Optimal health is largely about achieving effective communication across the whole body. Our hormones play a significant role in this process and it’s vital that our body listens and responds in a healthy way to the messages being conveyed. Insulin is one of the most important hormones as it’s responsible for transporting nutrients into our cells for energy. It’s therefore important your nutrition, training and lifestyle ultimately support insulin health.
In previous blogs we have discussed how carbohydrates are processed in the body and how glucose testing is a great way to establish your own carbohydrate tolerance. One thing we recommend you always strive for is to encourage ‘sensitivity’ to hormones within the body. That is your body’s (or more precisely your cells) ability to receive instructions from hormones and act upon them. If this process is disrupted you run the risk of all sorts of health complications.
We can support hormone sensitivity easily through nutrition, exercise and lifestyle measures on a daily basis, it’s not difficult and can make a huge difference to your quality of life and longevity. Here are our 10 tips for ensuring your hormones are fuelling awesome health:
1. Test Your Glucose
Read up on our blog on establishing your carb tolerance and avoid foods that spike your insulin excessively.
2. Interval Train
Do 2 sessions of short intense or fast exercise a week to improve insulin health significantly. Good examples include tabata workouts, sprint sessions, kettlebell training.
Try these as a starter for ten:
- 8 x 200m rowing sprints as fast as you can with 60 seconds at a slow pace rowing in-between. Ladies aim for 45-55 seconds and guys 35-40 seconds.
- 8 x 40 second sprints on the stationary bike, keep a medium resistance level but the speed (rpm) must be high, at least over 100 rpm with resistance, follow with 60 seconds at a slower speed.
- Find a steep hill and mark out a distance that will take you roughly 40 seconds to cover. Perform 8 hill sprints and use the gentle jog back down (take about a minute) to recover.
3. Resistance Training
Do some weight bearing exercise each week. Resistance training improves insulin sensitivity as muscles demand glucose to function and recover.
4. Move Frequently
Even if you’re religious about your 3-4 gym sessions, studies have shown if you are sedentary most of the day you are susceptible to developing insulin resistance and weight gain around the middle. Aim to do 10,000 steps daily along side some resistance and interval/cardiovascular based training. The easiest way is to walk part of your commute, have a stand up desk or do some manual labour and chores around the home.
5. SMASH some Oily Fish
Omega-3 fats sit in the outer layer of our cells and help to keep the outer membrane fluidy (is that a word?) so that nutrients can be moved into the cell easily and insulin can stick to the cell wall and shout it’s orders. For the best sources of omega 3’s think SMASH:
We place a huuuge emphasis on fish recipes in our Fitter Food recipe book including Mighty Mackerel, Fish in a Blanket and Jerk Salmon. It’s our mission to get you loving some simple omega rich suppers.
6. Mighty Minerals
These are hugely important for hormone health; magnesium, zinc and chromium are worthy of special mention. Foods rich in these minerals are detailed below with links to some awesome recipes to inspire you. If your nutrition has been lacking for a few years you may benefit from taking these in the form of nutritional supplements. Always look for a pharmaceutical grade brand and buy the chelated form of the mineral, this encourages maximum absorption and effectiveness. A chelated mineral will be suffixed ‘- ate’ for example; magnesium malate, chromium picolinate or zinc picolinate.
Magnesium rich foods – Dark chocolate, nuts, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds, spinach, kale, chard, avocados, bananas, bone broth.
Zinc rich foods – Lamb, beef, turkey, prawns, oysters, cashew nuts, sesame and pumpkin seeds
Chromium rich foods – Broccoli, sweet potatoes, garlic, eggs, beef, cinnamon
7. STEAM STEAM STEAM
…and boil foods. High temperature cooking and anything that leads to the burning or browning of foods creates toxins and increases free radical damage in the body. It will also ‘glycate’ the proteins in food making them sticky so they literally stick to our cells and damage our DNA, inhibiting the communication process between hormones and cells. Damaged DNA is also incredibly ageing so ditch the expensive wrinkle creams and invest in a decent steamer. We love using a tiered steamer so we can batch cook lots of potatoes and vegetables.
Prioritise sleep health, at least 8-9 hours in a dark room with no electrical equipment that can disrupt sleep. Poor sleep is strongly associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity. Just one night of sleep deprivation decreases insulin sensitivity, glucose tolerance and increases appetite.
9. Moderation is Key
Don’t do anything excessively – eat to much, drink too much, exercise too much, stress too much! All of these will disrupt blood sugar levels and compromise insulin health.
10. Indulge on Antioxidants
Finally, leafy greens, herbs, spices, green tea, coffee and dare we mention a glass of red wine or some dark chocolate are all rich in antioxidants. These help to mop up free radicals which may damage our DNA (and decrease insulin sensitivity). We didn’t need to hear that twice before dunking a slab of chocolate in a mug of green tea!