Many people find that at one point or another, they start having trouble with insulin sensitivity. Contrary to popular belief, insulin resistance isn't reserved for those with diabetes and can impact even relatively healthy people.  

Poor sleep, stress, and of course, diet can all contribute to insulin resistance. 

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get your insulin back on track.

This article will discuss eight research-backed ways to improve insulin sensitivity and promote overall health and well-being. 

8 Research-Backed Ways To Improve Insulin Sensitivity

#1 Move Your Body 

Exercise is beneficial for overall health, and physical movement is one of the best ways to enhance insulin sensitivity. 

When you exercise, glucose receptors called GLUT-4 express themselves on the outside of your cells, acting as doorways for glucose to enter and be used for energy. This helps your muscles receive the fuel they need to accomplish your exercise. This uptick in GLUT-4 expression typically lasts for about two hours post-workout. 

In addition to this acute enhancement in glucose uptake, research shows that up to 16 hours post-workout, your cells are more sensitized to insulin, which extends your body's glucose uptake capacity even further.[1]

What type of exercise is best? Studies suggest that both resistance training and aerobic exercise should do the trick, and combining the two may be ideal for diabetes management.[2][3]

#2 Try Adding More Vinegar To Your Diet

Vinegar, especially apple cider vinegar, is one of those foods that seems to be a cure-all, so it should come as no surprise that adding more vinegar to your diet may also help enhance insulin sensitivity. 

Exactly how vinegar helps to reduce blood sugar is still up for debate, but research suggests that it may be due to its impact on gastric emptying, slowing down the amount of glucose absorbed into your circulation at one time.[4,5]

Other studies suggest that the active compound in vinegar, acetic acid, inhibits liver glucose production and instigates an upregulation in fatty acid oxidation in its place.[6]

Either way, it appears that pairing vinegar with a high-carbohydrate meal may improve postprandial insulin sensitivity and reduce spikes in blood glucose.[7]

#3 Restful Sleep

Along the same lines as exercise, getting enough quality sleep is one of the pillars of optimal health. 

Research shows that just one night of poor sleep can impact your insulin sensitivity, even in healthy people without diabetes or insulin resistance. In one study, researchers found that a night of impaired sleep led to increased glucose production in the liver the next day, which indicated insulin resistance in liver cells. At the same time, the subjects showed a reduced blood glucose uptake capacity, leading to higher than normal blood glucose levels.[8]

Getting a good night's sleep, on the other hand, can reverse sleep-deprivation-induced insulin resistance.[9]

#4 Manage Your Stress

When you're stressed, your body releases stress hormones, and your nervous system gets activated, instigating a "fight or flight" response (also known as sympathetic mode). 

In sympathetic mode, your mind and body are geared up, preparing for an immediate threat (even when there is no real threat around). As a result, physiological changes take place that are meant to increase your chances of survival – more blood flow to your limbs, increased heart rate, breathing quickens, and glucose is released into your blood for a quick surge of energy. 

When you're in a threatening situation, you need energy to fuel your brain and body, and you need it quickly. This leads to higher than normal blood glucose levels as your body is constantly preparing you for an emergency.[10]

Furthermore, stress hormones like cortisol can directly impair insulin sensitivity in your cells to safeguard against energy storage and promote energy utilization. This double whammy results in more blood glucose, with a decreased ability to use it.[11,12] 

Keeping your stress low will reduce your cortisol levels, allowing you to avoid this blood sugar push and pull. 

Managing stress can be tricky, but many people find that simple breathing exercises and meditation techniques can significantly affect their stress hormone levels. 

#5 Follow A Low-Carb Diet 

This one may seem obvious, but it's always worth mentioning. Since carbohydrates are your primary source of glucose, when you reduce your carb intake, you also reduce your risk for blood sugar spikes. 

Beyond avoiding too much glucose in the blood, however, reducing your carb intake gives your pancreas a break from having to constantly work at lowering your blood sugar. This takes the pressure off this hard-working organ and gives it a chance to recalibrate, perhaps even allowing it to return to normal function.[13]

If following a low-carb diet feels like too much work, then at the very least, try to avoid high-fructose corn syrup. Among the added sugars, HFCS is one of the worst for insulin resistance. Studies show that in just two months, a diet high in HFCS can instigate the development of insulin resistance in otherwise healthy people.[14]

#6 Spice Up Your Meals

Adding spices to your meals not only enhances the flavor, but specific spices contain active compounds that may help regulate your glucose metabolism. 

Among the metabolic-friendly spices, cinnamon is the most well-studied. In fact, research shows that adding one to three teaspoons of cinnamon to your meals daily for four months could result in reductions in HbA1c.[15]

This may be due to a compound called hydroxychalcone, which appears to mimic insulin and acts directly on your cells, enhancing their glucose uptake.[16]

Other studies suggest that it is the naturally occurring chromium and polyphenols present in cinnamon that are responsible for its glucose-reducing activity.[17]

Other spices, such as turmeric and ginger, may also support healthy glucose levels. Ginger contains a compound called gingerol that enhances the number of sugar receptors on cells, while turmeric (due to its active compound curcumin) appears to increase insulin sensitivity by upregulating gene expression for glucose uptake.[18,19]

#7 Consume More Soluble Fiber 

Soluble fiber is the type of fiber that creates bulk in your stools and slows down digestion. In this way, consuming more soluble fiber is one way to slow glucose absorption into your blood[20]. 

However, beyond its role in digestion, soluble fiber may also assist with insulin resistance by acting directly on our gut microbiome. Specifically, soluble fiber acts as food for your gut bacteria and research shows that a healthy microbiome is essential for insulin sensitivity, among many other metabolic activities.[21,22]

Foods high in soluble fiber include beans, vegetables, fruits, and seeds. Some examples are brussels sprouts, broccoli, avocado, sweet potato, chia seeds, pears, figs, apricots, apples, oats, and flaxseeds.

#8 Try Intermittent Fasting 

Intermittent fasting (IF) is a style of eating that’s gaining popularity for its many potential health benefits. 

When you give your body a break from food it allows energy to be sent elsewhere for repair and restoration. 

One benefit that many people see from engaging in IF is overall improved blood glucose control. Studies show that following an IF protocol may result in reduced blood glucose, lowered insulin levels, and overall improved insulin resistance.[23] 


Insulin resistance can set the stage for diabetes and other metabolic conditions, so keeping your body's glucose-stabilizing pathways strong is crucial for overall health. 

Lifestyle factors such as sleep, physical activity, and stress management can go a long way in contributing to healthy blood glucose levels. In addition, when it comes to blood sugar, you always have to look at your diet. 

Low-carb dieting can help mitigate sugar spikes by way of avoiding too many carbs altogether. However, the real benefit of cutting carbs is that it gives your pancreas a break, which may allow it to repair and renew itself. 

If you've struggled with insulin resistance, try incorporating one or two of the above tips into your life and see what happens. Everyone's body is unique and will respond differently to these strategies, so find the ones that work best for you. 


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