How Long Does It Take to Reverse Insulin Resistance?

Insulin resistance is a condition where your cells become resistant to the effects of insulin. It can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes if left unchecked. Reversing insulin resistance involves making lifestyle changes to re-sensitize your cells to insulin. This process takes time, but there are things you can do to speed it up.

What Causes Insulin Resistance?

Insulin resistance develops over many years of eating a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. When you eat these foods, your blood sugar rises, forcing your pancreas to produce more insulin to shuttle the sugar into your cells. Over time, your cells become overwhelmed and resistant to insulin’s effects. This forces your pancreas to produce even more insulin to compensate.

Measuring Reversal of Insulin Resistance

There are a few key markers that can help track your progress in reversing insulin resistance:

Blood Glucose

This is the first marker to improve, usually within days or weeks of dietary changes. However, even if your blood sugar is still high, stopping sugar intake gives your body a break from fighting high blood sugar.


This test shows your average blood sugar over the past 2-3 months. It will start dropping within 4-6 weeks of dietary changes. It takes several months to see dramatic improvements into the normal range.

Insulin and HOMA-IR

These measure how much insulin your body is producing to maintain blood sugar levels. This can take many months or even years to improve significantly, especially if insulin resistance is severe. Making progressive lifestyle changes helps lower insulin over time.

Speeding Up Reversal of Insulin Resistance

While reversing insulin resistance takes patience and persistence, there are lifestyle strategies that can accelerate the process:

Exercise to Improve Insulin Sensitivity

Exercise is one of the most effective ways to improve insulin sensitivity and speed up reversal of insulin resistance. When you exercise, your muscles use glucose for energy. This helps lower blood sugar levels and makes your cells more sensitive to insulin.

Aim for 150-300 minutes of moderate exercise per week, or around 30-60 minutes 5 days per week. Brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming and other aerobic activities help burn glucose and increase insulin sensitivity.

Adding strength training 2-3 days per week builds muscle mass. More muscle means your body can store more glucose as glycogen in your muscles. Having more glycogen storage capacity helps lower blood sugar.

High intensity interval training (HIIT) that combines short bursts of intense exercise with recovery periods is especially effective for reversing insulin resistance. The intense intervals rev up your metabolism and the fat burning process.

Work with your doctor to develop an exercise program that is appropriate for your fitness level. Monitor your blood sugar before and after exercise to see how different durations and intensities affect your blood glucose levels. The key is to find activities you enjoy and can stick with long-term. Exercise helps reverse insulin resistance faster, and maintaining regular physical activity will keep your insulin sensitive after reversal.

Manage Stress

High cortisol levels contribute to insulin resistance. Finding healthy ways to manage stress can help lower cortisol.

Reduce Carbohydrates to Improve Insulin Sensitivity

One of the most powerful ways to reverse insulin resistance is to reduce your carbohydrate intake. Carbs, especially refined and sugary ones, cause your blood sugar to spike. This forces your pancreas to secrete more insulin and overworks your insulin-producing cells.

By reducing your overall carb intake, you give your pancreas a break from having to produce so much insulin. Without all those carbs to deal with, your cells become more sensitive to insulin’s effects.

Start by eliminating sugary beverages, desserts, pastries, candy, and other sweets from your diet. Then reduce your intake of refined grain products like white bread, pasta, rice, and cereals. Focus your diet around non-starchy vegetables, high-fiber fruits, lean proteins, nuts and healthy fats.

Focus on getting carbs from high-fiber, low-glycemic foods like leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, berries and legumes. Avoid processed low-fat products that replace fat with sugar. Read labels and aim for less than 5g added sugar per serving.

Lowering your overall carb intake reduces insulin demands and helps restore insulin sensitivity. Work with a dietitian or doctor to find the optimal daily carb target for reversing your insulin resistance.

Fasting to Improve Insulin Sensitivity

Fasting gives your pancreas a break from constantly producing insulin to lower blood sugar. This helps restore insulin sensitivity at the cellular level.

Intermittent fasting involves condensing your mealtimes into a smaller window, like 16:8 or 18:6. For example, you might eat all your meals within an 8-hour window and fast for the other 16 hours of the day.

Alternate day fasting involves fasting or severely restricting calories every other day. On fasting days, you might limit yourself to 500-600 calories.

Extended fasting involves not eating at all for 24 hours or longer. Work up to longer fasts gradually, starting with 24 hours, then 36 hours, and building up to 72 hours or more.

No matter the method, fasting gives your pancreas periods of rest throughout the day or week from secreting insulin. Your cells become more responsive to insulin when you eat your next meal.

Fasting also burns through glucose reserves, which forces your body to start burning fats for fuel. This metabolic shift reduces insulin resistance.

Start with manageable fasts and work up to longer durations. Monitor your blood sugar carefully. Fasting powerfully reverses insulin resistance,

Is Reversal of Insulin Resistance Permanent?

Your doctor may consider reversal complete once your blood sugar and A1C reach normal levels. However, this doesn’t mean you can go back to your old eating habits. The standard American diet high in processed foods and sugar will likely reactivate insulin resistance.

To stay insulin sensitive long-term, focus on whole, unprocessed foods low in sugar. Some people do well with up to 100g net carbs daily from fibrous vegetables and low-sugar fruits. However, your specific carb tolerance depends on the severity of your insulin resistance. Others may need to stick to a stricter low-carb or keto diet long-term.

Periodic fasting can also help maintain insulin sensitivity after reversal. Find the eating style that keeps your blood sugar and insulin levels in your target range for long-term health. Be patient – it can take years to reverse a lifetime of insulin resistance. But with diligence and the right lifestyle, you can improve your metabolic health for good.

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