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Blog Weight Loss Weight Management Does Insulin Make You Gain Weight? The Link Between Insulin And Weight Gain

Does Insulin Make You Gain Weight? The Link Between Insulin And Weight Gain

causes of insulin resistance

Contrary to what people think, maintaining an ideal weight or shedding pounds is both challenging and frustrating. One minute you are losing pounds and fitting in your favorite clothes, and the next minute you are tossing them out because they no longer fit. So what could be causing your weight gain? Believe it or not, insulin, a hormone in your body, is the culprit.

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When we talk of weight gain, we mainly focus on common factors such as eating junk food and the lack of physical activity. That said, we hardly account for the lesser known factors like insulin. Can insulin make you gain weight? Yes, it can. This article will be discussing the link between insulin and weight gain and ways you can avoid insulin-related weight gain. Let us get started!

What Is Insulin And What Is Its Function?

Insulin is a hormone made in your pancreas that mainly helps regulate glucose levels in the blood (4). It is used to treat diabetes by stabilizing your blood sugar or glucose levels

If you are not producing enough insulin, your doctor may recommend taking an insulin supplement to help with diabetes management (3). There are several types of insulin which are classified depending on how fast they start working and the duration of their effects (3). These types include (3):

  • Rapid-acting. These start to work in a few minutes, and their effects last for several hours.
  • Regular or short-acting. This type of insulin kicks in after thirty minutes or so and lasts three to six hours. 
  • Intermediate-acting. The effect of this type of insulin is felt between two and four hours of consumption. Its effects can last for close to eighteen hours.
  • Long-lasting. As the name suggests, the impact of this insulin type is felt for a longer duration. According to WebMD, the effects can last an entire day (3).
  • Pre-mixed. As the name implies, you can tell this type is a combination of several other types.

Most people with diabetes have a routine of giving themselves insulin shots. They argue that so long as they take their shots, they are good to go. However, experts acknowledge that the place you take this shot highly matters as it reflects the absorption rate (3).

You will most likely absorb insulin fastest when you inject your belly (3). If not there, the other areas to consider are your thighs, arms, and butt (3). Try to inject the same area but not the same spot to avoid scarring (3).

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How To Determine Which Insulin To Take

As seen from above, there are several types of insulin. Your doctor does not prescribe just any kind but instead chooses based on several factors. Some of these include (2):

  • Your body’s response to insulin. Your doctor has to observe how your body absorbs insulin and how long it lasts in your body.
  • Lifestyle. The rate at which your body uses insulin is affected by several lifestyle choices. Some of these include your diet, alcohol intake, and physical activity.
  • Preferences. Some people do not like injections, so they prefer to consume insulin in another manner.
  • Age. Your age also affects insulin sensitivity.
  • The number of times you check your blood sugar levels.
  • Your goals for managing your blood glucose

Depending on what your doctor finds out, they may prescribe one or more insulin types. Make sure you understand the frequency and if you can take other medicines alongside insulin.

signs of insulin resistance
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What Is Insulin Resistance?

At times, the cells in your muscles, liver, and fat may not respond well to insulin, meaning you cannot use glucose for energy (2). This is referred to as insulin resistance. To solve this, your pancreas is forced to make more insulin. However, your blood glucose levels will increase over time (2).

Insulin resistance is caused by several factors, which are risk factors. According to WebMD, these causes of insulin resistance include (2):

  • Obesity and belly (visceral) fat
  • Medical conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and fatty liver disease
  • A diet rich in carbs
  • An inactive (sedentary) lifestyle
  • Gestational diabetes
  • A family with a history of diabetes
  • Medications, such as steroids. HIV drugs and antipsychotics
  • Hormonal disorders, such as acromegaly and Cushing’s syndrome
  • Smoking
  • Sleeping disorders such as sleep apnea
  • Age (higher than 45)

You cannot tell if you have insulin resistance judging from how you appear. The most reliable way is by doing a blood test for your blood sugar levels. Noting this, some signs of insulin resistance that doctors ask you to watch out for are (2):

  • A blood pressure reading higher than 130/80
  • A waistline of over forty inches in men and thirty-five inches in women
  • Skin tags
  • A fasting glucose level of more than 100mg/dL
  • A fasting triglyceride level of more than 150mg/dL
  • An HDL cholesterol level less than 40 mg/dL in men and 50 mg/dL in women
  • Acanthosis nigricans (patches of dark, velvety skin)

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rapid weight gain
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Treating Insulin Resistance

Luckily, you can implement various strategies to reverse insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes risk. Some of these strategies include (2):

  • Exercising. Make sure you choose an activity matching your fitness level and try to perform it religiously. Aim for at least thirty minutes every day if it is a simple aerobic activity like walking. You can start by performing the exercise five days a week if you are not active (2).
  • Eating Healthy Meals. You must eat clean to control your blood sugar levels, reverse insulin resistance, and prevent type 2 diabetes. Some foods you should consume more of include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean meat, fish, and pulses (2).
  • Taking Medications. If it is severe, your doctor may prescribe metformin, a medication that helps in controlling blood sugar levels (2).

