Protein & Insulin Resistance

Written by Dr. Sophie Pollon-MacLeod BSc, ND , CISSN. Naturopathic doctor and Sports Nutritionist

Abdominal weight gain, fatigue, brain fog and out of control sugar cravings. Just a few of the very common symptoms people describe when they come into my office for a naturopathic consultation.

I am often met with, “I think something is wrong with my thyroid?” or “it’s got to be my hormones!” or “my cortisol levels must be through the roof!” … but one key hormone that never gets brought up is insulin… nobody ever comes into my office and says “Dr. Sophie, I think I am insulin resistant!”, when in reality , that is most often the case. Insulin is one of the most important hormones in our body, yet most people are unaware of what it is , what it does, and the key role it plays in our blood sugar regulation.


What is Insulin?

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. It gets released in response to intake of food, especially carbohydrates that are digested and broken down into glucose. Insulin’s entire job is to take that glucose from that piece of toast you just ate, and make sure it goes into the appropriate place . It is essentially the KEY 🔑 that opens up your cells to allow the sugar to get in. It helps ensure your blood sugar (glucose) level is maintained. 


What is Insulin resistance?

Insulin resistance is exactly what it sounds like, our body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin. Meaning that your pancreas needs to work a lot harder, and secrete a lot more insulin to do the same job with that same piece of toast, because essentially, the KEY is not working as well. The end result is prolonged elevations in blood sugar which can make us feel fatigued, hungry and with prolonged insulin resistance, weight gain.

So, insulin resistance ends up turning into an unhealthy cycle which brings people into my office for abdominal weight gain, brain fog, fatigue & cravings…

Oftentimes, it might not start with insulin resistance, but potentially other factors which may lead to this. For most of my female patients, this begins in perimenopause & menopause, when we experience difficulty sleeping, digestive disturbances , high stress, mood  and hormonal changes which impacts our lifestyle, dietary choices and pancreatic function. If this sounds like you, you may want to also consider reading about how we support women through this transitional period. With age, pancreatic function begins to decline so we end up getting into a cycle that is difficult to break because we are also combatting some effects of aging.

Ok so you might be asking yourself, How do I know if I am becoming insulin resistant?

Well, the first thing you might need to do is take an inventory of your lifestyle and symptoms. Do you experience significant crashes after eating large meals? Do you have intense sugar cravings that you can’t seem to kick? Do you participate in regular physical activity ? Has the scale slowly been creeping up over the last few years? Have you been under prolonged stress? 

These are just a few of the screening questions I ask in my naturopathic visits. If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be experiencing insulin resistance. 

The next most important assessment is bloodwork. At NutriChem we run extensive bloodwork panels. All of the following tests can provide your healthcare practitioner with an objective assessment of blood sugar regulation:   

    • fasting blood glucose
    • insulin,
    • HBA1c
    • Lipids (triglycerides/HDL ratio)

If you are interested in getting your levels checked of these important biomarkers, you can reach out to the clinic . NutriChem has a full time phlebotomist and can provide a quote for bloodwork analysis.  

Can dietary protein help regulate and improve insulin sensitivity? 

Protein is gaining some popularity back in the health world now, as it should be. If you are a patient of mine, chances are we have discussed the importance of dietary protein. 

Increasing dietary protein 3 main actions when it comes to insulin resistance: 

  1. Increasing dietary protein can increase insulin response from the pancreas, meaning when you consume a meal containing higher amounts of protein, your sugar levels are 
  2. Increasing dietary protein improves satiety 
  3. Increasing dietary protein helps maintain lean muscle mass, which helps to reduce insulin resistance. 

Dietary fiber 

The other dietary factor which plays a huge role in insulin resistance and can also increase insulin response from pancreas AND improve blood sugar (glucose uptake) is increasing dietary fiber. We love talking about fiber at NutriChem, so stay tuned for more on this in the future.  

How can a protein powder like Logical Choice Whey Protein  improve insulin resistance? 

There is research to support the use of whey protein in insulin resistance and diabetes. This research is up and coming, and we may start to see whey more benefits in the future surrounding this power protein. 

Here is what we know so far about the benefits of whey protein: 

  • Improved pancreatic function: improved beta cell function and glucose independent insulin resistance 
  • Improved post meal blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics 
  • Preserves lean muscle mass in low calorie state , supporting sustainable weight loss

If you are interested in learning more about protein powders, read our Ultimate Guide to Protein powder here 

Animal-Based protein powdersPlant-Based protein powders
Whey Protein
Paleo (beef) protein
Casein protein
Egg protein
Rice protein
Pea protein
Hemp protein
Soy protein
Quinoa protein
Mixed plant protein 
Figure 1: Post whey protein consumption impact on small intestine, stomach pancreas, brain andvagus nerve.

Source:  Smith, K., Bowden Davies, K. A., Stevenson, E. J., & West, D. J. (2020). The clinical application of mealtime whey protein for the treatment of postprandial hyperglycaemia for people with type 2 diabetes: a long whey to go. Frontiers in Nutrition7, 587843.

Check out some of our protein focused recipes below! 



  1. Guess, N. D. (2022). Could dietary modification independent of energy balance influence the underlying pathophysiology of type 2 diabetes? Implications for type 2 diabetes remission. Diabetes Therapy13(4), 603-617.
  2. Smith, K., Bowden Davies, K. A., Stevenson, E. J., & West, D. J. (2020). The clinical application of mealtime whey protein for the treatment of postprandial hyperglycaemia for people with type 2 diabetes: a long whey to go. Frontiers in Nutrition7, 587843.
Share this blog post:
Naturopathic Doctor Sophie-Pollon-MacLeod
Dr. Sophie Pollon-MacLeod, B.Sc., N.D.

Dr. Sophie is a Naturopathic Doctor and Sports Nutritionist with a passion for evidence-based approaches to supporting her patient’s health. Prior to obtaining her doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine, Dr. Sophie completed her undergraduate degree in Human Kinetics at the University of Guelph. She is also a personal trainer with over 8 years of experience.

Her experience as a trainer ignited her passion to pursue a career in healthcare and help others towards feeling their best. Dr. Sophie combines her expertise in exercise physiology and naturopathic medicine to support her patients towards achieving weight loss, improving performance and aiding in pain management. She goes beyond symptom management and utilizes a full-body approach to get to the root of health concerns. Dr. Sophie possesses additional qualifications from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) and Functional Range Conditioning (FRC®).