symptom, prescribe a pill. Tell them to eat low fat and high carb, they get diabetes. Prescribe more pills and tell them they eat too much, they eat less and continue to gain weight and diabetes gets worse, prescribe more insulin and tell patient they must not be eating the right foods (when they are or at least what they are told are the right foods). prescribe more insulin because we all know the best thing to do when you are insulin resistant and have too much insulin in your blood is inject more into it. Tell your patient that there is nothing that can be done, its their own fault for not following their advice about what to eat, that diabetes is genetic and progressive and just start saving up for your funeral…………….

      • Casadejoe

        Well said. Once I started to treat insulin as the main culprit I was able to lose weight and get off my insulin. Being overweight and grazing throughout the day keeps ones insulin level high, which promotes fat storage. LCHF works well for me along with an 8 hour feeding window. I wish more people would at least give it a try before they knock it down.

    • John W Smith

      “When insulin levels are spiked, the result in insulin resistance”. Wrong. Insulin resistance is due to intramyocellular fat or lipid, as well as blood lipids following a meal high in fat. The fat peroxidizes, forming toxic substances including free radicals, that prevent insulin from attaching to the cells’ now damaged hormone receptor sites. Therefore, insulin remains in the blood stream, does not allow glucose to enter the cell,, allowing the glucose to remain in the blood, and induces fatty plaques on the intima or lining of the blood vessels. So, the true source of insulin resistance is high fat levels in body tissues and the blood from a diet relatively high in fat. Though fatty acids are indeed essential, they should only constitute around 12 to 15% of the diet, an amount easily attained with a plant based diet.

  • Daniel Breez

    This article talks primarily about the effects of insulin on weight gain or loss, and how it is not relevant to MOST relatively lean people in terms of gaining or losing fat. BUT, there are certain conditions that people have which do make it harder to lose weight with a high carb diet. Do you have any knowledge on women with PCOS? From what I’ve researched, they are very insulin resistant and will do better with a high fat/low carb diet.

    • That’s true. There are certain medical or physical conditions where people won’t do well with carbs. Generally speaking though, if you’re a healthy adult that’s active, lean and sticks to a reasonably well-balanced and nutritious diet, carbs won’t be an issue.

      I talk more about this here:

      https://legionathletics.com/ketogenic-diet/

      LMK what you think!

  • Greg Mueller

    What you eat, not just how much, impacts how your body partitions and stores fat. You are missing a key nuance of the first law of thermodynamics as it applies to fat storage. I recommend you read this article and skip to concept #5 if you want to get to the point.

    http://eatingacademy.com/nutrition/do-calories-matter

    • That’s true to a point, but it doesn’t negate energy balance.

      I talk about nutrient partitioning all over the place, but here’s a good primer:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/macronutrient-calculator/

      • BoogerSanchez

        Stop abusing energy. Energy is not itself ANYTHING. CALORIES DO NOT EVEN EXIST.

      • BoogerSanchez

        As Feynman said you cannot use energy, an abstract mathematical fiction as ANY KIND OF EXPLANATION FOR ANY PHENOMENON. CALLING YOUR ANTI-TAUBES BULLSHIT OUT!

        TAUBES IS BRILLIANT. HIS WORK HAS REFUTED THE CAOOROE MODEL. WE JUST DO NOTMHABE A REPLACEMENT MODEL.

  • Cleethorpes

    Raising insulin raises IGF-1. Protein raises insulin too, but high glycaemic carbs are the worst offenders. No matter how satiating some people report insulin to be, the effects of IGF-1 on chronic health are detrimental.

    • IF you’re sedentary, sure, as IGF-1 makes everything grow. But if you’re physically active, and especially if you train your muscles regularly, IGF-1 is your friend.

      • Taylor Kuzik

        How active are we talking about here? I workout 5-6 days a week with 1 rest day. I don’t do a low calorie diet because that is a recipe for disaster. I have a physical job Monday-Friday for 4 hours that involves pushing and lifting of various weight. That hourly shift goes up during Christmas shopping.

        • You’re very active my friend.

          • Taylor Kuzik

            So in turn, your calorie needs will be higher than the person who is sedentary or has a desk job. Also, how food is ranked on the GI scale determines how much insulin is released. Food like most fruits and veggies are low GI and thus hardly have any effect on insulin. Fast digesting or highly processed foods cause your insulin to spike. That’s why blood sugar stability is important whether building muscle, burning fat or maintaining/improving your body composition.

          • Yep

    • John W Smith

      Your body needs essentially no external sources of IGF I. What makes all animal protein sources so dangerous is that they add large amounts of Insulin – Like Growth Factors, and other growth factors: Transformation Factors A and B, Platelet like growth factor, etc.. These are all necessary for tissue repair, but the body makes plenty of them, and does not need, and cannot benefit from large amounts of extraneous growth factors. To the contrary, they are cancer cell promoters, and should be avoided. How? By eating a plant based diet.

  • Samuels90

    Hi Mike,

    Im curious, when you are cutting to 6% how much protein would you take in and how much dietry fats?

  • Martin351

    You are so far off the mark it’s not even funny lol. You are missing a very big piece of the equation, in fact 50% of it; fasting insulin levels. Not only that your “overeating” cause of weight gain is completely off the mark as well and has been refuted in 75 years of studies.

    So fasting insulin, what is it you ask Mike? Well what does it sound like? Baseline insulin levels taken while fasting. Everybody has a fasting insulin level; there is always insulin floating around in the body, but obese people have HIGHER levels.

    When someone eats their fasting insulin level is multiplied by 5-7x, and a good or desired fasting level is somewhere between 3-8 micro-grams. So a person with a low fasting insulin level (lets say 5 here), will eat and it will multiply their sinulin up to 25-35 micro-grams. This is still relatively low, and it doesn’t have far to go to get back down to baseline. The main point here is the baseline insulin is low, therefore the body has more access to it’s fat stores, simple as that.

    Now someone who has insulin problems (which is evident with obesity), might have a fasting insulin level of 30-50 micro-grams. Using 50 as an example, multiply that by 5-7x we get 250-350 micrograms. Insulin is far too high completely blocking fat burning. Not only that, their fasting insulin level is also to high to adequately dip into their fat stores so the fat remains. This is exactly why some people who restrict their carbohydrates still can’t lose weight, their fasting insulin level is far to high.

