Glucagon and Insulin

Glucagon and insulin are two hormones that have a massive impact on your ability to lose weight. By manipulating your body's production of these hormones through various nutrition and exercise principles you can dramatically improve your weight loss efforts.

Your body's endocrine (hormonal)environment plays a very important role when it comes to weight loss. In this article we will cover how you can manipulate your own internal environment to promote greater weight-loss effects.

Glucagon is produced by the alpha cells in the pancreas. It is known as an 'insulin antagonist' hormone because it serves diametrically opposed functions to insulin. Whereby insulin is a lipogenic/ anabolic hormone, glucagon is a lipolytic/ catabolic hormone. Glucagon is also considered to be a 'double-edged sword'.

Glucagon is released by the pancreas in response to a falling blood glucose level (passive release) or an influx of amino acids into the blood stream (active release). The active release of glucagon is far superior to the passive release because it promotes the positive effects of glucagon whilst inhibiting the negative effects.

In contrast to insulin, glucagon release is not mediated by the autonomic nervous system and therefore glucagon concentration is considerably delayed following the onset of exercise. An increase in blood glucose and free fatty acids is beneficial for people involved in exercise and glucagon promotes this.

Accordingly, consuming an easily absorbed protein source immediately prior to exercise will result in the levels of these fuel sources increasing in the blood stream. This opposes traditional recommendations to consume carbohydrates pre-exercise, however, if maximising the use of fat for fuel during the exercise session as well as post-exercise is important, then consuming protein is obviously a superior approach.

If losing weight is a priority for you, it is important to have the insulin/ glucagon axis in favour of glucagon most of the time. This may be done by consuming small meals, ensuring protein is consumed with every meal, lowering total carbohydrate intake per meal and ensuring any carbohydrates consumed are released slowly into the blood stream.

The only time it is beneficial to have the insulin/ glucagon axis in favour of insulin is post-exercise and first thing in the morning (to stop the catabolic processes occurring in the body). It is also beneficial if your goal is to maximise muscle mass.

Here's a summary of glucagon's functions:

  • Promotes the release of glucose from the liver glycogen into the blood stream

  • Increase the mobilisation and utilisation of fat for fuel

  • Promotes the uptake of amino acids into the liver for conversion into glucose through the process of 'gluconeogenesis'

  • Overall, glucagon and insulin are two very important hormones in the body and by using this information you will be able to control their production in your body and assist your weight loss efforts.

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