Tyler Robbins Fitness

B.Sc. Biochemistry, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Certified CrossFit Trainer (CCFT/CF-L3), USA Weightlifting Level 1

Filtering by Tag: Insulin

Carbs are not evil!

It's just so simple, cutting carbs, or restricting your carbs to a certain amount (If it fits your macros - IIFYM) is the key to fat loss and getting that toned, defined body, correct? Well, not exactly. Low-carb diets should be added to the same category as "dietary fats cause body fat." Now that most individuals probably realize that dietary fats don't cause excess body fat - only excess calories do, we should also explain that carbohydrates don't cause weight gain or excess body fat - only excess calories do.

*NOTE* - yes, it is entirely possible and a common practice for physique and figure competitors to low-carb their way to a defined body. Keep in mind that they use this as a short-term solution to prepare for competition and should not be, and is not, a common practice year-round outside of competition prep. Just because a low-carb diet is effective in trimming down excess body fat and defining muscles, this is not the only way to lose weight and define, nor is it a long-term solution to effective weight management.

*NOTE* - I am not saying eat all the carbs you want, either. In fact, I don't think carbohydrates should be the cornerstone of your diet - protein should be (more on that later). Instead, just realize that there is a lot of benefits to be had from eating carbs. Keep in mind that not all carbs are created equal, so eating fruits, vegetables, grains, and starches (yes, even delicious and healthy white potatoes) far surpass simple sugars such as processed additives and sweets in the overall health department.

Don't believe me? Check out this recently published study:

Energy expenditure and body composition changes after an isocaloric ketogenic diet in overweight and obese men.Abstract


The carbohydrate-insulin model of obesity posits that habitual consumption of a high-carbohydrate diet sequesters fat within adipose tissue because of hyperinsulinemia and results in adaptive suppression of energy expenditure (EE). Therefore, isocaloric exchange of dietary carbohydrate for fat is predicted to result in increased EE, increased fat oxidation, and loss of body fat. In contrast, a more conventional view that "a calorie is a calorie" predicts that isocaloric variations in dietary carbohydrate and fat will have no physiologically important effects on EE or body fat.


We investigated whether an isocaloric low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet (KD) is associated with changes in EE, respiratory quotient (RQ), and body composition.


Seventeen overweight or obese men were admitted to metabolic wards, where they consumed a high-carbohydrate baseline diet (BD) for 4 wk followed by 4 wk of an isocaloric KD with clamped protein. Subjects spent 2 consecutive days each week residing in metabolic chambers to measure changes in EE (EEchamber), sleeping EE (SEE), and RQ. Body composition changes were measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Average EE during the final 2 wk of the BD and KD periods was measured by doubly labeled water (EEDLW).


Subjects lost weight and body fat throughout the study corresponding to an overall negative energy balance of ∼300 kcal/d. Compared with BD, the KD coincided with increased EEchamber (57 ± 13 kcal/d, P = 0.0004) and SEE (89 ± 14 kcal/d, P < 0.0001) and decreased RQ (-0.111 ± 0.003, P < 0.0001). EEDLW increased by 151 ± 63 kcal/d (P = 0.03). Body fat loss slowed during the KD and coincided with increased protein utilization and loss of fat-free mass.


The isocaloric KD was not accompanied by increased body fat loss but was associated with relatively small increases in EE that were near the limits of detection with the use of state-of-the-art technology.

I have actually written about this study previously, and even linked to the video of Dr. Hall (lead author) explaining the results.

Now that the study is published, I figured it was definitely worth a re-share to explain its significance. Sure, no single study should ever be total proof or evidence of the truth, but it certainly sheds some light on common beliefs or misconceptions that I continually see in the nutrition industry.

Insulin has been the scapegoat in this whole debacle. We are constantly inundated with news of rising type-II diabetes rates worldwide, and since insulin is such a key factor when it comes to the development of diabetes, not to mention the apparent link to obesity, the rise in low-carb or no-carb diets is becoming more and more popular.

What this study shows us is that sure, low-carb participants not only experienced weight loss, but actually experienced greater weight loss than their controlled carbohydrate study counterparts. Greater weight loss is better, right? Well, no, especially not in this case. Not only did the weight loss in the low-carb camp plateau after about 3 weeks, but the greater overall weight loss can be chalked up to a loss in lean tissues (muscle) as well. So, although these individuals were losing weight (desirable), they were losing muscle as well (not as desirable).

So what should you do?

Well, if you want my honest opinion, take what I usually explain to all of my clients, friends, and family members:

  1. Eat foods that are as nutritious as possible. In other words, do your best to eliminate foods that are empty calories such as sugary beverages, etc. If the only nutrients you are getting from something carb-laden is sugar, you are doing things wrong.
  2. Certain carbs are very healthy and good quality sources such as potatoes, grains, beans, etc. have lots of beneficial nutrients.
  3. Aim to get at least 0.8-1g of protein per pound of body weight. I currently weigh around 195lbs so I aim for around 155-195g/protein/day.
  4. The rest of your calories then have less relevance.
  5. Read #3 and then #4 again.
  6. If you are gaining weight and you want to lose weight, you are consuming too many calories day to day. Either move more or eat less, or both.
  7. If you are losing weight and you want to gain weight, you are not consuming enough calories day to day. Either move less or eat more, or both.

I am personally not a fan of counting macros. Sure, I recommend clients do it short-term just to get a rough idea of where they sit, but over the long-term it can make eating feel like nothing but a chore. That time could be better spent, in my opinion, moving more and educating yourself.


