Can insulin cause weight gain?

Updated: Sep 12, 2019

Let’s start with a quick review of how normal blood sugar management works.


In a healthy person, beta cells in the pancreas secrete a fat storing hormone called insulin to help the body use blood sugar or glucose from food. Type 1 diabetics lack the ability to make insulin and Type 2 diabetics are resistant to the insulin produced by the pancreas. Insulin shots may help both types of diabetics, but like any other drug, insulin has side effects, including weight gain.


Why does insulin cause weight gain?


So why does this happen? The more carbohydrates we consume requires our bodies pancreas to secrete more insulin, and over time insulin resistance can occur. Then even more insulin is needed to do the same job in maintaining a healthy blood sugar. Type 1 diabetics will require a higher insulin dose for the cells to use this excess glucose and food eaten for energy.


But how much glucose does a body actually need? Not nearly as much as you may be eating or craving!



A few lifestyle changes along with a healthy diet and regular physical activity are an integral part of reducing our insulin needs and for weight management.

Boosting cell efficiency can cause weight gain

Insulin may cause weight gain because it makes your cells more efficient. Untreated diabetics often excrete glucose in their urine. When your pancreas excretes more insulin or you inject insulin, the hormone helps your cells absorb glucose from the bloodstream. So you are theoretically retaining more calories from food and weight gain will likely happen.


Your blood sugar roller coaster ride can lead to added weight to your waist line

Insulin often causes hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. To combat the dizziness and fatigue of hypoglycemia, diabetics on insulin have to eat frequent meals and snacks. Weight gain may simply be the result of an increase in calories, and the unfortunate blood sugar roller coaster ride.

The more you eat, the more insulin is required, the more insulin you have on board will then cause you to eat more.


Here's 4 tips to take back control of your blood sugar and avoid weight gain:


1) Eat more vegetables in place of the simple carbs like bread, potatoes, snack foods. These processed foods require more insulin to balance blood sugar and will eventually lead to weight gain.


2) Eat complex carbs w/fiber and add protein and healthy fat with all meals and snacks This is the blood sugar balancing trio of macro-nutrients! Check out more of my 3 Must Do Tips


3) Stay active doing aerobic and weight bearing exercise at least 30 minutes 3-5 days per week will make your body more efficient in utilizing carbohydrates for energy and reducing insulin needs.


4) Control portion size and be mindful of how much you're eating at one time. Use a smaller plate and eat slower to enjoy your food and give yourself time to feel full and satisfied.


Now for some positive motivation and the upside of being in control and reaching a healthy weight:


Because stable blood sugar means reduced sugar or carbohydrate cravings, stubborn weight starts to melt away with balanced blood sugar levels. We feel and respond better to life when we're in balance.


Eat less foods, i.e. sugar, processed snacks, bread, cereal, pasta, etc. that will eventually lead your bodies need for more insulin and result in weight gain. Make a plan!