What is insulin? It’s a hormone that is made by the human body, in the pancreas that permits the body to use the glucose it receives from carbohydrates in our food to transform into energy. It also enables us to store glucose for future use. Insulin helps regulate the blood sugar levels in the body so that they don’t get too high or too low causing either hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia.
Our bodies use this sugar to fuel the cells which run on energy. When sugar enters the body through our food, our blood sugar levels rise. This signals the cells in the pancreas to do their job and release insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin will signal the cells to absorb the sugar. Without insulin, the cells are not receiving the energy they need to function.
Insulin for people with diabetes is lifesaving. However, the side effect of weight gain that is associated with it can often be frustrating. The connection between insulin and weight gain has been well documented, but the good news is that it can also be managed.
As insulin is a hormone that regulates how the body absorbs sugar into the cells. Taking insulin enables glucose to enter your cells and in turn drop the glucose levels in the blood. Despite achieving this desired result, weight gain is a common side effect of taking insulin. However, by being vigilant about balancing your insulin with a healthy lifestyle, finding the right middle ground is possible.
The shortlist is reasonably straightforward. Want to avoid the weight gain that is typically associated with taking insulin? Follow these simple steps.
- Eat regularly-don’t skip meals.
- Count calories-keep the calories to a minimum
- Stay physically active-working out is crucial for people with diabetes.
- Take your insulin medication as directed.
- Stay current about new and different diabetes medications.
Staying healthy is the utmost goal for people with diabetes, as this is a disorder that can wreak havoc on your life and health if it is not properly managed. Maintaining a healthy weight is an essential part of this process as well. Managing your diabetes is a complex task that requires a constant focus on your insulin levels, add managing weight gain to this can sometimes feel overwhelming. But it can be done. Let’s dive deeper into the methods to do so.
How to avoid weight gain when you take insulin
Eating healthy foods and staying physically active is by far the biggest and most important thing you can do to help manage weight gain.
Eat regularly-don’t skip meals.
Often people with diabetes are told to keep calorie intake to a minimum. However, this doesn’t mean that you should skip meals. In fact, for a person with diabetes, skipping meals is problematic. Skipping meals can cause your blood sugar levels to drop quickly, especially if you don’t adjust your insulin dose. Add to this that skipping meals makes you even more hungry, which in turn makes you more likely to make poor food choices. As with anyone, when you have skipped meals and are feeling ravenous- people tend to reach for high starch and sugar foods, including processed and fast foods.
Count calories-keep the calories to a minimum
Consuming fewer calories prevents further weight gain, but you want to do it healthily. It doesn’t mean eating less but moreover, choosing to eat better. Whole foods are the best way for everyone, including people with diabetes, to remain healthy and manage their weight. Fruits, veggies, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean protein should make up the base of your nutrition plan. Meal planning can help with this too. Choosing one day of the week to make lists, cook food in advance, and plan what will go into your meals for the week, is a great way to manage weight gain.
Portion sizes are also something to consider. You can be choosing very healthy, whole foods but if your portions are too large or you are continually reaching for second helpings-it will show in your weight.
Make it a point to swap out your high-calorie drinks for water. This is an easy way to cut some unwanted calories. If you feel that you need your drink needs to have a flavour, add lemons, limes, or other fruits to your water. Fruit-infused water is delicious and calorie-free!
Stay physically active-working out is crucial for diabetics.
Again, this tip is not just for diabetics, but it does apply even more to those who need to take insulin. Before insulin, people with diabetes were forced to work out regularly to keep their blood sugar at the lowest levels possible. Although it did work, living life like this is not sustainable. However, despite how thankful we are for insulin medication, keeping active is still important.
Staying active helps the body to use insulin more effectively. Depending on the amount of physical activity, your insulin levels may need adjusting. So always discuss your lifestyle versus the amount of insulin that you take with your doctor.
Take your insulin medication as directed.
It can be tempting to skip or reduce your insulin dose to minimize weight gain. Although this may work in the short term, the health risks are not worth the weight loss. As a person with diabetes, tracking your insulin levels is crucial. If your body is low on insulin, your blood sugar will rise, which in turn raises the risks associated with diabetes complications.
Stay current about new and different diabetes medications.