  • Carbs are not evil
  • Carbs do not cause weight gain - excess calories cause weight gain
  • Carb restriction can be an effective short-term (3 weeks) solution to weight loss
  • Carbs fuel performance
  • Carb sources should be a nutrient-dense as possible

Is breakfast the most important meal of the day?

Is breakfast the most important meal of the day? You would certainly think so based on what you hear from, well, virtually everyone. I think this one can go in the, "hear it enough times, it must be true" category.

And no, despite what these young folks tell you, your "gas tank" does not go empty overnight...

The purpose of this blog is not to encourage my readers to skip breakfast, but to encourage my readers to seek out dietary plans that work for them. I personally can't remember the last time that I ate breakfast, but I can also appreciate and realize that that scenario is not ideal for everyone.

As a teenager I was never a big fan of eating breakfast. I always felt like it made me feel nauseous in the morning and I would also feel quite sluggish. I never knew that such a thing had a "name" (intermittent fasting) until many years later when I started to read so many benefits about fasting for extended periods of time.

As humans, we all fast, since as far as I can tell people can't safely eat while sleeping. The only difference between what I do and what breakfast-eaters do, is I extend my fasting window, and therefore shrink my eating window. In other words, I usually make sure I am fasting for at least 16 hours - typically eating just before bed around 9-9:30pm and then won't eat again until at least 1-1:30pm the following day.

This may sound extreme and crazy to many of you, but it works for me for a number of reasons that I can elaborate on in a future blog for those interested. But to stay on topic, let's get back to the prime reason of this blog.

A recent review discusses the idea that breakfast may in fact not be as important as most think.

Evaluating the Intervention-Based Evidence Surrounding the Causal Role of Breakfast on Markers of Weight Management, with Specific Focus on Breakfast Composition and Size.


Nutritional strategies are vitally needed to aid in the management of obesity. Cross-sectional and epidemiologic studies consistently demonstrate that breakfast consumption is strongly associated with a healthy body weight. However, the intervention-based long-term evidence supporting a causal role of breakfast consumption is quite limited and appears to be influenced by several key dietary factors, such as dietary protein, fiber, and energy content. This article provides a comprehensive review of the intervention-based literature that examines the effects of breakfast consumption on markers of weight management and daily food intake. In addition, specific focus on the composition and size (i.e., energy content) of the breakfast meal is included. Overall, there is limited evidence supporting (or refuting) the daily consumption of breakfast for body weight management and daily food intake. In terms of whether the type of breakfast influences these outcomes, there is accumulating evidence supporting the consumption of increased dietary protein and fiber content at breakfast, as well as the consumption of more energy during the morning hours. However, the majority of the studies that manipulated breakfast composition and content did not control for habitual breakfast behaviors, nor did these studies include a breakfast-skipping control arm. Thus, it is unclear whether the addition of these types of breakfast plays a causal role in weight management. Future research, including large randomized controlled trials of longer-term (i.e., ≥6 mo) duration with a focus on key dietary factors, is critical to begin to assess whether breakfast recommendations are appropriate for the prevention and/or treatment of obesity.

When it comes to healthy weight management, this review suggests that the inclusion of breakfast is not crucial. It also recommends that if breakfast is to be consumed, then it is generally recommend to enrich said breakfast with protein and fibre - presumably to slow digestion and spikes in insulin.

I am always an advocate for consistency. Each individual should choose a diet plan that is sustainable and healthy for you. If you skip breakfast but then over-indulge, gorging yourself on less-than-healthy foods at lunch, then fasting may not be the best solution for you.

Creatine and Insulin Sensitivity

I have discussed the extrinsic "fringe" benefits of creatine supplementation in the past - or in other words, the benefits gained from supplementing that go beyond the standard and proven increases in strength and muscular growth. I came across another benefit recently, and one that I haven't seen before but makes sense in hindsight.

Good science is never absolute. A recent review that has come out looking at creatine supplementation's effects on glucose metabolism is very adamant at pointing out the relatively scant evidence surrounding the benefits on this topic. Having said that, this is an interesting topic to discuss and research further.

Creatine Supplementation and glycemic control: a systematic review


The focus of this review is the effects of creatine supplementation with or without exercise on glucose metabolism. A comprehensive examination of the past 16 years of study within the field provided a distillation of key data. Both in animal and human studies, creatine supplementation together with exercise training demonstrated greater beneficial effects on glucose metabolism; creatine supplementation itself demonstrated positive results in only a few of the studies. In the animal studies, the effects of creatine supplementation on glucose metabolism were even more distinct, and caution is needed in extrapolating these data to different species, especially to humans. Regarding human studies, considering the samples characteristics, the findings cannot be extrapolated to patients who have poorer glycemic control, are older, are on a different pharmacological treatment (e.g., exogenous insulin therapy) or are physically inactive. Thus, creatine supplementation is a possible nutritional therapy adjuvant with hypoglycemic effects, particularly when used in conjunction with exercise.

We know that active muscles absorb water and blood sugar like sponges. We also know that creatine supplementation can cause water and blood sugar retention in muscles. Purely speculation from me, but I would assume that the mechanisms of glucose metabolism - digestion and absorption of glucose is being enhanced with creatine supplementation by increasing the rate of absorption into the muscle cells.

One of the primary roles of insulin is simply to transport and store excess blood glucose in muscle and adipose (fat) cells. That is why exercise is so effective for healthy insulin sensitivity because working muscles absorb so much blood sugar and ease the load of the pancreas and the hormone insulin.

It appears that supplementing with creatine, along with having a well-rounded resistance and exercise program appears to increase insulin sensitivity and reduce the risks of diabetes. For more information on creatine and how to supplement, check out my guide.