Boosting Insulin Sensitivity – Em’s Experiment

Insulin Sensitivity Experiment Type 1 DiabetesIt’s time to experiment with insulin sensitivity.

Over the past six months of heavy travel – Italy, France, Spain, Thailand and Bali – I couldn’t maintain the strict diet, exercise and hiking routine that kept my sugars stable and my insulin requirements low…and I’ve needed increasingly more insulin.

I started with just 4 units of Toujeo (long-acting) in the mornings (I know…it’s weird to take it in the morning, but I do for now). I’m up to 13 units, steadily needing more to maintain my sugars throughout the day.

My weekly-ish hike of 5-10 miles is virtually the only thing that brings this requirement down, and only for a couple days.

As I am just one year post diagnosis, I recognize that some of this may be the result of the “honeymoon” period coming to an end – that space where the pancreas is still kicking out a little insulin of it’s own. But I’m also pretty sure I’ve developed some insulin resistance.

So, it’s time to learn more about the causes of insulin resistance and ways to boost insulin sensitivity.

Why is this important?

A lot of people consider Type 1 diabetics to be insulin sensitive and Type 2 diabetics to be insulin resistant, categorically. But, insulin resistance can occur for Type 1’s, too.

Why does it matter how much insulin you’re dosing as long as your blood glucose is under control and your A1C is awesome?

Well, higher levels of insulin result in more of what we eat being stored as fat instead of used up as energy in muscle tissue and high levels of insulin are correlated with inflammation, which is the root trigger for a host of other diseases and complications.

Insulin resistance is associated with: 

  • Weight gain (as fat – not muscle)
  • Impaired athletic performance
  • Poor sleep and fatigue
  • Impaired recovery from injury, illness or training
  • Increased triglyceride levels (and heart disease risk)

Boosting Insulin Sensitivity

I’m already doing the basics:


I am back to taking my supplements like religion after struggling to get them in while traveling. It’s been a few weeks, so this shouldn’t play a factor in the experiment.

I take a nutrient-dense multivitamin (3 capsules in the morning, 3 capsules in the evening), fish oil (2 capsules in the morning, 2 capsules in the evening), and my doc’s proprietary blood sugar metabolism supplement, Diamend (3 capsules in the morning, 3 capsules in the evening).

Why are supplements important for diabetics? Well, there’s quite a bit of research out there on the role of certain vitamins and minerals in healthy blood sugar metabolism (I go into that further on this post).

Frequent Aerobic Exercise + Weight/Resistance Training

Emphasis on weight and resistance training. Even when we aren’t working out, muscle tissue consumes the majority of glucose in our blood – 70-90%!

Exercising of course radically increases the demand for glucose with a boost to insulin sensitivity for at least 24 hours after the workout. I’ve found my insulin requirements reduced for up to 3 days after a long, intense hike (that gluteus maximus is the biggest muscle in the human body).

Weight training or body resistance training are critical because they build muscle tissue. Apparently, for every 10% increase in muscle tissue, you get an 11% increase in insulin sensitivity. 

Avoiding Trans Fats & Omega 6 Fats

This is most easily done by simply avoiding processed foods, which are the biggest sources of trans fats and Omega 6 fats (processed vegetable oils).

Why? The fat we consume is used by our body to build the lipid layer that protects cells – the layer functions best and improves cell insulin sensitivity when it is flexible and strong.

The Experiment: Low Fat Diet

I ran across a theory that high fat diets lead to insulin resistance due to the fats blocking the absorption of glucose into muscle tissue.

The research looks compelling, albeit depressing since my high fat foods like peanut butter and steak, have kept me sane in the face of losing artisan bread and frozen yogurt.

But, if it means improved insulin sensitivity, I’m down for a diet adjustment.

For the next 7 days, I am going to see what happens to my insulin requirements by simply changing that one factor – lowering my fat intake.

Today is Day 1. I’ll post a summary again at the end of the experiment, and you can follow more regular updates on the Type 1 Rockstar Instagram feed or on Facebook.

My breakfast routine was first up for a slight makeover.

I always have a chocolate peanut butter protein shake in the morning. It’s sweet and delicious, and yet packed with protein and nutrition.

All I changed was half-ing the peanut butter from 2 tbsp to 1, a decrease of 8 g of fat.

Crushed Ice
2 scoops Orgain Chocolate Fudge Protein Powder
1 tbsp organic peanut butter
1/2 cup greens (spinach mostly)

After the adjustment, my breakfast shake has 5 net carbs, 15 g of fat, and 25 g of protein, plus greens.

I’m out and about today, so I will have the same shake for lunch, and then a grilled chicken salad for dinner tonight (sans cheese and with a low-fat dressing).

Happy note: Nuts have been shown to increase insulin sensitivity, so I’m not going to cut that fat out. Since walnuts and almonds are my favorite snack, this is a huge relief and it’s nice to know that they are more than just a salty protein!

I’m interested to see what happens and I will attempt to isolate any other factors. But, we all know, everything impacts blood sugar!

As always, I appreciate your wisdom, ideas and experiences – so please share what has worked / not worked for you. Perhaps it will be fodder for my next experiment. 

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