Does Insulin Make You Gain Weight?

This is perhaps the million-dollar question that has kept you fixated up to this point. Well, experts acknowledge that one of the most common side effects of taking insulin is weight gain. According to Mayo Clinic, when you consume insulin, glucose enters your cells and its levels in your blood drop noticeably (1).

This is the undesirable effect of the treatment. If the insulin does not properly regulate the blood sugar levels and help break down fats and proteins, you store fat. Again, if you consume more calories than your body requires and remain inactive, your cells will have more glucose than needed (1).

Since your body is not using this glucose, it accumulates as fat, especially in your abdomen (1). Medical News Today also acknowledges that you can add pounds as a side effect of insulin therapy. Although this hormone regulates your glucose levels, you must remember that it also promotes fat storage (4).

does insulin make you gain weight
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How To Avoid Weight Gain On Insulin

As we have determined above, individuals who take insulin to manage their glucose levels may add some pounds. However, the extra pounds do not sit well with some people. This does not mean you should stop taking insulin or skip some doses. That is not the right way to go about it.

Instead, you ought to first talk to your doctor about your concerns about the extra weight gain. Of course, they will not ask you to stop with the medication as this has been linked to long-term complications. They will instead recommend other effective ways of avoiding insulin-related weight gain like (4):

  • Regular Exercise

We all know how important exercise is in our lives. Besides helping you keep fit, exercising regularly also helps you burn calories and regulate blood glucose levels. Stabilizing these glucose levels and torching calories helps promote fat loss (4).

However, you need to talk to your doctor about the type of exercise to perform. Mayo Clinic states that exercising helps your body use insulin more efficiently if you perform only enough of it (1).

Similarly, you will keep the weight at bay when exercising if you also cut back on your insulin dosage (1). But, again, you will only determine what amount of exercise is enough by talking to your doctor.

Read More: Weight Loss Plans For Men: 10 Healthy, Sustainable Diets To Choose From

does insulin make you gain weight
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  • Taking The Correct Dosage

Some people may add some pounds if they take more insulin. Remember that although you will lose a pound or two, stopping the medication comes with its risks. 

Without enough insulin, you run the risk of experiencing more severe diabetes complications (1). The best way to take insulin and lose weight is by taking the correct dosage and implementing other techniques like exercising.  

  • Counting Calories

There are many causes of weight gain, and for sure, the main one is consuming more calories than your body is burning. This may result in rapid weight gain, making you settle for drastic and fatal weight loss measures.

One of such measures is skipping meals. Skipping meals in no way helps your health, mainly due to diabetes. The behavior only lowers your blood sugar levels, which may lead to hypoglycemia (1).

Instead of skipping meals, experts suggest you consume healthy, balanced meals but track your calories. One way you can track the calories you consume is by practicing portion control. Portion control is when you watch your food ratios and sizes.

Similarly, you can cut on the calories you consume by planning for your meals. According to the Mayo Clinic, you are most likely to overeat and even eat unhealthy meals if you do not plan for them (1).

There are multiple meal planning strategies and meal plan ideas online. Before you work with any of them, make sure you talk to your doctor and dietitian. They must recommend plans that help you meet both your nutritional and calorie requirements. Again, remember that with diabetes, there are foods you can and cannot eat.

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The Bottom Line

Does insulin make you gain weight? Yes, it does. However, you can avoid insulin-related weight gain in several ways. These entail counting your calories, exercising, and eating healthy meals. Make sure you talk to your doctor if you suspect insulin is behind your rapid weight gain.

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DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on for decision-making. Always consult a doctor in the area of your particular needs and in circumstances influencing any medical-related decisions. Otherwise, any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. Insulin and weight gain: Keep the pounds off (2020, mayoclinic.org)
  2. Insulin Resistance (2021, webmd.com)
  3. Types of insulin for Diabetes Management (2020, webmd.com)
  4. What to know about insulin and weight gain (2019, medicalnewstoday.com)
R. Mogeni

Rodah is a competent and skilful writer with a deep interest in nutrition and healthy living. Her speciality is writing articles that fall under the fitness and weight loss category. Her unparalleled style of writing and ability to explain difficult concepts in simple terms has made her garner much acclaim.
Her top priority is creating informative pieces that advocate for or propel individuals towards healthier lifestyles. She believes that health is wealth, which is why she chose fitness and nutrition as her area of expertise. She believes adopting such a lifestyle is easy, as long as you are consistent, hopeful, and disciplined.

J. Paul

Jovial is from Dubai, and is a Head EMS Instructor/Fitness Manager/Nutrition Consultant for REMS Fitness. He is certified by the Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute and Registered as a Gym Instructor.
Jovial specialises in HIIT training, Rehabilitation/injury recovery, Strength and Conditioning, Kickboxing, Body Weight Training and Weight Training, and practices each discipline himself. His approach is to focus on improving his clients’ lifestyle by motivating them and setting an example.

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