Backup Energy: Why Glucagon is Important

More material from my original research notes:


our body needs to maintain a supply of fuel, and glucagon is a crucial part of this system. Considering the ample access people have to quality food, at least in America with all of our supermarkets and restaurants, glucagon is seldom seen in high quantities in the average human. Essentially, if all is well with your food intake, glucagon isn’t much of a concern.

What’s the point, then? What is glucagon, and what does it do?

Glucagon primarily serves one major purpose: To provide energy for the body when carbohydrate intake is low or carbohydrate stores are running out[1, 2]. When your body isn’t getting enough carbohydrates from your diet, glucagon moves into action. This is why high levels of glucagon can be both beneficial and disastrous, depending on what you eat.

The disastrous part of the process happens because glucagon will take protein and other non-fatty molecules and turn them into sugar, a process known as gluconeogenesis[3-17, 76, 77, 81], meaning there will be less protein available for tissue repair. If your levels of glucagon get too high, even protein from your muscles or organ tissue will be used to make sugar[7, 18-33, 73-78].

Glucagon is beneficial because it will increase the rate of ketone production[17, 34-47, 82, 84] and fat burning[8, 17, 34, 38-40, 43, 47-53]. Making sugar from protein appears to be glucagon’s preference unless there’s a large amount of fat floating around to be turned into ketones[19, 21, 37, 54, 55, 76]. There is little evidence to refute any of this: sugar production[56], ketone production[57], or fat burning[54, 58, 59].

Of course, we’d love glucagon to perform like a good little hormone, making ketones and burning fat. This would also decrease the amount of triglycerides produced, meaning lower levels in the blood and prevention of any new fat storage[8, 40, 50]. At the same time, holding glucagon back from any of its negative activities is equally as important, because you don’t want your body to eat itself to make sugar.

Being digested slowly from the inside out doesn’t sound pleasant to me. More importantly, it’s not healthy.

Whether glucagon is doing good things or bad things depends completely on how much sugar is in your system—and, consequently, how much insulin in present. When insulin levels are elevated, glucagon is unable to do much of anything[6, 34, 39, 45, 49, 60-67, 83].

In actuality, glucagon can make enough sugar from protein to cause a release of insulin[9, 15, 34, 47, 57, 68-72, 79, 80], and this stops glucagon from being able to accomplish anything further. Fortunately, it can only stop itself from being bad. It’s can’t stop itself from being good. It’s the perfect little hormone if we remember to keep insulin under wraps.

Glucagon is yet another very important hormone to consider when designing a diet for fat loss. The fact that it’s seldom ever factored in—or even mentioned—is a clear sign that people aren’t doing their homework. Both Carb Backloading™ and The Carb Nite® Solution will show you how we can use food to keep glucagon burning fat.

References (click to expand)

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Physicist turned nutrition and performance scientist. Currently considered one of the industry’s leading experts on human metabolism.

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