Does Insulin Cause Weight Gain

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Does insulin cause weight gain is a question our daughter was obsessing over when her four-year-old son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes back in June of 2019?

Our daughter takes great pride in feeding her family healthy snacks and meals and everyone maintains a healthy weight.

Learning that her son required several daily insulin injections really troubled her because she had heard that insulin can cause weight gain.

Just imagine trying to learn a whole new way of taking care of your child.

She needed to learn how to test his blood glucose levels(do the finger pricks), count his carbs at mealtimes, calculate his insulin dose based on his carbs eaten, and administer that insulin effectively to name a few.

All this is just to keep her son alive.

The whole time she is second-guessing herself at every turn because when it comes to insulin getting the dose wrong could have serious consequences.

Not enough insulin and his blood sugars remain too high risking DKA(diabetic ketoacidosis).

Too much insulin and his blood sugars could drop too low risking severe hypoglycemia or even diabetic coma.

Isn’t it ironic that the life-saving medication required by type 1 diabetics and some type 2 diabetics causes weight gain as a normal side effect yet maintaining a healthy weight is a significant part of a good diabetes management plan?

So what can we do about it?

How can we maintain a healthy weight despite taking several daily insulin shots?

Why does insulin cause weight gain?

Weight gain is a normal, unpleasant side effect of taking insulin.

Does Insulin Cause Weight Gain - diabetes supplies

Our body requires insulin for our cells to absorb the glucose (sugar) from the food we eat for energy.

Without insulin our cells would not get the fuel they need to function properly and the glucose would accumulate to dangerously high levels in the blood potentially causing DKA.

Our bodies try to eliminate the excess sugar through urine and you will also eliminate some water risking dehydration.

This is what causes frequent urination and excessive thirst that is so often telltale symptoms of diabetes.

Unmanaged diabetes can also make you very hungry, which often leads to increased eating even after insulin therapy has begun.

When you begin insulin therapy, the glucose in your body is absorbed and stored,

Naturally, this causes weight gain if you are eating more than you require for the day.

You mustn’t go off your insulin if you notice weight gain. While you may initially lose weight you are risking other serious and possibly life-threatening complications and once you resume taking insulin the weight will return.

There are other more effective ways of losing weight and it is important to work closely with your diabetes team to determine what works best for you.

Your healthcare team can offer valuable advice

Your healthcare team will be able to offer a wealth of information, advice, experience, and practical tips to help you with your diabetes journey. They can assist you in developing a weight loss plan that still allows you to properly manage your diabetes.

Does Insulin Cause Weight Gain - diabetes care team

Your diabetes healthcare team may include:

  • your family doctor
  • diabetes nurse educator
  • certified diabetes educator
  • registered dietician
  • endocrinologist
  • optometrist (eye doctor)
  • podiatrist (foot doctor)
  • exercise physiologist
  • therapist, social worker, or psychologist

Your healthcare team will work closely with you and each other to formulate a plan that best suits you.

They can guide for setting realistic goals based on their professional assessment.

Those goals may include:

  • achieving your optimal BMI
  • losing a set amount of weight or maintaining your ideal weight
  • reaching daily and weekly physical goals
  • changing lifestyle habits to improve your overall health
  • accomplishing your goals by a certain date

In some cases, you can ask your doctor about other diabetes medications and possibly reducing your insulin. Your doctor will let you know what is best in your particular case.

Create a meal plan

Does Insulin Cause Weight Gain - healthy diet

Work closely with your dietician to formulate the best diet plan for you.

They will help you create an individualized meal plan that will help you know what types of foods to eat, portion size, and when to eat. They may even give you tips on food shopping and meal preparation.

Most people with diabetes are very familiar with counting their carbohydrates but if losing weight is your goal you will also need to watch your overall calorie intake as well. That would include watching your protein, fat, and alcohol intake as well.

To lose weight the trick is to burn more calories than you consume.

This does not mean skipping meals. Skipping meals can cause low blood sugar and even weight gain. Your body uses energy less efficiently when you are skipping meals.

North Americans have trouble recognizing a proper portion size because we are so used to restaurants super-sizing everything.

Trimming down the portion size can help with losing weight.

Does Insulin Cause Weight Gain - protion control

A handy guide is to picture a line down the center of the plate, then add a second line through the center of one of the halves. This gives you three sections.

Put non-starchy vegetables in the largest section. These vegetables will add bulk and fibre which will fill you up.

Grains and starches in one of the smaller sections. Be sure to use your carb counting guidelines for this.

A lean protein goes into the last section.

