Insulin Resistance Analogy

crowd on the subway

Insulin resistance is when your body cannot properly use insulin to allow glucose into your cells to be used as energy.

An analogy for insulin resistance that I love talks about subways. I have to credit Dr. Jason Fung for the concept, although I may explain it a little differently.


There are people coming and going. They are getting on and off the subway cars. The subway platform is like your blood stream. The subway cars are your cells – your muscle cells, organ cells, and fat (adipose) cells. The people are your glucose. Since carbohydrates are the primary source of glucose, the more carbs you eat, the more people enter the subway platform.


Crowded subway, an analogy for Insulin Resistance

Insulin is the helpful person who escorts the people into the subway cars. “Right this way, Sir!” Moving our bodies e.g. exercise, housework, or play, uses up glucose. In other words, people leave our subways cars. This makes room for the next round of people, the next meal or snack.

Therefore, as more and more people pile into the cars, it makes the subway more crowded. Physical activity helps to empty out the cars again, but you can’t out run a bad diet.

When you eat a high carb meal like a giant bowl of pasta or cereal with low-fat milk and banana, it is like rush hour traffic in New York City. Lots of people are entering the platform and trying to get on the subway cars at the same time. Insulin is busy! Your body produces more insulin to keep up!

After eating a high carb diet for a while (the time frame varies from person to person and also depends on how high in carbohydrates their diet is), the subway cars won’t have room for the excess people.

people in train in subway, an analogy for insulin resistance


Have you ever heard of Subway Pushers? They are paid officials in Japan who shove as many people into the subway car as possible. Incredible, I know! In this analogy, your insulin is no longer saying “Right this way”, instead saying “Heave! Ho!” This is Insulin Resistance. Your cells are resisting the effects of insulin.


The body does what it can to keep the subway platform clear. If the cars are getting too full, it will add cars for extra space. This results in more adipose cells and weight gain. It also sends some of the people to a different station (your liver) and changes them from glucose to triglycerides. Triglycerides are a more efficient way to store fat.


The excess people on the subway platform are indicative of Pre-diabetes. Pre-diabetes is when your A1c is between 5.7-6.4%. As the amount of people continue to pile up on the subway platform, the A1c increases and once it goes above 6.5%, a person is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The problem with extra people on the subway platform for long periods of time is that they start to wreck the place. They break the tiles and graffiti everywhere.


The damage done on the platform is like damage in your arteries. It can lead to heart disease in the future. That explains why diabetes and heart disease are so closely linked.


Insulin resistance can be prevented and as in my other post, I explained how in could be reversed. What does it take? We have to empty our subway cars! This is why diet and exercise work. They work best together, but if you want to start with one lifestyle change at a time, slow down the people getting on the subway cars. Does someone have to go on a very low carbohydrate diet to see improvements? No. Not necessarily. I will discuss that more in future posts.

I look forward to sharing tips on how to reduce insulin resistance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Post