    This is only alleviated by fasting or extended fasts, and no this is not caloric restriction. The way your body treats caloric restriction is far different than avoiding food. When it caloric restricts, it simply re-adjusts it’s metabolism for the amount of calories taken. Drop from 2000 to 1200, fine, the body simply drops the metabolism down to 1200. Either way, food is coming in so it’s happy.

    Fasting on the other hand it treats different; metabolism doesn’t slow, it stays the same and even amps up. This is natural when you think about it from an ancestral standpoint, your body sees no food coming in so it must keep the energy level high so you can go out and kill that animal and get some food. If one fasted, the body is not stupid, and just allow it’s energy to deplete to 0, stopping someone from acquiring food.

    Either way, no matter how you look at it, it’s insulin, it has everything to do with insulin. People who are shredded and cut up, have low fasting insulin levels. Obese people and the average person will have higher levels; anybody can test it, and anybody can see the correlation.

    Your over eating assumption is flat out wrong. There are many people (me included) who stalled and gained weight eating 1200-1500, but then lost weight rapidly when caloric intake was quadrupled to over 6000 calorie daily.

    Caloric output is what counts and it does not stay the same on a caloric restrictive diet. Come on, you have to give the human body more credit than that; it knows exactly what you’re doing. Think of it this way, if you make $100,000 annually and spend $100,000 annually; if you suddenly made $50,000 annually, would you continue to spend $100,000 or lower it to $50,000…

    Think about it, nobody is that stupid, and neither is the human body.

    • PaulfromWal

      Well said, and I wish these “fitness experts” would start using a little common sense here. Of course someone with a low fasting insulin can eat nearly anything they want and calorie restrict or over-consume and it will have little effect on their weight. It may bounce up and down, +/- 5lbs.

      For other people, this isn’t the case. The average person will have higher fasting insulin levels to begin with, and as you said, obese people’s levels will be even higher. You can’t tell an obese person to simply eat less and move more, because their metabolism will simply drop. This has been proven over how many decades ago? There is a 99% failure rate with CICO dieting.

      Bottom line, a person with lower fasting insulin levels will have better access to their fat stores and better blood sugar control. A life time of carbs and watching calories will change this from the worse due to carbs effect on insulin levels, and cortisol’s affect on blood sugar. Caloric restriction causes elevated stress hormone, and in obese people, the amplification of this is larger.

  • BoogerSanchez

    You, Mike Matthews are a physics illiterate charlatan salesman. Stop abusing physics. Can we infer the behavior of mammalian fat cells from the conservation of energy principle? THAT ANSWER IS HELL NO.Obesity is very poorly understood and fat cell dysregulation has unknkwns and uncertainty the size of the Pacific Ocean….. Fat cells are goberned by HORMONES-STUFF. ENERGY IS NOT AT ALL A THING OR STUFF OR ANY KIND OF CONSTITUENT OF THE UNIVERSE. PURWLY ABSTRACT MATHEMATICAL FICTIONL NOTHING MOREL USEFUL, BUT ONLY A NUMBER. ATOMS ARE AN ACTUAL ENTITY.

    Energy is NOT itself anything, you retard. Energy is merely an abstract property , a chacrgeristic of actual stuff, oike ATOMS.

    Energy is ONLY A NUMBER. YES YOU READ THAT RIGHTL FEYNMAN HIMSELF STRESSED THIS. YOU CANNOT UEE ENERGY AS ANY KIND OF EXOLANATION FOR ANY PHENOMENON, YOU CHARKATAN. I HABE HAD IT WITH YOUR [email protected] AND JAMES KRIEGER’S ABUSE OF OHYSICS AND SCIENCE TO FOOL THE PUBLICL I HAVE TALKED TO WORLD CLASS PHYSICUSTS AND I AM HERE TO CALL YOU OUT.

    THE CALORIE MODEL IS WRONG. IT TOTALLY FAILS UNDER THE HARSHEST EXTREME CONDITIONS OF OOBERTY AS TAUBES POIMTS OUT. NOR IS THE PHONY MODEL EVEN AN ACCURATE DESCRIPTION OF WHAT IS GOING ON…….

    EAT, LESS, MOVE MORE IS TOTALLY WRONG. GET OVER IT. GENUINE SCIENCE HAS MOVED AWAY FROM THAT AND ONTO GUT FLORA, GENETICS, GENE DEFECTS ETC.

    CALORIES ARE TOTALLY FICTITIOUS. Joukes, calories !BTU, NO DIFFERENCE AT ALL. ALL THESE UNITS TO MEASURE THE SAME MATHEMATICAL FICTION CALLED ENERGY.

    PEOPLE EAT CARBON ATOMS, YOU FOOL ATOMS DO NOT BURN OFF OR BURN AWAY.

    STOP MISUSING ENERGY AND LEARN WHAT IT IS. PURELY ABSTRACT NUMBER. AND THIS NUMBER IS NOT EVEN CONSERVED WHEN THEIR IS NO TIME TRANSLATIONAL INVARIANCE, SUCH AS THE EXPANDING UNUVERSE AS PHYSICIST, DR. SEAN CARROLL POINTS OUT. GOOGLE : SEAN CARROLL ENERGY IS NOT CONSERVED”

    THERE ARE NO LAWS IN SCIENCE, NO LAW EVER TURNED OIT TRUE. BOYLE? NO. NEWTON? NO. OHM’S “LAW”? NO

    OUR LAWS OR PRINCIPLES ARE ONKY OUR VEEY FALLIBLE BEST GUESSES OF HKW THINGS WORK-THESE GUESSES WENT THROUGH THE SIEVE A BIT. LAWS AND PRINCIPLES ARE TOTALLY TENTATIVE.

    WE ONLY HAVE THEORIES. THERMODYNAMICS IS A SCAKE DEPENDENT MACROSCOPIC T H E O R Y.

