The Hands-Down Ultimate Hack? (Part 2)

by 11011 · December 17, 2012 at 5:19 PM

There is an easy-read version at the bottom.

Part 1 is summarized below and the full text can be found here. I basically say that insulin resistance is bad. I show 30-ish epidemiological studies correlating insulin resistance with:

  1. Hair Loss
  2. Alzheimer
  3. All Cause Mortality
  4. Acne
  5. Testosterone
  6. Mitochondrial Function
  7. Certain Cancers
  8. Metabolic Syndrome
  9. Mood Disorders
  10. And Other things

I then make the case of how to become more Insulin Sensitive and things to avoid that can lead to Insulin Resistance.

Foreveryoung and Mm pretty much completely agreed right off the bat while Mscott, August and Mike T disagreed with my conclusions. Mscott didn't agree with me tying IR to obesity. August critiqued me with a Podcast between Robb Wolf and the founder of Carb Back Loading (Kiefer) @50:00. Kiefer makes the argument that muscles and fats are sensitive to insulin at different times and this is one of the reasons he advocates eating carbs later in the day (he says muscles are more likely to take up the insulin in the evening, which means more gains and less fat). Mike T commented that my hack might be more accurate if I re-qualified the ultimate hack as being Muscular Insulin Sensitivity rather than Insulin Sensitivity as a whole, which would include fat.

So, I call this The Hands Down Ultimate Hack Part 2 because while Part 1 claimed that becoming Insulin Sensitive was the ultimate hack, part 2 will argue that Muscular Insulin Sensitivity is the Hands Down Ultimate Hack.

Part 2

Insulin causes cells in the Liver Muscles and Fat Tissue to take up Glucose from the blood storing it as glycogen inside these tissues. By giving somebody insulin shots you will likely increase their fat or muscle mass. This is why some bodybuilders inject insulin.

Insulin resistance occurs when the body's ability to process glucose becomes impaired. Glucose enters the blood after food is eaten. Normally, the pancreas will excrete insulin, which helps the glucose move out of the blood and in to the cells, where the body can use it for energy. Impaired glucose tolerance happens when the pancreas either does not release enough insulin or the cells become resistant to the insulin. Insulin resistance (or impaired glucose tolerance) is classified as a fasting glucose level of 100 mg/dl to 125 mg/dl.(source)


Dr. Jules Hirsch's group (link) took fat biopsies from people with a range of different fat masses, exposed them to insulin, and determined the degree of insulin sensitivity of the biopsies. They found that insulin sensitivity of fat tissue declines as the size of fat cells increases. This was true across all cell sizes, not only the largest ones. As body fat gain mostly involves an increase in fat cell size rather than number, this suggests that fat tissue insulin sensitivity progressively declines as fat mass increases (source).


Because fat cells and muscle cells compete for circulating insulin, relative to your proportion of muscle to fat, your body composition determines how insulin is distributed when it is released from the pancreas. And since insulin receptors on muscle cells are much more efficient at glucose uptake than those on adipose tissue, fitness level is a big predictor in glucose uptake. In other words, an individual in better condition with more muscle may induce 7 to 10 times more glucose uptake than someone with more adipose tissue.

The point is that a lean, fit, muscular person will have much greater insulin sensitivity than an out of shape, overly-fat and unfit person. Additionally, an imbalance of fatty tissue receptors relative to muscle cell receptors requires the pancreas to secrete extra insulin, which leads to insulin resistance. Bottom line, having more muscle on your body will improve insulin sensitivity, because muscle cells are more efficient at glucose uptake than fat cells.-source

To summarize, bigger fat cells may contribute to insulin resistance and bigger/more muscle cells will likely help prevent high circulating glucose levels. Or in other words, more muscle mass is better for you. A few other studies that support the idea that more muscle mass is better:

  1. Skeletal muscle strength as a predictor of all-cause mortality in healthy men.
  2. Decreased muscle mass and increased central adiposity are independently related to mortality in older men
  3. Muscular Fitness and All-Cause Mortality: Prospective Observations
  4. Muscle Building May Help Teens Avoid Early Death
  5. Muscle mass plays key role in cancer survival: Research
  6. Lean Muscle Mass Helps Obese Cancer Patient Survival
  7. Reduced Muscle Strength Associated With Risk For Alzheimer's
  8. Tip 119: Muscle mass protects against Alzheimer’s disease
  9. Strong muscles protect against cancer
  10. Muscling Away Cancer
  11. Muscle Mass Linked to Bone Health in Some Parts of Body
  12. The underappreciated role of muscle in health and disease

So Hopefully I've done an alright job at convincing you that muscular insulin sensitivity which can result from more muscle mass is a critical aspect of overall health. On a scale from 1-10, IMO I've done like a 7.1 here and a 8.2 if you combine this with part 1. So, now I'm assuming that you agree that muscular insulin sensitivity along with more muscle mass is the ultimate hack (If you don't agree with this can you please state/argue WHY or stufu).