You can add a serving of fruit or low-fat dairy as determined by your meal plan.

Add a zero-calorie drink such as a glass of water or black tea or coffee and you have a complete meal.

Get active

Without a doubt, the best way to burn calories and unused energy is through exercise.

The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes (30 minutes-5 days a week) of moderate exercise each week for adults and 60 minutes of moderate to high-intensity exercise daily for kids aged 6 Р17 years old.

Research shows that after just one week of regular exercise insulin sensitivity can be improved.

A combination of aerobic and resistance training can help with weight loss.Does Insulin Cause Weight Gain - running

Aerobic activities include:

  • running or walking
  • swimming
  • cycling
  • dancing
  • stair steppers or elliptical machines

Resistance training includes:

  • bodyweight exercises
  • using weight machines
  • using free weights

Some people find working with a trainer beneficial especially when first starting although it isn’t a necessary expense.

Final thoughts

We now have answered the question does insulin cause weight gain.

We have also learned that we can develop an actionable plan to either lose weight or maintain our current weight.

It is important to work closely with our health care team when determining that plan.

Learning proper portion control will go a long way towards achieving that healthy weight that is so desirable.

Regular exercise is important. Try to achieve the recommended 150 minutes/week for adults and 60 minutes/day for kids aged 6 – 17.

I am not in any way a medical practitioner, please do not rely on the information on our website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or another healthcare provider. We only share our experiences.

Have you managed to lose weight while taking insulin?

What is your favourite exercise?

Please leave any helpful tips or advice in the comment section below.

Take care.


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4 thoughts on “Does Insulin Cause Weight Gain”

  1. Deborah,

    It is odd that the very thing you need for diabetes, insulin, is the same thing that will cause you to gain weight.
    It’s scary to think that anyone can get diabetes, even kids when the parents attempt to give them healthy foods can get diabetes. I have to admit, I’ve always been one to try to watch out for diabetes. It runs in my family and my stepfather has it as well. He was originally diagnosed with type 2, but it’s progressed to type 1 over the years. He never follows the proper diet and he’s continued to eat sweets throughout his life, just like his father.

    As a kid at 9 years old, I watched our Grandpa slowly die from Gangrene because he would eat a whole bag of oreos in one sitting, then blame us for eating our dad’s cookies. To this day, I can’t eat oreos and find them repulsive in every way.

    I’ve always tried to be healthy myself, but now at age 40, my fat isn’t going anywhere. I even had a blood test done last week to see what’s wrong with me, but I’m healthy as a horse they said. Of course, I felt bad for saying, “So, I’m big for no reason?” Shame on me, but I’m struggling with my extra weight that I can’t seem to shake loose.

    Even with a BA in Nutrition, I know what to do and I’ve been eating very, very healthy and nothing. Not a lb shed.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing this article! It’s great information!


    • Oddly, life-saving insulin causes weight gain which then creates other problems such as high blood pressure and increased risk of heart disease and stroke to name a few. I am sorry to hear your grandfather didn’t take his diabetes seriously. That is a very traumatizing thing for a child to witness. I am glad you are taking your own health seriously. I am very aware of how our metabolism slows down as we age. Being well into my 50s, I also find it extremely difficult to shed the extra pounds. As you know healthy eating is important but it is only part of the equation. We need to exercise daily, eat healthily, and watch our portion sizes if we wish to lose weight. While I am not yet at my target weight, I have managed to shed 28 pounds so far. Try adding some daily exercise and see if that helps shed the pounds. I wish you the best of luck in your weight loss endeavors.

  2. If I was still working and having a staff, I would have known more about diabetes. Especially after reading your articles. One of my staff was a diabetic type 1, but he never wanted to attract any attention to that fact (maybe afraid I would fire him, yet I knew he was diabetic from before I hired him).

    All he ever did was warn me for the signs when he had a hypo. And the sole time that I was a witness of that, I didn’t even realise it.

    He was a real skinny guy (maybe still is, but I only see an occasional picture on FB, that doesn’t show much), so I would never have thought that insulin would cause weight gain!

    • Hi Hannie, the thing with diabetes is it is an invisible disease. By that I mean from the outside you can’t tell a person has it unless they experience a hypo but then you likely won’t recognize it unless you have been educated. Educating people is the purpose of my website. You never know whose life you could save by knowing what to look for. By carefully managing their diabetes, eating healthy meals and snacks, and getting regular exercise many can avoid gaining weight which greatly lowers the risk of several complications of diabetes such as heart attack and stroke. I personally know some people who have gained weight from insulin and thankfully so far our grandson, Alex hasn’t. Take care.


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