Dance, Magic Dance – Glucagon vs Insulin

I’ve heard some nutritionists suggest that fat storage cannot be caused by carbs through insulin response because protein causes an insulin response too.  This is true, however protein also triggers a glucagon response at the same time… they often forget to mention this…


Glucagon, Insulin, what now?  Ok, lets rewind a little first.  When sugar enters the blood stream from the food we eat, the pancreas releases insulin in response so the body’s cells can absorb the nutrients eaten.  Glucagon is kind of the opposite of insulin as when blood sugars get too low, glucagon is released from the pancreas to tell the cells in the liver to release sugar into the blood stream. One of the livers functions is a little back up battery for sugar (it cant store an awful lot).

This is the magic dance that happens every day within us, insulin/glucagon signaling cells to do their stuff.  Insulin = store (everything), Glucagon = release (some things – mostly sugar and fat).

Carbs trigger insulin to store stuff. Once tummy is empty and body begins using up what’s in the blood stream, glucagon opens the cells in the liver (for sugar) and body (fat release) so the blood fills up with nutrients from what’s stored to keep things moving.

Make sense?  I hope so.

So, if protein causes an insulin response, wont that put me into storage more too you say?

Yes it does! But wait, protein also causes your pancreas to release glucagon at the same time!!!


Ok let’s keep this simple… why does it do this, and this is my basic computer programmer understanding…

From a protein perspective, if you have not had much carbs with the protein (say it’s spring time in stone age land), your body will not have much sugar available, so when you eat the protein insulin would drive down your blood sugar levels down under normal circumstances, however, because glucagon is also present, cells refuse to absorb the sugar so fast but they will happily receive the protein (glucagon also tells cells to release fat, but insulin tells them to receive, so depending on the balance the flow will happen one way or another but in a very controlled manner).  This means blood sugars are kept stable for hours upon end as the protein is digested, a constant stream of insulin and glucagon to play a balancing act to keep you using the energy of the food for the now.  The liver won’t release sugar as it would normally because insulin is telling it to store, so again a fine balancing act is going on there too.

Add in carbs and it’s a different story, insulin will overpower the glucagon and you go into storage mode for the future, remember carbs are autumnal and so they are the main trigger for the storage of everything.  It will bash things into your cells.


Protein will cause both an insulin and glucagon response from the pancreas, putting you into both storage and usage mode at the same time, the net effect is slow absorption of energy and nutrients for right now.

Carbs cause a much greater insulin response and 0 glucagon response and so it will cause you to store energy for the future (prepping the body for winter?).

The baby milk formula is an overload of carb and fat with low protein.  This means minimal glucagon response, large insulin response causing the inactive baby to store most of the nutrients provided by mother so that it grows hardy as quickly as possible.

Thought For Diabetics: There are huge implications here for diabetics.  I’ve emailed a top Diabetes Doctor and will post my thoughts on that once I’ve run the idea by them.

If you want to find out a simple way to avoid winter fat storage you can get a copy of Don’t Eat for Winter via the homepage.


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Author of Don't Eat for Winter. 2 time European, pan-American and World amateur kettlebell champion. who went from an obese 115kg to a fit and healthy 78kg through his 5 year journey of discovery around nutrition and exercise. I believe that we will see an avalanche of fat fall from the Earth as people escape from the infinite autumn through The DEFoW Diet concept.