Part 3

The actual hack would TF be to increase muscle and decrease fat.

I'll argue that high intensity short duration is the best way to Gain Muscle Mass while losing excess fat. Carbohydrate consumption wouldn't be the critical factor here, because if you increase muscle mass then your blood sugar will be taken care of with reasonable carb consumption <50% total calories (guess).

Now here is where paths will diverge because some people will say endurance is better than hiit for losing fat. Okay, let's assume that's true (which it is NOT). BUT WHICH ONE WILL BUILD MUSCLE MASS? Because this hack isn't just about losing fat, it is significantly about GAINING MUSCLE MASS. Because of this I advise HIIT and Weight Lifting, a whole foods diet (macros that make you feel good), and I'm also fond of Carb Back Loading for people trying to gain muscle and people trying to lose fat.


  1. HIIT
  2. Weight Lifting
  3. CBL
  4. Any supplements that will work towards these goals. (maybe zinc rich foods organ meats, etc.)


  • BPAs
  • Highly Estrogenic Foods (See The Anti-Estrogenic Diet by Ori Hofmekler)

Q & A:

  • Can a low carb diet help reduce fat? Yes
  • Can endurance cardio burn fat? Yes
  • Are we looking just to reduce fat? No
  • What is the ultimate hack? Increase muscle, decrease fat
  • Are there millions of approaches that would work? Yes
  • Are the approaches I mentioned the only way? No
  • Are the approaches I mentioned the best way? Maybe, but not necessarily
  • Are you going to tell me my way is wrong without offering an explanation? No
  • Is increasing muscle mass while decreasing fat the ultimate hack that is the most easily implement-able and that would help the greatest amount of people for the effort and price (keep in mind the inter-relationships between muscle fat and insulin resistance/sensitivity)? If yes then +1 me plz or leave a comment/answer saying you agree/why, if no then please lets discuss why this might not be the ultimate hack.

Easy-Read Version

More Muscle Mass and Less Body Fat seem to correlate with insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance. Insulin resistance and glucose intolerance seem to be related with many diseases and worsening ailments. Body composition might determine insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance. Body composition (Muscle mass and Body fat) might be the ultimate hack. Do you agree that body composition is the ultimate hack? Why or why not? If you do think Body Composition is the ultimate hack, what do you think are the most effective ways to improve body composition? I believe HIIT, Weight Lifting and Carb Back Loading are among the best ways to improve body composition.

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8 Replies

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14507 · December 17, 2012 at 8:17 PM

I would agree that improving body composition is the ultimate hack. Hands down I agree. I'm almost 23 years old now, but when I was 12-15 years, I was extremely depressed, had terrible self esteem, body dismorphia, and severe anorexia. In my third hospital stay I was lucky enough to be old enough to start weight training by their weird rules and one of the RNs was a totally jack black dude and took me under his wing. I went form 60lbs to 120 lbs in a year and a half, and then 120 to 150 lbs in the next 4 years. initially I had to gain some fat, so I increased both fat and muscle mass. During junior year of high school until today though, I have actually managed to decrease body fat percentage while gaining mass. I was probably around 10% my sophomore year, but now I hover between 4 and 8% with tremendous ease. I think that improving my body composition had a huge impact on me psychologically. Getting a high functioning and healthy body did so much more than the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on treatment. I am a huge believer that improving your body composition has positive reverberations through your outlook and the events of your day to day life. I would not have been able to gain close to 100lbs of solid muscle and at certain points simultaneously drop body fat on a hypercaloric ketogenic diet, nor a very low carb one. Carbs were essential. Insulin sensitivity was essential. Properly timed carbs and the right carbs and the right training stimulus and mindset were too. Not to toot my own horn but I used to admire and visualize myself turning into a body like that of a cover model, but today, now, right now I wouldn't trade mine for anyone elses in the universe- I am that happy and proud of what I've been able to do with it and become. The time and effort was so worth it. So yes, improving body composition is hands down imho the ultimate hack for one's life as it is one thing that is pretty much entirely in our control and has such enormous positive externalities that the benefits (emotional wellbeing, physical capacity, improved brain health, improved looks, improved confidence, the halo effect etc etc yada yada) vastly outweigh the costs (time, sweat, patience, consistency, sacrifice, etc etc). You're in your body 24/7 365 for the rest of your life, it's in everyone's best interest to make it as high functioning, healthy, and kick ass as possible.

That's my two cents.