    Onesity is understood through the frameworks of BIOCHEMISTRY AND GENETICS, NOT PHYSICS YOU SCAMMING BUTT HOLE. PHYSICISTS, LIKE DRL GAVIN CROOKS, (WORLD CLASS in thermodynamic theory) STRESSED THIS. NOBEL LAUREATES THINK HIGHLY OF GARY TAUBES. I KNOW THIS FOR A FACT.

    Even quntum field theory may he i error in the future , fool. Yiu habe NO BASIS for your certitude. WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND OBESITY AND HABE NO EFFECTIVE TREATMENTS CURRRENTLY.

    I have talked to physicists about thjs and they DO NOT agree with you or Krieger at all.

  • BoogerSanchez

    James Krieger is an arrogant, cocksure charlatan, full of certitude. Obesity is NOT EVEN 1/10TH SOLVED. KRIEGER IS PHYSICS ILLITERATE AND NOT A VALID SORCE OF INFORMATION, ARNOLD SCHWARZENNEGERXS TRAINING PARTNERS IN THE 70XS DIS NOT HAVE MANY DRUGS LIKE TODAY AVAIKABLE. THEY BUILT THEIR PHYSIQUES ON LOW CARB. I KNOW THIS IS TRUE BECAUSE I WAS TOLD THIS DIRECTLY. KRIEGER IS A FOOL. HIS INFO CONTRADICTS EVERYTHING WE KNOW ABOUT HORMOMES.

    LOWER CARBS.

  • sumo?

    Is the fat storage of carbs by insulin different from the real body fat because studies show that carbs don’t ever become fat (just decrease fat oxidation) besides in special circumstances like eating 1000g of carbs for multiple days. De novo lipogensis is inefficient and is rare. You’ve talked about it before too. So how is the ” fat”stored in cell with carbs by insulin spike different from the fat of de novo lipogensis of carbs

    • No, the actual fat that’s stored in your cells (triglycerides) isn’t physiologically different from the fat that’s created through de novo lipgenesis. But as you said, DNL is rare and inefficient.

    • Daniel Plotkin

      Yep, de novo lipogenesis happens to a small degree if at all, depending on circumstance. I think what you seem to be asking is this, the glucose isn’t turning to fat so what is promoting the fat storage, where is it coming from? The answer is that insulin suppresses lipolysis and increases lipogenesis which means it inhibits the breakdown of triglycerides and induces their formation from free fatty acids(to the degree that this is needed).

  • Miguel Angel Velasco

    Check the logic here.

    The article says you need to burn more calories than you consume.

    However, the article also claims that insulin directs your cells to store fat, and instead use the glucose/fat that is in the bloodstream.

    Now, how are you supposed to burn more calories than you ingest, if your insulin levels are so high that your cells are being ordered to store fat and not use the fat for energy?

    High insulin levels are not the the cause of weight gain, indeed it is the over stock of calories. But! what causes this overstock? You can attribute the causality to an over intake of calories, OR, you could infer causality on this basis:

    The high insulin levels are directing your body to store fat that will not be used as energy, and so even if you were to try and burn more calories than you in take, the insulin makes it hard to do so.

    • The “overstock” of calories, as you put it, is one of the main contributing factors to insulin resistance, which can contribute to fat gain.

      And when people restrict calories, they always lose weight, as studies have repeatedly shown for decades:
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15113737
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3401553/

      So, if you eat too many calories, insulin plays a role in storing them. But high insulin levels don’t cause people to become overweight. Calories do.

    • The “overstock” of calories, as you put it, is one of the main contributing factors to insulin resistance, which can contribute to fat gain.

      And when people restrict calories, they always lose weight, as studies have repeatedly shown for decades:
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15113737
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3401553/

      So, if you eat too many calories, insulin plays a role in storing them. But high insulin levels don’t cause people to become overweight. Calories do.

    • Nawaz Pasha

      Also why will I eat if I don’t want to burn too…I rather don’t burn and don’t eat too much…and even though we are not work out we are still burning but we are not eating too much… I agree with Insulin case with you on this…

  • Mitch

    So if I’m already T2D, trying to manage the condition on diet alone, and trying to burn every damn bit of this disgusting abdominal fat on my body, what’s my best course of action?

  • Nawaz Pasha

    if insulin is not causing the issues then why people are getting diabetic and is it not the eating carbs excessively causing this and eventually insulin is triggered everytime we eat carbs it triggers insulin and frequent eating with small meals does it not giving the body constant work on organs will it not hamper over time..btw fats are good and more energy eating them causes not to trigger insulin and it is high in energy…that’s why ketogenic diets are very good for diabetic and also the intermittent fasting working woders for type 2 diabetic…type 2 diabetic is not lack of insulin it has insulin and body can’t use it properly…the whole insulin is not causing issues but it triggers so many times it lacks the function eventually…

    • I agree that the ketogenic diet is great if you have type II diabetes. Check this out: https://legionathletics.com/ketogenic-diet/

    • Leo

      Insulin is not the problem with type 2 diabetes, high insulin resistance is. And high insulin resistance is caused by diets high in (saturated) fat. Lower the amount of dietary fat intake and insulin resistance normalizes within days. High fat diets are the worst you can possibly have as a type 2 diabetic, unless you eliminate virtually all carbs from your diet which is terribly unhealthy for numerous other reasons such as impaired heart health.

      • Several studies show that low-carb and ketogenic diets can be helpful when it comes to insulin resistance and type II diabetes. Check it out: https://legionathletics.com/ketogenic-diet/

      • Nawaz Pasha

        Insulin resistance is caused due to fatty lever and you can check the details…
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUiSCEBGxXk&t=41s

        If high fat diet are so worst then ketogenic diets should cause issues that fixing weight loss and improving glycemic control or hb1ac i mean…hope you need to check videos from Eric berg/Intermittent fasting/Ketogenic to see effects of fats…

  • tylerjones

    Hi Mike, I was wondering, how do you determine which science to dismiss as “pseudoscience,” as you label science that confirms insulin is the weight-gain culprit, and which science to accept as “real” science? It kind of seems like your “pseudoscience” test is: “which science confirms that calories are the culprit.”

    • You have to look at all the research. Decades of research have shown that weight loss/gain is about energy balance. Check this out:
      https://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

      Is there a particular study you’re looking at?

