Trends & Innovation

Get to know your pancreas and your body’s very own anabolic steroid

19 Feb 2019

Should you eat before or after working out? It might depend on whether you’re a man or a woman, and whether your goal is to burn fat. Seriously. But first, let’s look at how the fat gets in.


1 Meet your body’s natural muscle builder
Our blood sugar levels are regulated by the hormone insulin, which is produced by the pancreas. Insulin is a potent anabolic stimulus for muscle proteins, i.e. it builds muscle. An insulin deficiency leads to what’s known as a protein-catabolic state, which results in loss of muscle mass.


2 How to treat your pancreas right
One way insulin deficiency begins is by overeating, where the sheer quantity of food causes a jump in your blood-sugar level. This leads to a spike in insulin, which sends your blood-sugar level crashing, which makes you crave more food. This boom-bust cycle is thought to exhaust your pancreas, which might cease making insulin altogether. Eating food with added refined sugar seriously worsens this condition.


3 How the fat gets in
Insulin stimulates the liver to store excess sugar in the blood as glycogen but it can’t store it all; any excess sugar turns to fat. Also, overeating can cause you to develop insulin resistance, when your body eventually ceases to respond to insulin.


4 Why men should eat after a workout
Because this raises levels of the anabolic (muscle-building) insulin, which delivers amino acids directly into your recovering muscles with glucose. Just choose a food with a good profile of protein (amino acids) and carbohydrate (which converts into glucose). Remember: whole foods are never just protein or carbs or fats alone, despite how we now think of meat as ‘protein’ and bread as ‘carbs’. That’s a gross misunderstanding of food.


5 Why women should eat before a workout
In an experiment conducted by the BBC, it was shown that “women’s bodies tend to burn fat more easily than men’s, and are not fuelled so much by carbohydrate”. (Yes, really.) So if women eat carbohydrate-heavy foods soon after exercise, it “overfuels” them and interfere with their body’s ability to burn fat. Eat at least 90 minutes before working out if you’re having a small snack. Just remember to eat your carbs whole, as nature made them.