OH, and yeah I did/do HIIT, weight training, lots of calisthenics, yoga. High protein, fresh produce, good fats. carbs.

709 · December 18, 2012 at 7:49 AM

These types of discussions need to be brought up more, it is this high level thinking which is one of the reasons that I personally come to this forum for.

I don't know if this is "The Hands-Down Ultimate Hack" I'd say that would be somewhere in the topic of Gut flora and how to master it.

A Study of DHEA has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity (You can find links to the studys in link). Although I'm not sure how safe it is supplementing with this http://suppversity.blogspot.com/2012/06/less-than-15mg-of-dhea-exert-identical.html

I would also agree on maybe CBL if it works for you to help you get a kick start at burning some fat, but wouldn't advising going VLC for a prolonged period of time because it lowers pyruvate dehydrogenase activity (enzymic activity that breaks down carbs). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7476282

Maybe you should balance your carb intake depending on your BF http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/5_ways_to_improve_insulin_sensitivity

11251 · December 17, 2012 at 7:14 PM

Body composition is not the ultimate hack. Good body composition is a goal people would like to achieve via the ultimate hack. For most people diet beats exercise, largely because there are ways to limit hunger and maintain nutrition while losing a lot of weight. Exercise has a tendency to increase appetite, and there is a tendency to injure one's self, especially if you've got a lot of weight on you. Diet was responsible for my 113lb weight loss. Now I am incorporating lifting heavy things- watching my legs get all muscular from doing deadlifts/squats is interesting, but in my opinion this isn't qualifying the exercise as some sort of 'ultimate hack', especially when considering the awesomeness achieved largely by diet alone.

Nor have I found exercise to improve insulin reisistance- at least not yet. Maybe, if I can ever get some more muscle on my frame, things will improve, but so far, the most effective way to deal with insulin resistance is to not eat too many carbohydrates. I got crappy readings yesterday from two pears- PEARS dammit!

So, to recap- your ultimate hack sounds like the hard work people look for ultimate hacks to AVOID. Therefore, it is not the ultimate hack but the hard work.

148 · December 17, 2012 at 8:26 PM

A hack is a method, not a goal. I agree that body recomposition should be the result of the ultimate hack, but the method which acheives it best would be the ultimate hack.

I suggest that Clay Roger's paleo compatible "Hollywood Physique" fitness program is the ultimate hack which achieves this goal (link: http://evolvify.com/male-physical-attractiveness-to-women/).

I have no affiliation, except that I tried his program and it worked exactly as advertised. Just eating paleo and lifting weights wasn't enough for me, I did that for years and was able to stay non-obese, but never gained much muscle mass either. On Hollywood Physique I gained 10+ pounds of muscle in the right places with 5 months of hard work. Coupled with losing 30lbs of fat, this transformed me from the typical skinny-arms computer nerd look, to a marvel superhero-esque look.

224 · September 07, 2013 at 12:44 AM

I've been lurking here for a while, and found both articles you wrote interesting and VERY different from the traditional keto/paleo diet advice.

Selfish question time, where do I start? VLC/Keto/Paleo are very well explained and simple in execution, which is why I made the transition. I have between 30 and 40 lbs of weight to lose, and have been focusing my exercise towards heavy low rep lifting (Squat/Bench/Dead/SP).

Should I focus less on high healthy fat consumption and work towards insulin sensitivity, switch my lifting routine and incorporate HIIT? Are there any good resources for me(as a layman) to review to get me started?

Many many thanks!

1284 · December 18, 2012 at 1:53 PM

I think the notion of Ultimate Hack is rather difficult. If you are setting out to alter your body to the extent that you want to lose weight and increase lean body mass (strength), then what you suggests makes a lot of sense.

But, if your aim is to have a long and healthy life, then I would suggest that beyond a certain point being leaner and/or stronger may be detrimental.

The vast majority of people would probably benefit from reducing their weight, but if you're already at 12% bf are you healthier if you get to 7-8%. I doubt it. If you can deadlift your body weight, are you healthier if you can deadlift twice your body weight. I don't know. If you can deadlift twice your body weight are you healthier than someone who can complete a triathlon. No idea.

In my opinion having a bit of balance in your life is useful. The leanest probably won't be the healthiest. Neither will the strongest. I don't think there's any evidence that elite athletes lead a longer, healthier life on average than the rest of the population.

So is it the Ultimate Hack? For you, it might be. For the rest of the population, I doubt it.

1686 · December 20, 2012 at 6:00 AM

The ultimate hack for me and people I know is whey protein isolate.

Decreases appetite, removes fluid and increases muscle mass - and that's before getting started on training.

1185 · December 17, 2012 at 8:16 PM

So what you are saying is kettlebells are the bees knees to make this hack happen. They combine high intensity + weight training.


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