      • Shane Edrington

        How do you justify obese individuals in nutritionally starved areas? How do you justify fat gain when calories are restricted? How do you justify lean individuals that eat far more than they burn? Shouldn’t energy balance as a theory hold up to all circumstances? Where does the bodies ability to limit waste factor in? Take fiber and caffeine and their impact on “passing/saturation times.” No impact? Seems like it has to be far more complicated than In-Out=Weight Gain(Loss)…

        • Hey Shane, do you have any verified sources for the claims that people are gaining fat when their calories are restricted under controlled conditions? If so, I’d love to see them. What do you mean by “passing/saturation times?”

  • Thefind

    This is a good article but it doesn’t mention the difference between complex carbs and simple carbs. There is a world of difference between the two. Simple carbs do put on the pounds, a decade of experience and helping hundreds of people lose weight has taught me this. Some times we get so lost in studies we go blind from them. Consuming mega simple carbs does put on weight, OF COURSE those simple carbs are also high in calories. Just cut out most simple carbs (processed foods), eat complex carbs (vegges) and some protein everyday, exercise and drink plenty of water and you’ll be on your way to lose weight. Also check this out http://www.nuleansuccess.com

  • TS

    Mike,

    On a later chapter of BBLS you suggest a few supps like fish oil and spirulina to help with insulin and also to drop carbs on rest days. I’m currently cutting and as someone who have been obese and has diabetes history in family, I’d list to ask…

    1 – I’m following your macro guidelines. Would it make sense even on cut to drop carbs to like half / 0.5g / lb on rest days?

    2 – If yes, would you recommend to keep calories the same on both rest / train days – so I’d be change the carbs and fats over – or would it be fine to eat a bit more on training days (more carbs) and a bit less kcal on rest days (still up the fats a bit but not as much to make it equal)?

    I’d think for performance and recover the latter option would probably be better but would like to hear your thoughts on it 🙂

  • Shantanu Singh

    i can agree with some of the points you gave in this article. But a few points i am not able to digest.
    1) if the energy balance things is to be believed and that dude who is on a convinient store diet… it means that if my BMR is 2000, i can eat appx 400 gms of simple carbs like sugar etc for the entire day ( not considering TEF of carbs) and still not gain any weight. But the fact will stay that if i even consider following this ridiculous diet, my body will start breaking muscle proteins to get energy as i am not providing any amino acids for muscle repair (carbs cant repair muscle all of us know) and what about the additional water held with glycogen stores which will always stay topped up? no additional weight? and high insulin without protein is going to store a lot of fat and will keep the body in fat storage mode always. So what exactly is this weight that the body is losing in calorie deficit. ONLY muscles? because with glycogen stores always up it definitely cant be water. and i believe calorie deficit imp for weight loss but insulin needs to be checked through out the day if you are looking for efficient FATLOSS.

    2) high insulin meals are more satisfying BUT for a very short duration. within a few minutes as the blood sugar drops then carb craving comes right back on. Fiber and fats on the other hand (which do not spike insulin) are more satisfying for a longer durations.

    • You will certainly lose muscle if you don’t eat protein. That’s not a diet I recommend, and even the “convenience store diet” guy had a protein shake daily. The point is just that you can lose fat equally well on a high-carb diet. You can read more about this here: https://legionathletics.com/low-carb-diet/

      I agree that fibrous carbs help you feel full for a long time. In general, fat has been shown to have the weakest effect on satiety compared to protein and carbs.

  • Richard Schmier

    If this is all true then why haven’t any of the “calories in v calories out” diets and meal plans I’ve tried over the last year worked? I either end up cutting more and more calories per week until I reach dangerously low levels, still with no weight loss, OR I end up actually gaining weight.

    Until 3 weeks ago when I completely cut carbs out of my diet and I’m already down over 20 pounds.

    So what’s the deal?

  • Timi

    I lost 30+ kilos by ignoring the calorie in calorie out balanced diet….went low carb…with no exercise whatsoever (well….bit of walking and going with children to park or pool)

    • Congrats on the weight loss, Timi! It is certainly possible to lose fat without counting calories. I’ve written about that here: https://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-lose-weight-without-counting-calories/

      • Taylor Kuzik

        What pisses me off the most is self-proclaimed diet gurus say one of the primary ways to lose fat, not weight is eliminate all sugar from your diet and do the ketogenic diet. I call bullshit on those.
        1: If you completely cut out sugar, that leaves you only meats and fats to eat. Fruits, vegetables, milk, these have sugar in them but they’re natural. Carbohydrates, complex or refined carbs are broken down into sugar and used for fuel as carbohydrates are the body’s preferred energy source.
        2: The standard ketogenic diet is 80% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbs, mostly from vegetables. Eventually the fat loss stops, then what? You’ve pretty much cut out virtually all of your carbs. But, if the ketogenic diet works for you, cool. But everyone’s body is different. There’s no such thing as one diet fits all.
        Eating “clean” without having your favorite treat occasionally makes your diet pointless and mentally insane.
        Sorry for the rage-filled rant, Mike. Needed to vent it.
        You and Jeff Cavalier from Athlean-X are pretty much the only guys who have seen the bad and ugly in the supplement industry and see through nutrition myths and BS.
        Overall BF% plays a major role on whether you get visible abs. 7-10% BF is the magical number to get visible abs, generally speaking. 11-12 is when they’re visible under right lighting. Some people are just naturally born with low BF% than others.
        For example I can see my upper two abs under right lighting and looking to get the last two pop.
        Even when you do get visible abs, maintaining them is the real challenge.
        Plus, your abs probably won’t be the perfectly aligned ones you see on fitness magazine covers. Some people might have blockier, thicker abs while others may have the zipper-lock abs where the abs are in zipper-lock fashion like on your shorts.

        • Yeah, keto has its uses, but if you’re healthy and lifting weights, it’s not the best choice. I’ve written about it here: https://legionathletics.com/ketogenic-diet/

          And yeah, genetics place a big factor in how your abs look. All we can do is get lean enough so they show and develop them 🙂

  • Strengthery

    Great article Mike!

