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Does Protein Raise Insulin Levels

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The Muscle-building Messenger: Your Complete Guide To Insulin

Years ago, insulin was only discussed in reference to diabetes. Insulin is the hormone that drives glucose out of the bloodstream and into cells, and diabetes is the loss of the ability to control blood glucose levels. Yet insulin is so much more than a hormone that controls glucose. For one, it's highly anabolic, which means it's critical for building muscle. Insulin also has a dark side, because it can increase fat storage. The challenge is to learn how to spike insulin to optimally recover from workouts and grow, while also blunting it to stay lean. Do you know all the facts about insulin and how to use it to your advantage? Don't be so sure. If not, my insulin guide will teach you how. Insulin And Muscle Insulin is actually a protein, and it is produced and released by the pancreas whenever you eat carbs, protein, or both. (That is, if the pancreas is working properly). Yet unlike the proteins that are the physical building blocks of muscle, this is a functional protein, much like growth hormone. Like all other proteins, insulin is a chain of amino acids strung together. But the way this protein chain is folded makes it act more like a signaling mechanism than a building block. Continue reading >>

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  1. gogge

    Protein still gives a similar insulin response as carbs, and the insulin response is still elevated for roughly the same period of time. Here's comparing 50 grams of glucose to 50 grams of protein (ground beef):
    Graph.
    Nuttall FQ, et al. "Effect of protein ingestion on the glucose and insulin response to a standardized oral glucose load" Diabetes Care. 1984 Sep-Oct;7(5):465-70.
    The glucagon response from protein doesn't matter for this, see Stephan Guyenet's "Glucagon, Dietary Protein, and Low-Carbohydrate Diets".
    But most people don't eat more than ~100 grams of protein per day, and you only digest roughly 10 grams per hour, compared to 60-100 grams per hour for carbs, so won't get the same big "spike".
    The rate of amino acid absorption from protein is quite slow (~ 5 to 8 g/h, from Table 2) when compared to that of other macronutrients, with fatty acids at ~ 0.175 g ∙ kg-1 ∙ h-1 (~ 14 g/h) (55) and glucose 60 to 100 g/h (0.8 to 1.2 g carbohydrate ∙ kg-1 ∙ h-1) for an 80 kg individual (56).
    Bilsborough S, Mann N. "A review of issues of dietary protein intake in human" Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2006 Apr;16(2):129-52.
    The level of processing is also a big deal for carbs, compare whole apples to purée:
    Chart.
    Stubbs JR "Carbohydrates, Appetite and Feeding Behavior in Humans" J. Nutr. October 1, 2001 vol. 131 no. 10 2775S-2781S
    And this is probably the real problem with carbs, processing makes them quick to eat, quick to digest, quick to absorb, and quick to store. They taste awesome and you eat too much.
    Take this example; if carbs were categorically bad how can the kitavans have a 70% carb intake without getting the same problems with obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease as we do? It doesn't makes sense that all carbs would always be bad. Chris Masterjohn discusses different levels of carb intakes and people thriving on high carb in "Oxidative Stress & Carbohydrate Intolerance: An Ancestral Perspective".
    So the problem isn't just carbs, or just insulin (protein would be bad in that case), it's the combination of carbs and too many calories. Which seems to be a multifaceted problem, but probably boils down to a problem with processed foods (mainly carbs) and how/why we eat them. The BBC has a great video on this, "The Men Who Made Us Fat". Yoni Freedhof's "What's a Food Industry to Do?" also highlights some issues with advertising.
    Here's an article that covers some of it if you prefer reading:
    What follows is a series of small case studies of a handful of characters whose work then, and perspective now, sheds light on how the foods are created and sold to people who, while not powerless, are extremely vulnerable to the intensity of these companies’ industrial formulations and selling campaigns.
    Michael Moss, "The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food".
    Stephan Guyenet has two good videos on how our diets have changed over the last hundred years or so:
    Stephan Guyenet, "The American Diet" also covers some historical changes.
    Stephan Guyenet, "Obesity; Old Solutions for a New Problem".
    In the general population high levels of insulin is just a marker for a high intake of processed food (or calories), it's likely not what's driving obesity.

  2. maxm

    Good post. I have found that i need to watch my proteins almost as closely as my carbs to loose the last weight on keto. I have been snacking on pork rinds. It suddenly dawned on me that a 100 g of rinds contained 50 g protein. Half of what I need in a day. So now I eat more fats instead. Which have rebooted my loss.

  3. [deleted]

    Wow! I will have to read this A few times.... Very comprehensive post. Thanks a lot. you must be a scientist or something.

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