Glucose Disposal Agents: The Rundown
By Jared Boynton
As a performance athlete, it’s likely that you already know the purpose of insulin in muscle growth. If not, here’s a quick recap:
- Insulin is absolutely vital for the uptake of nutrients from the bloodstream into all body tissues and the cells that consist of.
- This includes glucose (carbohydrates), amino acids (proteins), and fatty acids as well as triglycerides (fat).
- Chronically inflated levels of blood glucose due to a caloric surplus can lead to insulin resistance, and eventually diabetes.
- When muscle cells become insulin-resistant, the majority of the nutrients you consume will be shuttled into fat cells instead.
The four points laid out above make it blatantly obvious that utilizing your body’s supply of insulin and managing it wisely should be one of the main pillars of your approach to nutrition. Your body will create and circulate insulin on its own via the pancreas during times of elevated blood glucose; but how do we target specific tissues and ensure that those nutrients are shuttled into muscle cells instead of fat cells?
That’s where glucose disposal agents come into play. Glucose disposal agents are supplements that serve to assist the body in breaking down carbohydrates and target where those nutrients are delivered – in optimal circumstances, they’ll work to deliver every ounce of consumed carbohydrates into muscle cells to store as glycogen.
This begs the question: out of all the choices on the market at the moment, what are the best and most effective glucose disposal agents? What are their mechanisms of action?
- Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA): At the moment, ALA is the top dog in terms of glucose disposal agents. Not only is it a potent antioxidant and water-soluble, it also assists in the regeneration of damaged liver tissues. Most importantly; ALA is a rather potent regulator of blood glucose. Dosage should be in the range of 600-1200 milligrams, preferably post-workout, to maximize the uptake of amino acids and carbohydrates for optimal nutrient delivery and recovery.
- Cinnamon: Yes, cinnamon. Though not necessarily a supplement, it has an inherent ability to convert glucose/sugar into stored glycogen in muscle tissues. It’s highly recommended that you add it to as many foods as possible – oats, protein shakes, sweet potatoes, etc. Dosage ranges vary widely, but it’s recommended that cinnamon be applied liberally to every meal that you can stomach it on.
- Gymnema Sylvestre: Gymnema Sylvestre is an Indian herb which has a notable ability to reduce both blood glucose levels and sugar cravings in general. This makes it effective not only as a glucose disposal agent, but a dieting supplement as well. Dosage ranges from 300-500 milligrams with each carb-laden meal.
- Chromium: Chromium is the longest-standing glucose disposal agent on the market, and has been the subject of much controversy and research. Chromium, dosed liberally, is extremely effective as it has a distinctive ability to activate insulin receptors in muscle cells in particular. Recommended dosage is 300-500 MICROGRAMS (not milligrams) of chromium picolinate alongside each carb-heavy meal.
- Metformin: Metformin is not a supplement, per say – it’s a widely prescribed anti diabetic medication. If your blood glucose tends to run high and you’re at risk of diabetes or have been diagnosed with pre diabetes, you should bring up the implementation of Metformin (Glucophage) with your physician. Metformin is amazing in its ability to increase insulin sensitivity in muscle tissues while decreasing sensitivity in fat tissues, making it seemingly ideal for physique related purposes. This is unfortunately quite misleading; the mechanism behind Metformin’s insulin-sensitizing effects takes place via actions on AMPk (AMP-activated protein kinase). It “turns off” AMPk, which sends a signal that muscle cell glycogen stores are empty and results in targeted delivery of glucose into muscle cells as glycogen. This mechanism has an unintended effect of interrupting the mTOR pathway, unfortunately – although your cells will be full to bursting of glycogen and ridiculous pumps will ensue, hypertrophy will not be triggered because the mTOR pathway has been interfered with.
This does not, however, invalidate Metformin’s usage for its intended purpose – pre-diabetic and early diabetic patients. Speak to your doctor if you fit into one of these two categories, as Metformin can reverse these conditions and get you back on track.
If glucose disposal agents are something you’re interested in implementing, Alpha-Lipoic Acid is the best place to start; combining it with one or two of the other choices above will only serve to increase the effectiveness. Combined with a proper nutritional outline, all of these (with the exception of Metformin, unless recommended by your physician) should be worthy additions to any supplemental regimen.
Jared Boynton holds a degree in Biochemistry from the University of Tennessee, and is an internet-based performance and conditioning coach. His experience has been built through years of real-world implementation with both his own physique and the physiques of numerous clients. You can contact Jared via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Shay, Kate “Alpha-lipoic acid as a dietary supplement: Molecular mechanisms and therapeutic potential”, Biochim Biophys Acta. 2009 Oct; 1790(10): 1149–1160
Gomes, Marilia “Alpha-lipoic acid as a pleiotropic compound with potential therapeutic use in diabetes and other chronic diseases”, Diabetol Metab Syndr. 2014; 6: 80
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