    Every few years there always seem to be something new religiously demonised by diet gurus…

    I remember the first myth I encountered as a young boy in the late 90’s. It was heavily debated in Danish television and radio.

    Back then fat was the real bad stuff and should be restricted, and sugar was cool because according to the “experts” it couldn’t make you fat since it was burned off immediately.
    The body might prioritise burning off sugar as energy, but that also fails to take energy balance into account…

    • Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed the article. Good points 🙂

  • Hey Shane, thanks for sending the link. The article is about lipidema, though, which doesn’t cause people to gain fat when they’re in a calorie deficit. That condition causes an irregular distribution of body fat (among other problems), but the only way for that fat to be distributed at all is if the person is consuming enough calories to gain it in the first place.

    The rate that nutrients pass through your digestive system also doesn’t affect how much fat you gain.

    • George Arnold

      Actually the link posted by N4cho does present science that does show the length of time and location of digestion/absorption will affect oxidation and fat storage.

      • How so? The discussion was on fat and satiety, not storage specifically.

        • George Arnold

          Sorry, I reread. Storage wasn’t actually mentioned. It was absorption of fats that I confused it with. This absorption being positive towards creating quicker, greater and more prolonged satiety. However, it is evidence that rate of absorption and fat oxidation by the liver, leading to satiety will affect fat loss or gain. It also presents the evidence not all fats, and likely not all carbs and all proteins are created equal with regards to the complexity of human metabolism.

          • Agreed. If the slower digestion improves satiety and causes you to eat less, it can help with fat loss. It won’t make a difference if you stick to the same overall energy intake, though. Ultimately, it would apply more to people not tracking their intake.

  • J

    This is the kind of ignorance that has been going on for decades. Your hormones are the issue, if you are over weight, not your calorie count. When you are insulin insensitive you don’t absorb nutrients properly, your insulin stays elevated, thats why you are always hungry and you spike your insulin, no matter what you eat. Using a ketogenic diet, HIT training or Intermittent fasting has shown that anyone of these methods can help reset your insulin sensitivity. Excess calories are burned off for heat. That’s why when you lower your calories, below your maintenance level, you eventually feel cold. Ignore this dumbass, he has no clue what he is talking about.

    • Hey J,

      Do you have any evidence you can cite to support, well, anything you just said?

  • MikeMaunu

    Hey Mike, do you have anything, like science to back up any of your comments?

    I’d love to know the metabolic pathway in which natural fat is stored as body fat?

    How about protein causing an insulin response leading to fat storage?

    Do you know how the pancreas works and the difference between beta and alpha cells?

    How about the fact that the calorie theory was proven wrong over 115 years ago. We are not heat engines. Anyone still promoting it doesn’t understand basic biochemistry or cellular physiology.

    Let’s start with those. And by science I mean a recognized medical textbook, not some study.

    Anxious to learn,

    M

    • You do realize that the information in medical textbooks is derived from studies like the ones I referenced in the article, right?

      Can you show me where energy balance has been disproved?

      • MikeMaunu

        Answered above….

        • “I put no faith in studies.”

          ^ That’s the cool thing about science, it doesn’t require “faith.” In other words, it’s true whether you want it to be or not.

          You’re welcome to eat however you want, but overall, studies show most people trying to improve their body composition do better eating more carbs, not less.

          And, dude, I go to the gym 5-6 times a week for about an hour, and I do almost no cardio aside from one or two short HIIT workouts per week. How does that make me an elite athlete?

          • MikeMaunu

            You haven’t posted one piece of science from a medical textbook. You posted someones opinion. You didn’t read one of this studies only the abstract. I posted page and verse from the textbooks. All you’re doing is parroting opinions.

            Give me a break. You lived in the gym to get where you are.. Maybe you don’t do it now but you did.

            I’ll be waiting for some real science from a textbook to prove me wrong.

          • Again, textbooks are written based on scientific studies just like the ones I link throughout the article.

            Here’s just a couple studies you might like:

            Calorie deficits result in weight loss regardless of macronutrient composition – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19246357

            Fat is more readily stored as body fat than carbs: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7598063

            Honestly dude, there’s no point in going back and forth on this. You make your dietary decisions based on your interpretation of textbooks, I make mine based on scientific studies. As long as you’re happy with how you’re eating, then great.

          • You might find this interesting. I think its a bit newer than the studies you’ve quoted.

            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK53550/

          • Cool. Thanks for the link!

          • George Arnold

            Wow! that’s some science. Loved the read! Will bend the average mind I think though.

    • MikeMaunu

      Studies mean nothing..only experiments count.

      BTW – The calorie theory was proven wrong over 140 years ago by Dr. Adolf Fick, MD. Humans are not heat engines, they are chemical factories. Calorie is a measure of heat. To say 100 calories of candy bar and 100 calories of fat and 100 calories of a steak are the same thing are ridiculous.

      The idea that a calorie in less calories burned leads to weight gain or loss has no understanding of human physiology.

      Insulin resistance is caused by an incorrect cellular bi-lipid membrane and/or mitochondria.

      Here are just a few……….

      Glucose [sugar from carbohydrates] causes diabetes! Diabetes 2001; 50:1683-1690

      Glucose NOT body’s preferred energy source; fatty acids are. Basic Medical Biochemistry – A Clinical Approach , pgs: 29, 145, 203, 272, 357

      Excess carbohydrate [more than 4-5 ounces] prevents the body from burning fat and increases stored body fat. Textbook of Medical Physiology, pgs 871, 936; Basic Medical Biochemistry – A Clinical Approach, pgs 24, 394

      Carbohydrates cause insulin levels to reach 10-15 times normal and stay elevated for 2-3 hours. Textbook of Medical Physiology, pg. 977

      Adipose tissue [fat] is stored ONLY when eating carbohydrates. Basic Medical Biochemistry – A Clinical Approach , pg. 510

      Sugar [carbohydrate] stops body from producing growth hormone. Basic Medical Biochemistry – A Clinical Approach , pg. 702

      Butter is used directly for energy. Textbook of Medical Physiology, pg. 843

      Eating carbohydrate SLOWS METABOLISM; fat and protein digestion increase metabolism . Textbook of Medical Physiology, pg. 908

  • Bry

    I’m curious if you’ve ever researched Dr Jason Fung’s work on obesity (his YouTube series the Aetiology of Obesity), where he discusses in detail how Calories in Calories out doesn’t work, and how fasting can be used for weight loss as well as Type 2 Diabetes reversal. This article, while informative, seems to argue against a “low-carb” diet but ignores ketogenic diets and extended fasting, so I’m not convinced that your proposed alternative is any better.

