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Insulin Resistance Explained, and Why Cardio Sucks

Posted Sep 12 2008 12:11pm

Mark Sisson over at Mark's Daily Apple has a great entry today explaining the whole deal with insulin resistance, and how low carb diets prevent it from happening (and correct it if it already has). It's easy to read, and simple to understand. Read " The Definitive Guide to Insulin, Blood Sugar & Type 2 Diabetes". Here's a snippet:

Insulinwas one of the first hormones to evolve in living things. Virtually all animals secrete insulin as a means of storing excess nutrients. It makes perfect sense that in a world where food was often scarce or non-existent for long periods of time, our bodies would become so incredibly efficient. How ironic, though, that it’s not fat that gets stored as fat – it’s sugar. And that’s where insulin insensitivity and this whole type 2 diabetes issue get confusing for most people, including your very own government.
If we go back 10,000 or more years, we find that our ancestors had very little access to sugar – or any carbohydrates for that matter. There was some fruit here and there, a few berries, roots and shoots, but most of their carbohydrate fuel was locked inside a very fibrous matrix. In fact, somepaleo-anthropologists suggestthat our ancestors consumed, on average, only about 80 grams of carbohydrate a day. Compare that to the 350-600 grams a day in the typical American diet today. The rest of their diet consisted of varying degrees of fat and protein. And as fibrous (and therefore complex) as those limited carbohydrate foods were, their effect on raising insulin was minimal. In fact,there was so little carbohydrate/glucose in our ancestor’s diet that we evolved four ways of making extra glucose ourselves and only one way of getting rid of the excess we consume!

If nothing else, copy this quote: It's not fat that gets stored as fat - it's sugar. Paste it into Word. Set the font size to 72. Print. Stick it up around the office. Make it into a huge paper airplane and throw it at the guy who always brings in Krispy Kremes. Stick it up at home. Send it to your mother. Hell, I may use it as this year's Xmas card.

I've just recently found his blog and, though he goes way lighter on the meat than I think is necessary (if I based my meals on vegetables with only "a few ounces" of protein, I'd be really frickin' hungry), it's got some good info for lowcarbers and those of us interested in paleo-style eating, or what he terms "primal health". I would argue that given the evidence, earlywo/man ate far more meat than he seems to think we did, but whatever.

I was OVERJOYED to read "A Case Against Cardio". I used to hit the treadmill an hour a day, 5 days a week in an attempt to burn my fat away. That's what you're supposed to do, right? Throw in a few strength training sessions, and presto! You're fit and fly, mama. Thing is, nothing happened for me, other than I got to listen to some really good audiobooks during my 4-6 mile runs. I was still a chubster. The treadmill changed from an ally to my nemesis. I was sure it was plotting against me. Probably had the elliptical in on it too.

Course, I was also eating massive amounts of gluten and casein, two proteins I'm intolerant to. That, and the high level of carbs hitting my system throughout the day, absolutely played a part. But still: I was tracking calories and workouts, and burning at least 400 calories in one cardio session. I was eating between 1300-1600 calories each day. I was not losing any weight, other than a pound or two here and there. I started switching up my workouts, doing different activities. Still nothing. I assumed that I wasn't doing enough; that my carefully calculated resting metabolic rate was just too super low for me to eat less than; that my metabolism was just slow and sluggish; that I was a big pig who had to learn not to stuff her face. Seemed the entire cardio suite was in on the conspiracy to keep me pudgy (or, as my mother would say, "solid".)

Enter low carbing - the rest is history. Weight (fat) melted off, slowly, steadily at first and slower still now that I'm just 8lbs from my goal (though intermittent fasting is helping things along - but that's a whole other post). And here's the thing: the fat came off without exercise. When I finally did return to the gym, strength training plan in hand, one of the trainers looked at me and said "Wow. You've lost weight!"

"Yep...haven't been exercising though," I replied, feeling somewhat sheepish.

He shrugged. "Losing weight is 85% diet anyway. The gym's for getting fit and building muscle."

Amen to that, brutha.

Here's what Mark Sisson, a former endurance athlete, has to say about it:
We all know that we need to exercise to be healthy.

Unfortunately, the popular wisdom of the past 40 years – that we would all be better off doing 45 minutes to an hour a day of intense aerobic activity – has created a generation of overtrained, underfit, immune-compromised exerholics. Hate to say it, but we weren’t meant to aerobicize at the chronic and sustained high intensities that so many people choose to do these days. The results are almost always unimpressive. Ever wonder why years of “Spin” classes,endless treadmill sessions and interminable hours on the “elliptical” have done nothing much to shed those extra pounds and really tone the butt?

Don’t worry. There’s a reason why the current methods fail, and when you understand why, you’ll see that there’s an easier, more effective – and fun - way to burn fat, build or preserve lean muscle and maintain optimal health. The information is all there in the primal DNA blueprint, but in order to get the most from your exercise experience, first you need to understand the way we evolved and then build your exercise program around that blueprint.

Sound interesting? Go give his blog a read. Since I've been back at the gym, I've gone 2-3 times a week, weights only. For the first time, I'm seeing real muscle definition. My poor man is getting worried that soon, because of my delicious womanly muscles, I'll be able to kick his ass. I can't already. Lately I've moved from free weights to body weight exercises - old school stuff like push ups, dips and squats - and one day, when I decide I can face my old nemesis again, I'll add in some sprint training as well. But it'll be short. Super short. I still growl under my breath when I pass the cardio suite. I'm wise to those plotting bastards.
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