Glucagon, like insulin, is produced in the pancreas and helps maintain glucose levels in your blood stream when fasting and if your glucose levels become very low (say you’re hypoglycemic).
Insulin and glucagon are like fighting siblings, if insulin is trying to do something…glucagon is trying to stop it. Whereas if glucagon is trying to do something…insulin is trying to stop it.
You have heard me say many times that insulin is the fat storing hormone. Well glucagon is the hormone responsible for taking the stored glycogen (sugar) and releasing it to use for energy. Simply put by Dr. Benjamin Bikman, insulin is the hormone of feeding and storing while glucagon is the hormone of fasting and burning.
When we eat carbohydrates, especially those high in sugar, and don’t follow that low carb lifestyle…we see an increase in insulin and a reduction in glucagon.
As you can imagine, when we are in a fasted state, insulin levels are low which means glucagon levels are high. Because of the positive low insulin to glucagon ratio, there is improvement in insulin sensitivity and also autophagy…which is essentially when healthy cells eat damaged or diseased cells. Insulin disrupts autophagy whereas glucagon actually activates it.
People ask me all the time if they fast and eat a low carb lifestyle, will they go into starvation mode, slow down their metabolism and essentially gain weight? The answer is no because insulin levels stay down, glucagon levels stay up and we are using stored fat for fuel and not hard earned muscle through activity.
In fact, you may be familiar with the term “gluconeogenesis”…All this basically means is that you never have to worry about your glucose levels dropping too low. (Again, unless you’re hypoglycemic.)
Carb aficionados will try to tell you that you need constant glucose fuel if you’re always on the go, but in actuality, your body can make its own glucose using glucagon! It’s glucagon’s job to figure out if your glucose levels are too low, and it can tell your liver to stop consuming glucose, and to send it into your bloodstream instead. If you’re living the low carb lifestyle, your liver and kidneys will create all the sugar your body needs. Pretty cool hormone.
Of course, you already know that there are some essential compounds your body can’t create by itself, and must be obtained through diet. It’s just…glucose isn’t one of them! And you know that you get all the essential amino acids in complete proteins: meat, eggs, dairy…also, spirulina and nuts together form a complete protein if you don’t mind spending your carbs there!
Back to glucagon, though…It’s amazing that a hormone responsible for regulating sugar can also have so many other jobs, like causing autophagy…by the way, autophagy’s getting rid of cell dysfunction is super important, like I said…In fact, halts aging in its tracks! Too bad glucagon doesn’t get more credit!
I plan to learn a lot more about this hormone but wanted to give you a little taste of what I’ve learned so far. Hope it was helpful and stay tuned for more info.