    • MikeMaunu

      The keto diet works to a point and is built off correct biochemistry. Natural fat can not be stored as fat. There is no metabolic pathway. Only carbs aka sugar are stored as fat when not burned in the first hour or so. Insulin, a fat storage hormone grabs the sugar and deposits it into the fat cells provided the bi-lipid membrane and mitochondria have correct structure otherwise you get insulin resistance. Fat can only be stored from sugar because of the release of an enzyme called glycerol 3phosphate or G3P.

      The issue with the keto diet is that if you’re really fat it will be easy to burn the stored body fat even when ingesting large amounts of fat on a daily basis. However, at some point in time you must reduce your intake of fat in order to burn that stored body fat. You do this by eating more protein which will require more energy to burn it. Very few keto advocates understand this and continue to talk bad about protein.

      On the carb issue, carbs are non-essential, hence no daily minimum requirement in the 2000 calorie theory. (Even though the calorie theory was proven wrong over 100+ years ago. We aren’t heat engines but chemical factories.)

      All those that promote high carbs live in a gym. In addition, all that sugar and insulin release causes inflammation of the cardiovascular system, but that’s a whole other issue.

      • If that’s true, why do people lose just as much fat on a high-carb diet as on a ketogenic diet when their calorie and protein intake is the same?

        Like in this study… https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16685046

      • Aries Fiire

        you are an expert on everything yet you look like you sit around eating wings and drinking beer all day . Clearly you haven’t put any of your genius material into practice . I will eat nothing but carbs in a deficit and watch me not gain a single pound of fat added to my composition . Would you like to know why professor? because it’s basic science and biology . You can’t create adipose tissue out of thin air like some sort of carbohydrate magician . You either burn them or you over eat and you store them for future fuel . What don’t you understand about this simple concept . Your medical textbook argument is laughable .. do you really think a medical text book differs from the studies conducted by the people who many of them wrote those books? Where do you think they comprised the information to put those books together? did they have a special dream on DMT that gave them all their knowledge? Science is based on study , text book or written on a rock it does not matter . You are lost and i feel sad inside for you and those like you .

        • MikeMaunu

          what an idiot! another one with nothing but an opinion…. what no pic ? I doubt you’ve ever read a book…

          • Aries Fiire

            This is an opinion? This is simple science , you clearly live in delusion . This is common knowledge from decades and decades of science . You clearly are the one who needs to read a book , wake up .

    • Hey Bry, I discuss low-carb and keto here:

      https://legionathletics.com/low-carb-diet/
      https://legionathletics.com/ketogenic-diet/

      Fasting is not a magic bullet, but it works for some people in that it helps them maintain a calorie deficit and lose fat. Losing fat improves insulin sensitivity. I go over fasting here: https://legionathletics.com/intermittent-fasting/

      I hope this helps!

  • don’t listen to this article

    There’s so much wrong in this article that it is laughable.

    • Would you care to elaborate on what you think is wrong?

  • Aries Fiire

    A lot of you seem to be easily swayed by one way or another . The fact is , there are many ways to lose weight and it all comes down to energy balance . You could smash chocolate bars and lose weight if you simply eat less than the body uses for fuel . It’s simple science , it’s basic logic and it’s unavoidable facts on how the body works biologically . Will you feel great smashing the candy bars? will you build muscle smashing the candy bars? No , you won’t and you will probably cause some health issues and deficiencies however the base line of this article is correct . You do what works for you and if cherry picking research for your preferred method is the way you want to go about it , have at it but don’t sit here and pretend you’re informed or have any type of expertise because you don’t and it’s evident . Simply do what works for you and what makes you happy .. lots of love carbs and love the way we feel and perform on them . We love the science behind this article and way of living . If you don’t , no one has a gun to your head .. go on keto diets , go on 6 meals balanced diets , go on whatever you like because guess what .. IT ALL WORKS simply because of energy balance . Not one of those diets are going to tell you to lose fat by eating above the calories you burn . Is this just a happy coincidence ? Wake up or move along , honestly . 99 percent of the hater comments are from people who never had a healthy body or great physique a day in their life .

    • MikeMaunu

      OK, Mr. Christmas tree….lmao

      • Aries Fiire

        Right , because a Christmas tree has some correlation or relevance to this article or my stance on it . You go on about carbohydrates and how they ruin fat loss yet decades and decades of studies and “medical textbooks” say otherwise . I want you to find me one single shred of evidence that says eating carbs in a deficit will cause fat gain . This isn’t rocket science , this is simple biology and simple science . You eat less than you burn and you will lose weight … what don’t you get about this?

  • Ted

    Thanks for writing this, a few questions guys
    1. So insulin is released every time we eat, no matter the food type?
    2. A spike is when too much glucose is in the blood so it gets stored as fat, am I correct?
    3. As long as I’m not exceeding my daily calories, is there any reason why I should not eat say white potatoes over sweet potatoes? Should I still stay away from high glycemic foods?

    Thanks folks 🙂

    • Hey Ted!

      1. Yes
      2. A spike is just a quick rise in insulin levels, usually triggered by a large increase in blood glucose. Insulin shuttles nutrients into cells, and you won’t store carbs as fat until glycogen has been replenished.
      3. Exactly. Overall energy balance is what matters most when it comes to gaining and losing fat. You can eat white potatoes if you enjoy them. 🙂 That said, a healthy diet will naturally incorporate more low-GI foods. Check this out: https://www.muscleforlife.com/glycemic-index/

      I hope this helps!

      • Ted

        Thank you Mike

  • Excellent job explaining energy balance and how the body works Mike. Well done! It’s a shame how confused most people are about weight gain and loss. It’s so simple really, and once someone understands exactly how their body works (energy in vs. energy out), I think it’s fairly easy for them to make healthy changes that will actually get them the results they’re after.

