You're too fat for "cheat days" (part 1)

Yes, you read that correctly. The lower your body fat percentage is, the more carbohydrates your body can "handle." 

Simply put, if you have excess bodyfat... you cannot cheat and indulge as much as the lady or dude with a six pack (their fitness levels are HIGH and body fat is LOW- 15% or less for men, 20% or less for women). 

A lean, HARD training athlete can enjoy a cheat DAY rather than a small cheat meal while maintaining their body composition. 

Why is this?.... Insulin.  

Stick with me here.. I'm going to explain what insulin is and why it's important in the most simple way I can.

  • Blood sugar: a measurement of the amount of sugar in your blood. It is important for your blood sugar to not get too high or too low, either extreme can cause symptoms. 
  • There are 2 ways to decrease blood sugar if it gets too high: exercise and insulin
  • Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas in response to increases in blood sugar.
  • Insulin signals to the body's cells to take sugar out of the blood stream because energy is plentiful. This means the excess that isn't used for energy is stored. 
  • Insulin is anabolic (storage hormone): it makes your tissues grow. This can mean your muscle and/or fat. (insulin storage)
  • The key to improving your body composition and your energy is about regulating your blood sugar and insulin. 
  • Without enough insulin, you lose all anabolic effects (type 1 diabetes). If insulin levels are always high, this leads to fat gain and risk for cardiovascular disease (type 2 diabetes). 

Ok..phew. You made it! #science

You know what insulin is and how it works...what does that mean for YOU?

Ever heard of insulin resistance and insulin sensitivity? 

Basically, you become insulin resistant if you're constantly spiking your insulin. Your body starts ignoring the signals (like you tune out your nagging partner). Then you end up with both high circulating blood insulin and glucose (blood sugar). Now your inflammation levels are high, your muscles aren't getting properly nourished and your blood is full of stuff that shouldn't be there all of the time. You're not functioning well. This is why leaner people (more insulin sensitive) can handle MORE carbs and over-fat people can't handle them as well. 

The goal is to be sensitive to insulin (in the right ways). The trick is to balance the anabolic effects of insulin to feed the MUSCLE but to avoid FEEDING THE FAT. 

What keeps insulin sensitivity high? (the goal!)

  • 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night
  • Exercising 5 hours per week (especially resistance training)
  • Increasing your muscle mass
  • Higher intakes of veggies, legumes, lean proteins and nuts/seeds.
  • Adequate vitamin D status
  • Regular tea consumption

What lowers insulin sensitivity? (No bueno!)

  • Low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets
  • High processed carb diets
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Nicotine use
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Sporadic sleep patterns
  • Excessive alcohol consumption

So back to the lean people can eat more carbs deal...

When you're over-fat, you cannot "cheat" the same way, as often, etc as someone who is lean. Your body simply cannot process the carbs and the surplus of calories the same way a lean person does (especially if that lean person you're comparing yourself to trains harder than you do).

*Not to mention, when you're over fat...you probably have some bad habits to break (food addictions) You need to simplify your diet, cut out the crap and focus on food quality. Keeping your addiction alive with cheats and treats through out the week won't get you far* 

ACCEPT THIS TRUTH.

STOP REWARDING YOURSELF WITH TREATS IF YOU'RE NOT LEAN ENOUGH TO PROCESS THEM WELL.

Do NOT compare yourself to a ripped up, barbell-slinging, sprint-killing machine who downs donuts, ice cream and pizza several times per week. You are not them - your body does not work the same way (not yet, maybe never). 

That being said, the body can better handle carbs during and after physical activity. Look for my next blog post (part 2) on when to spike your insulin to get lean and maintain your muscle.

Nutrition is the foundation of your health, performance and aesthetic goals. At SPSC, we not only understand those principles but we live by them. 

Click here to start your free trial...we'll get your life on track. 

-Nicole Race, Co-Owner/Coach at St Pete Strength and Conditioning, home of SPSC Crossfit