It’s also essential to keep the dialogue with your doctor open about different medications. There are several types of insulin medication, and some help to manage weight loss more than others.
Different types of diabetes
Insulin is a hormone that is produced inside the body by the pancreas. As we know, diabetes is a disease whereby the body is unable to produce insulin or can’t properly use the insulin that it is producing. The role of insulin in the body is to regulate the amount of glucose (also known as sugar) in the blood. For the body to function properly, blood sugar must be controlled. In the case of diabetics, this is not happening correctly or sometimes at all. If there is too much blood sugar in the body, damage can be done to the blood vessels, organs, and nerves. The body also needs insulin to convert sugar into energy — all in all, an essential part of how the human body works.
There are two different types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Each has similarities but also some reasonably important differences when it comes to how you can care for your health.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease that is often diagnosed in children, teens, and occasionally in young adults. When you have type 1 diabetes, you are unable to produce your insulin and, therefore, cannot regulate your blood sugar. The body is attacking the pancreas-this is why it is classified as an auto-immune disease. People with type 1 diabetes are insulin-dependent and need to inject themselves multiple times per day with insulin to make sure that their bodies can function normally.
Type 1 diabetics must eat according to a healthy nutrition plan to make it easier to control their diabetes. However, no matter how healthy the are-this type of diabetes cannot be reversed.
Type 2 Diabetes
Those with Type 2 diabetes can’t properly use the insulin that their bodies are creating, or they do not produce enough of it. This type is commonly diagnosed in adulthood (although we see it more and more in children, specifically in the Western world). Often, type 2 diabetes can be managed and sometimes even reversed with healthy eating and exercise.
Type 1 and Type 2 are the most common forms of diabetes, but there are a few other instances as well where people may develop insulin dependency.
Gestational diabetes is only a temporary form of diabetes, and it occurs during pregnancy. Often when someone receives a diagnosis of gestational diabetes, this could mean a higher chance that they or their child will develop diabetes later in life after the pregnancy.
Prediabetes occurs when your blood sugar levels are higher than they should be but are not yet high enough to be categorized as type 2 diabetes. Not everyone with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes, but if not managed and dealt with quickly, many will. There are many long-term complications associated with diabetes. Problems such as heart disease and other issues can even begin during the prediabetic period.
What is very encouraging, though, is the fact that Type 2 diabetes, as well as prediabetes, can be very well managed with the right combination of diet, exercise, and insulin. Some people have even been able to reverse their diabetes completely by changing to a healthier diet and lifestyle. Even though insulin is associated with some weight gain, it doesn’t have to be. With the right diet and workout plan, you can even lower your weight (if you were overweight and this contributed to your Type 2 diabetes) or manage to maintain a healthy weight even with insulin dependency.
The best diet for a diabetic
To stay healthy as a person with diabetes, you need to build your nutrition plan around lean proteins, whole foods like fruits and vegetables, high-fiber and healthy fats, and a little bit of low-fat dairy. Avoiding processed foods with high sodium and trans fats is essential. Fast food and sugary soda drinks are also things to avoid.
Here are some food ideas to keep you on track.
Lean Protein: Lean meats and wild-caught fish
Fruits & Veggies: All kinds, including leafy greens and starchy root vegetables
Grains: Whole wheat pasta, rice, quinoa, couscous
Healthy Fats: Avocado, nuts, olive oil
Healthy snack ideas for diabetics can include some of the following:
- Vegetables chopped up and dipped in hummus
- Apples sliced with peanut butter.
- Yogurt with berries
- Roasted chickpeas
- Hard-boiled eggs
- And much more! There’s no need to feel deprived on a healthy diet!
Want to learn more about how to build a healthy nutrition plan?
Check out some of our articles on nutrition that can help you build the perfect plan for you.
Although there can be several challenges when you are diagnosed as a diabetic and keeping your blood sugar at a healthy level is your top priority. This doesn’t mean that your options are limited when it comes to the side effect, though. Ultimately, the answer is yes- insulin is associated with weight gain. However, when it comes down to it, weight management when taking insulin can be a challenge. Staying healthy and maintain a stable weight is possible as long as you keep on top of your medication, eating habits, and exercise regime.