    • Couldn’t agree more! Thanks for the support Stacee 🙂

  • Can’t be arsed

    This entire site/blog is full of nonsense information.
    We are biological creatures with chemical reactions which form the basis of our lifecycle not machines where energy in = energy out.
    There is a reason some people store bodyfat more quickly whilst others cannot store bodyfat to save themselves despite consuming thousands upon thousands of calories. It’s all about the hormones.
    Now enough of this pseudo-bro-science!

    • Do you have any evidence you can cite to support your claim? I link to studies throughout the article. The concept of energy balance is proven through a century of metabolic research.

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/energy-balance/

    • John W Smith

      As a physician and skier, biker, and weight lifter, at 66 yrs. old I am a 170 lb., 6’0″ vegan with a body fat % of 9. Mike is exactly correct, and you are the one apparently believing in pseudo science.

  • John W Smith

    Intramyocellular fat is easily damaged by oxygen, forms free radicals, and interferes with insulin signalling on cell surfaces which inhibits the attachment and utilization of insulin. Meat, with its inherent and inseparable marbled fat, causes a much greater problem with insulin resistance than carbohydrate. This has been known since the 1920’s! The peroxidized fat forms free radicals that inhibit insulin’s usage, and contributes to insulin resistance. The keto diet and Paleo diet are total bombs and hoaxes. I see many patients who have damaged their bodies irreversibly from a high animal high fat diet. Visitors here should read about the Blue Zones. Not a single culture of long lived people eat a diet that even approaches a high animal protein diet. Eskimos and Inuits in fact aren’t protected from heart disease, and have the highest incidence of diabetes in the world. Whole unrefined plant foods: ie., grains, beans, fruit, veggis, etc. is the diet that contributes to longevity and prevents morbidity.

    • Hey John, you’re right that many long-lived cultures eat relatively low-fat diets, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the only way to at. Although, for body composition purposes, that tends to work better for most people.

      • John W Smith

        You’re right…it’s not the only way to eat, but if you want to live a long life free from disease, it probably is. At any rate, feel free to list a single long lived culture which has eaten a diet that even approaches a high protein and or high fat diet…I’ll be interested in your list…

        • Here’s one you may want to check out: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18924533

          In this case, carbs were their primary macronutrient (as I also recommend), but their protein intake wasn’t extremely low by any means. You could also check out the book “Blue Zones,” which goes into this in more depth.

          • John W Smith

            Interesting you chose the Okinawans Mike. You are correct: their ‘protein’ intake is not low. But their animal source of protein is low. The centenarian Okinawans eat meat, usually pork, only on special occasions, and don’t eat fish overly frequently – several times per week. Their protein is mostly soy from natto and tofu, and millet, rice, barley, and sweet potato., as well as squashes and lots of greens. These foods are not low in protein, as some people would have us believe. This is confirmed by the authors of The Okinawa Program, and Dan Beuttner, author of The Blue Zones. As much as 65% of their total caloric intake is sweet potato, of which they have 2 different types. Collectively in the West, we use reductionism liberally to subdivide foods into their macro and micro constituents, and seem to forget that horses develop huge muscular bodies on grasses alone. Plenty of protein there! Cooking releases what we can’t release by multiple stomachs, chewing a cud, rumens, etc., because it serves the same purpose of breaking down the cell walls to release the contents, ie., nucleic acids and its inherent protein…..

          • Protein from plants and grains definitely counts. Never said it didn’t.

  • gabbro

    I’m not a weightlifter, or a body builder by any stretch of the imagination. I think your article is probably accurate for those who are healthy, and work out regularly. Your statement that all one has to do is eat fewer calories than one expends leads to weight loss is one I figured out years ago by eating smaller portions of all the foods I love. I lost weight, very slowly, but eventually dropped 50 lbs eating that way.

    But, I’m a diabetic, so losing the weight didn’t gain me the lower blood glucose numbers that “experts’ say will occur with weight loss. Why? Because I was still consuming too many carbs for my health condition. Then I messed up and started eating larger portions which caused me to gain 25 lbs. I tried unsuccessfully for about 5 years to get back to smaller portions, but couldn’t do it.

    Recently, I began trying a type of keto diet, and after 22 days I’ve lost 15 lbs. and, more importantly, have not needed insulin for 21 days, and have eliminated glimepiride and reduced metformin to 1000 mg per day. My blood glucose is much better and I feel better, think better.

    Whether or not I can continue on a low carb diet remains to be seen. What I want to mention is that for some of us who are diabetics, carbohydrates are a real problem. We simply can’t eat very many or we will get blood glucose spikes that will last for hours and are detrimental to our health. I know, I’ve lived it.

    So, while your advice may be excellent for healthy people (and I did notice you said that your advice would not apply to diabetics) please don’t tell someone who asks you about eating potatoes (Ted) and who sounds like he’s concerned about blood glucose levels that it’s okay to eat potatoes, If he’s a diabetic, it’s not okay. Again, not from any studies other than those I have personally experienced.

    Your article will probably help a lot of weight lifters and body builders, and I think that is what it is designed to do. However, diabetics should ignore the idea about eating a lot of carbohydrates. Unfortunately, our bodies don’t work right, and consuming too many will cause many health issues.

  • Reggie Aguiar

    So basically this article was written for athletes and people who have no weight issues.

    • Not exactly. The same general principle of energy balance applies, but if you have a metabolic issue like insulin resistance or diabetes, or are sedentary and overweight, low-carb is a better choice.

      Check this out:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/how-many-carbs/

    • Pete

      Exactly Reggie.

  • Pete

    I never read a article by the so called gurus that explain insulin as evil. Your overstating some things. But this is what happens when someone has to write a article.

    • Sorry you felt that way, Pete. Low-carb dieting has been really trendy recently, and insulin is often misunderstood. The purpose of the article was to help people understand it better and explain what matters more (energy balance).

      • Pete
        • Low-carb diets can definitely work for fat loss. That doesn’t mean they’re the optimal choice, especially for athletes.

