These are the two major hormones that control energy metabolism in the human. They are much like yin and yang, hot and cold or happy and sad. In order to really enjoy the good days, we all have bad days. Extremes of either too hot or too cold and soon everyone complains about the weather. Too much yin or too much yang and according to traditional Chinese Medicine, you are sick. Too much insulin and you are sick, hypertension, overweight, cancer, heart disease and stroke. Too much glucagon and you are too thin, emaciated and weak.
As we have mentioned previously, when custom tin can man evolved there would be times of famine, between times of feast. The biochemistry of this evolution allowed man to survive the periods of famine by using insulin to "store" energy. Some typical "fuel" reserves in a 70 kilogram man:
Look at the chart and find the biggest number. The largest amount of available energy in an average 70 kilogram human is overwhelmingly stored in -fat. For the purpose of this discussion let's think of each of these numbers above as fuel tanks, for our energy needs. When we fill up our cars with gasoline (our old Mercedes B100 biodiesel) we have to have a fuel hose to get the fuel into our gas tank. In order to use that fuel in our gas tanks, we have to have a fuel line leading from the gas tank to the motor in our car.
Human biochemistry is composed of many different enzyme systems. One such enzyme is phosphofructokinase that catalyzes the reaction of fructose 6-phosphate to fructose 1,6-bisphosphate. As with any biochemical reaction that is dependant on an enzyme system, the more it is used, the more developed it becomes. If there is no need for an enzyme, then the levels in the body will be very low. If there is much demand for an enzyme, then the body will synthesize more of it to meet the demands.
Filling your tank with gas
The fuel line for the human body to fill its energy storage tanks, especially the largest energy storage tank fat, is insulin. Insulin is the hose that energy (gasoline, biodiesel) flows from the storage tank (breakdown products of your recently ingested meals) into your gas tank for future use. Without this fuel line insulin, you will eventually go into a coma (hyperosmolar) that if not treated, can result in less than optimal outcomes.
Using the gas in your tank
When we drive our cars, we use the energy stored in the fuel tanks. In order for us to use that fuel, it must get from the storage tank to the motor. In the human, that fuel line is glucagon. Remember, insulin stores energy, glucagon utilizes that stored energy. Just as insulin stimulates energy storage and the necessary enzyme systems, glucagon stimulates energy utilization and the necessary enzyme systems required to accomplish this.
Life in the Fed State
The problem today is that we have evolved from creatures that did not have consistent daily feedings to our "modern" fast food insanity and the notion that now we need three "square" meals a day plus snacks. What happens to our energy metabolism when we start out putting insulin stimulating foods in our stomach three times a day? When we eat, our biochemistry reacts by secreting insulin, so that we can store all this energy for future needs -most of it going into fat. Long before we have used any of this energy, we are having another meal -lunch. More gas in our tanks, -none used yet. Then comes dinner -more gas into our tank. Snacks -more gas in. We spend our whole day and most of the night in a "fed" or insulin state.
Huge fuel tanks full of fat -everywhere
Because we never allow our body's insulin level to drop enough so that the glucagon level will rise, we never get into a "glucagon" state. Our whole car is now filled mostly with gas. There is hardly any room for a driver in the front seat. Huge fuel tanks full of fat are everywhere we look. Your car is loaded with gas, but you can't drive around the block because you haven't developed the enzymes of energy utilization to establish a fuel line between all these gas tanks full of fat and our motor, which is now also encased in fat. While insulin is the fuel line to fill our energy stores, glucagon is the fuel line to use this stored energy. Without proper stimulation of the glucagon system, our tanks just keep filling up with fat. We never develop the necessary enzymes to use all this energy. You don't have to travel too far to see people totally encased in their stored energy.
Livin' la vida de glucagon
To break this cycle, we need to stop eating for at least a portion of the day, or at least every other day. I don't know how many of you have ever fasted for 24 hours or more, but the feeling is incredible. You get a lot more work done, you don't get lethargic after eating and you start to actually feel thin. I don't recommend fasting more than 24 hours and I am not actually recommending a 24 hour fast. What I am recommending is that during some portion of every day or at least every other day, you refrain from eating anything so that you can get into a glucagon state and begin to induce the necessary enzymes to use all the energy the human body can store.