Does mitigating blood sugar spikes mitigate insulin spikes?

(Erin Macfarland ) #1

Physiology question: I always have these haha…I tend to get too lean on keto (I’m althetic and have pretty low body fat, around 13%. I will often have some pretty big carb “binges” (I don’t like to call them that because it sounds judgemental…) eating regular cookies or whatever I’m feeling like, but I also utilize blood sugar regulating supplements like berberine and lipoid acid. Do these also control insulin responses as well as blood sugar? I’m not entirely sure how tightly the two are related. Please note I am NOT insulin resistant or diabetic and I know that is the case with many folks here, but I feel like this question could also apply to anyone using such supplements.

(G. Andrew Duthie) #2

I don’t know about the supplements you mention, BUT…glucose isn’t the only factor regulating insulin levels. Carbs, and subsequently glucose, are the biggest driver of insulin release in terms of macronutrients. Protein, however, can also raise insulin, and as I understand it, some amino acids are more insulinogenic than others.

Likewise, there are some indications that for at least some people, sweet tastes can raise insulin levels, or even thinking about food. So glucose isn’t the only factor, but it’s one over which we have some reasonable measure of control, so it tends to be the lever we go to first to move things in the right direction.

Does that help?


Berberine acts in a similar way to Metformin by controlling the amount of glucose your liver produces when your blood sugar goes low and you haven’t eaten recently, like overnight. It diminishes the dawn effect many T2 diabetics have. @richard recently talked about an increase in insulin while he was off of Metformin, even though his A1C (glucose) was fine.

Alpha lipoic acid works by activating the Glut4 pathway into cells. It works as an insulin analogue (replacement) so I have to imagine it reduces the need for insulin production rather than increasing it.

@erdoke is a cellular physiology guy.

(Erin Macfarland ) #4

It does, I guess I’m trying to see if adding in the sugary sweets to try and keep my body fat from dipping too low is being mitigated by using blood sugar regulating supplements. Is it strictly insulin spikes from the carbs that will preserve body fat or is it due more to total energy intake? Usually when I have a big load up its high calorie, higher carb, higher fat, not so much over doing protein . I think there is a similar protocol out there like carb night or something where you full on gorge on whatever you want then return to keto foods. Would it be more effective for maintaining body fat levels to spread extra carbs or calories or fat or protein throughout each day rather than having a big load up once every week or so?

(G. Andrew Duthie) #5

Two points here:

  1. With the caveat that I am not you, if I were in your shoes, and I needed to bump carbs to maintain at a low body fat, I would still stay away from anything sugary, and focus on gradually bringing up sources of carbohydrate that are part of real foods. That being said, have you tried increasing fat, to see if that will allow you to maintain at the level you want? Eating lots of sugary stuff, and then taking supplements to offset seems like a less than optimal strategy to me. Better to eat healthier foods, and skip the supplements.
  2. Insulin is the primary driver here, as it is insulin that determines how energy is partitioned. That is, when insulin is high, fat from your body fat is inaccessible, and energy from circulating glucose (at least the amount that isn’t being used immediately) will tend to get stored, first in the muscles as glycogen, and when glycogen stores are full, either as fat, or in the liver as glycogen or fat (not 100% on the order of those, but @erdoke might be able to speak to that). So by eating a heavy load of carbs, particularly if the load is beyond what your body can use, you are likely to store some of it as fat. While I understand that might be part of what you’re trying to do, I’m not sure if carb binges are the way to go about it.

I’m not qualified to tell you how you should do this, just offering some things to think about.

(Erin Macfarland ) #6

Oh no that’s very helpful! I know cookies and sugary stuff isn’t optimal and most of the time it’s keto style sweet s that are more nutrient dense. But I can get away with some “regular” stuff occasionally. I mostly take those supplements because I have heard they have general health promoting properties , along with blood sugar regulation. I suppose I’ve been using the carb up approach since it’s the method most commonly utilized amongst athletic keto folks who don’t have any metabolic issues. I may try incorporating some higher carb foods more regularly, but it was my impression that this would mean a more chronic exposure to insulin rather than one acute spike from a carb up…

(Guardian of the bacon) #7

It is my understanding that higher carb foods that are also higher in fiber (such as edible beans like kidney or pintos) have a much lower insulinogenic effect.

(G. Andrew Duthie) #8

You can “get away” with it now. You may not always be able to. And if you reinforce the habits, it will bite you.

Using myself as an example, when I was 10 or 11, I was a latchkey kid, and my mom would leave me money to order pizza for dinner on occasion. I could put away an entire pizza, plus a big bottle of Coke, and not gain an ounce, because my body was able to use most of that energy to grow and develop, and because as a kid I was much more active.

When I was in my 20s, and even into my 30s, it was not so easy to get away with bad habits, but when I went on Atkins, I was able to drop 30 lbs without even breaking a sweat.

Today, I have to fight harder and harder to get the weight off and keep it off. I’ve managed to get to the lowest weight I can remember, but it’s taken intermittent fasting and extended fasting, in addition to keto, to get there.

I’m delighted for you that you’ve been able to get and stay lean with keto (sincerely). You may be one of the lucky ones who hit the genetic lottery and will always have a higher tolerance for carbs than some of us. I hope that you don’t take that for granted, however.

(Erin Macfarland ) #9

This is a complicated issue because there is very little out there regarding how to keep from getting too lean on keto which can be very dangerous for women. It happened to me the first time I did it in 2015 and granted there were several things I could have been more careful about in hind sight so now I’m trying to find a way that works for me. I dislike implementing the sugary things like cookies because I feel awful after, tired, nauseated. I say “get away with” because I’m generally back into ketosis fairly quickly. I do not experience such negative reactions when I increase my intake of keto style sweets. My understanding is that eating something that spikes insulin such as sugary cookies will promote the retention of muscle mass and prevent thyroid issues. I have been "overweight " at times in my life but never obese or diabetec though both of those issues run on my mothers side of my family, so I know to be careful about taking measures to avoid them. I think you are right that it might not be a good idea to utilize those highly processed foods. One of the challenges on keto is that it tends to lessen your appetite, so I worry I’m not eating enough in general, then I have times where I’m ravenous and eat past the point of being comfortable. So I’m not sure how to handle that either

(G. Andrew Duthie) #10

Are you working with a good doctor? It sounds like having some sound medical advice from someone who “gets” keto and who is also sufficiently well-versed in women’s metabolic issues would be really useful.

While on the surface yours is a problem that I’m sure most of us would like to have, I’m sure that it’s unpleasant to deal with, and potentially worrisome. I hope you’re able to find a solution that doesn’t involve carb binges that make you feel like crap. Best of luck!