          • Pete

            So out of the approximately 3mil people that live in the U.S.A, about how many are optimal athletes?
            29.1 million people in the United States have diabetes, but 8.1 million may be undiagnosed and unaware of their condition. About 1.4 million new cases of diabetes are diagnosed in United States every year. More than one in every 10 adults who are 20 years or older has diabetes. The U.S is on its way to having a health crisis because of a carbohydrate diet and we are talking about the evils of a necessary harmone and optimal athletes.

          • So your argument is that only people who are in exceptional shape can safely eat carbs? Based on what, exactly?

            I’d also say that we already have a health crisis, hence why I’m doing my part by creating this site.

            And, as I explained in this article, carbs as a whole aren’t necessarily the cause of diabetes–becoming overweight and not exercising are the main factors, and eating a lot of processed, refined calories contributes to that as well.

          • Pete

            Carbs contributed to obesity. The main reason we get fat is because we constantly have insulin in our blood stream. Insulin preventions the body from switching over to fat as a source of energy. Cut back your carbs to 20-30 grams a day and someone will not be obese. Even if they don’t exercise. High mileage runners, like marathoners, 9k or even 6k, hi mileage cyclist or other athletes that do a high cardio workout don’t have this problem because they burn through the glucose fast enough and then their bodies switch over to burning fat. This group I would say eat all the carbs you want. Just make sure you brush your teeth if someone is into sports drinks. There is a high sugar level to these drinks.
            2.5 mil. years ago when We evolving into humans, our ancestors were hunters. We ate berry’s, leaves and what ever we can catch. Which was mostly beef. We eat all the animal. We adapted to this diet up until about 10,000 years ago when we discover farming. This obesity crisis didn’t start until the late 1970’s. That’s because of the cheap availability of sugar. Sugar is a carbohydrate. That along with the cheap cost of process food. Most process foods are carbohydrates. When someone goes to McDonald’s to eat, it’s the coke and the bread and the fries that get them fat. Not the beef. That’s why the Atkins diet work. We’ve all been duped into believing by the food and sugar industry and our Federal Government into thinking that a mostly carb diet is fine. Don’t believe them. Once people understand how the body metabolizes and stores energy then we can understand how to lose weight. There’s a book written by Gary Taubes: Why We Get Fat. I suggest that along with the with the Stanford Diet as a way to lose weight….Good Luck.

          • Actually, once you equate energy balance, high-carb diets work just as well as low-carb diets.

          • Pete

            as far a the body concern, it does prefer to us carbohydrates as a source of energy over fat. The body metabolizes carbs much faster then protein or fat. I agree with that.

          • Big P

            It’s all of the above. Excess carbs, high insulin levels, and being out of shape and overweight are all factors which contribute to diabetes.

          • AntM

            “refined calories contributes to that as well.”

            No, refined carbohydrates cause that. Body fat accumulation is a protective measure against Diabetes type II.

            Fat people don’t get diabetes.

            People developing diabetes get fat, because if they didn’t, the sugar would rot the body – they would lose a foot, lose there eye sight etc.

            If you don’t think Insulin etc. effect weight, just look into Type I diabetics, who can purposefully limit insulin in order to lose weight. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diabulimia )

            Diabetes didn’t exist and neither did metabolic syndrome until the introduction of refined carbs.

  • Alex

    After seeing the graph, I believe intermittent fasting can be beneficial since it prolongs the fasted state.

  • Mark Bernhardt

    The glycemic index and glycemic load have been around for quite some time and are the yardsticks by which a diabetic should monitor their diet. It just so happens that it generally tracks low carb because carbs affect the glycemic load profoundly. Diabetics who go on diets cutting out pasta and excessive bread usually do end up losing weight and not necessarily by eating less food, just better food for them. Also, a serious musclehead will notice right away that they are low energy on low carb or that their body is scavenging muscle. This is bad so one way to deal with it is to carb up before the workout but really just do what Mark Wahlberg did while working out for his boxing movie. He worked out, ate two chickens and went to bed!

    • Hey Mark! Thanks for commenting. Regarding the glycemic index, check this out:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/glycemic-index/

      Ultimately, micromanaging your foods based on the glycemic index isn’t necessary if you’re mostly eating relatively unprocessed, whole foods. Sensible eating will result in most of your meals being pretty low on the GI scale.

      Low-carb diets can work well for fat loss, but they aren’t necessarily better than higher-carb diets. Unless you’re diabetic, or sedentary and overweight, a high-carb diet will work just fine, and is better for athletes. Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/low-carb-diet/

  • Big P

    Good thoughts in the article. I don’t necessarily agree with the whole a calorie is a calorie theory. I can tell you from first hand experience doing cuts that insulin control is important for fat loss. If we applied the principle of thermodynamics strictly, one could eat 2,000 calories a day of nothing but dextrose and lose weight. I can assure you that eating 2,000 calories of chicken and broccoli has a much different impact on fat loss. Why is this? It’s due to insulin, glycemic load, and blood sugar control. I agree that insulin gets a bad wrap, but dieters should be aware of the impact it has on fat metabolism.

    • I certainly wouldn’t advise it, but you actually can lose weight on a diet of mostly sugar and junk. Haven’t you heard of the Twinkie diet? 😉

      http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/11/08/twinkie.diet.professor/

      • AntM

        Not if you’re diabetic, or suffer from metabolic syndrome – closing in on 50% of people in developed nations.

        Many of the things you say are probably right for very fit athletes who can devote a large amount of time to training and burning toxic refined carbs.

        Weight gain is your body protecting itself from refined carbs. Refined Carbs leads to weight gain and diabetes… not the other way around.

        Fat doesn’t rot diabetics feet away, or make them blind. Sugar and refined carbs do. I hope nobody who suffers from metabolic syndrome or diabetes or is at the beginning of that path, reads your article.

        I appreciate you’ve kind of covered base with your last section, just hope it wouldn’t influence somebody’s attempt to actually get healthy and reverse there diabetes or metabolic issues.

  • Heather Mundt

    So I’m doing the keto way of eating and I feel much better than how I ate before. Why do carbs make me feel so sick? For example, I’m less achy and my brain fog is gone. I can think so much more clearly when my brain runs on ketones. If I “cheat” for a while my brain fog comes back.

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