In my opinion, the best weight loss program for most people is a ketogenic diet. That’s because a ketogenic diet addresses, and in most cases, fixes the underlying cause of weight gain: a hormonal imbalance.
Notice that I did NOT say that people gain weight because they don’t exercise and they eat too much. I believe a lack of energy to exercise and overeating are symptoms of an underlying hormonal imbalance in the way the body uses insulin.
In other words, if your hormones, and specifically your blood sugar and insulin, are out of whack, you will be more likely to experience extreme hunger and overeat. You’ll gain weight, and energy levels will be lower, which will make exercising seem more of a chore.
As the ongoing arguments in the various “best weight loss program” camps can attest, yes, other factors are involved, but the primary fat storage hormone in the body is insulin, and I think it’s the best place to start to address a weight problem.
To put it simply, the best weight loss program is one that manages insulin. Let’s see how insulin works and why it’s so important to control it.
Why We Get Fat: Insulin, Glucose and Fat Storage
Insulin is a hormone which is released in the body in response to blood sugar fluctuations. (Blood sugar is also called blood glucose, as glucose is the primary sugar used in the body).
When blood glucose increases, insulin is released by the pancreas to move the glucose from the bloodstream into the cells where it can be burned for cellular fuel.
More importantly, if glucose is available for the cells to burn, they will burn it first, before they burn stored fat. Keep that in mind.
If the body cells are already full of glucose and can’t take in any more, the body converts any excess energy into fatty acids, and stores them in the fat cells.
Now, normally, the body would later access this stored fat for fuel when food becomes unavailable. However, if insulin levels have become chronically high, the fat stored in the cells can’t be broken down for fuel. In other words, high insulin levels will keep the fat stored, and the body will be dependent on glucose only for fuel.
Since the body can’t store much glycogen (glucose stored as groups of molecules) and it can’t get to its fat stores because of high insulin, it becomes very dependent on the glucose energy coming in from food.
See how that can ramp up the need to eat?
My “Why We Get Fat” page illustrates this concept with a picture, which is helpful if you are a visual learner.
What Causes Insulin Levels to Increase?
The logical questions, then, are:
what causes insulin levels to increase?
what keeps insulin levels high?
The answer is chronically high carbohydrate consumption.
Carbohydrates are broken down in the gut and eventually turn into blood sugar. And it doesn’t matter if you eat a simple carbohydrate or a complex carbohydrate. Both types turn into blood sugar in the body.
And when excess sugar comes in from our food, insulin has to be released to move it to the cells. If high levels of carbohydrates are eaten, then the body has to release lots of insulin to move the high levels of blood sugar created. The cells get bombarded with insulin, knocking at the cell door, trying to get inside with another load of sugar.
Too Many Cookies…
Imagine what would happen if you got a delivery of 1000 boxes of cookies every day. Eventually, your house would fill to the top with cookie boxes, until you couldn’t fit anymore in.
What do you do at that point? Well, you have to tell the delivery guy NO.
That’s just what your cells do to the insulin delivery system. Each cell “shuts it doors” or scientifically speaking, it downloads its receptors for insulin. The cells turn down their ability to hear, so they can ignore the insulin knock. There’s just no place to store any more delivered glucose.
As you can imagine, when the cells start saying NO (scientists say that the cells become insulin resistant), excess glucose starts piling up at the door of the cells.
Insulin then has to go store the excess glucose in the fat cells as fatty acids instead. But, this solution doesn’t work forever.
Eventually the fat cells get full too, and turn down their ability to listen to insulin. Now, the excess blood sugar starts piling up in the blood stream.
At this point, you’ve probably developed symptoms of a condition called Metabolic Syndrome, which might include high blood pressure, weight gain, especially around the middle, high triglycerides, and elevated cholesterol.
Next thing you know, a doctor tells you that your blood sugar is high, and hands out a diagnosis of diabetes and a plan for diabetes treatment.
So, as you now understand, the best weight loss program is one which lowers blood sugar and circulating insulin levels.
This is why I insist that a ketogenic diet is the best weight loss program. It does both.
Carbohydrate intake on a ketogenic diet is low, which allows the cells to retain their sensitivity to insulin. Your hormones stay in balance, hunger is diminished, the cells can burn fat for fuel, which provides more energy. The body can access its stored fat, you lose weight, and you have lots of fuel for activity. Exercising becomes fun, instead of being a chore.
And there’s more. Exercise, especially high intensity exercise, uses up the stored glycogen in your muscle, and this results in your muscles cells being even more insulin sensitive. Now the circle is moving in the right direction. So, in summary, the the best weight loss program is one which:
Carb intake is low to keep blood sugar and insulin levels in the normal range
Exercise is included to use excess energy stores and keep muscle cells insulin sensitive.
A ketogenic diet plan along with a high intensity interval training program fits the bill, and is the best weight loss program, AND the best health improvement program you can follow.
I challenge you to follow a ketogenic diet. I’ve put together a page with a step by step plan on this best way to lose weight. And don’t forget, it’s a great diet to improve your health as well.