Fantasy Football Today - fantasy football rankings, cheatsheets, and information
A Fantasy Football Community!

Create An Account  |  Advertise  |  Contact      


Mike Davis | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

Insulin, Fat Metabolism, & Quarterback Sacks

Last Week's Question: What are your favorite non-English sources of fantasy content?

I was disappointed to receive exactly zero responses to my question concerning non-English fantasy content.

I have to assume there are good sources of fantasy content in Spanish at the very least, but I guess it's reasonable to suppose that the folks consuming that content aren't hanging out at FFToday.

Since I came up empty on last week's question, I'll take this opportunity to go on a bit of a tangent. Fantasy diehards can skip to the next section, as the remainder of this part of the column concerns an unexpected connection between football and weight loss—with no fantasy implications whatsoever.

However, I think the subject is worth discussing because when readers send me pictures of draft parties, I see guts hanging over belt buckles everywhere I look. I used to have one of those guts myself before I changed my nutritional habits at the beginning of the year. I didn't shed my excess flab (40 pounds; 20% of my bodyweight) by eating six tiny meals a day and spending hours at the gym. I lost it without exercising, without counting calories, and while eating as much of the right kind of food as I wanted—because I finally understood the importance of paying attention to hormones like insulin. As the weight dropped off, I realized that insulin behaves a lot like an offensive line in football.

Here's where that line of thinking led me:

Insulin, Fat Metabolism, & Quarterback Sacks:
A Weight Loss Strategy Every NFL Fan Can Understand

In 2002, the Houston Texans selected David Carr with the first pick in the NFL draft. Over the next five years, Carr was sacked more often than any other NFL quarterback. The Texans had a porous offensive line that couldn't keep defenders out of the backfield; Carr never had a chance.

In 2014, Carr's younger brother Derek was drafted by the Oakland Raiders. Despite being selected in the second round, Derek has been far more successful in the NFL than David ever was. Most analysts agree that the difference isn't size, strength, or elusiveness; it's that Derek plays behind a much stouter offensive line. Both brothers started all 16 games as rookies; David was sacked 76 times, whereas Derek was sacked only 24 times. The younger brother has enjoyed more success not because of his own athleticism, but because of the athleticism of the big, strong linemen blocking for him.

But what does any of this have to do with fat metabolism? Quite a lot, as it turns out.

Focusing on the quarterback without paying attention to his blockers is a lot like focusing on body fat without paying attention to insulin. In both cases, keeping your eyes on the prize can mean losing sight of what's happening around it. Unfortunately, most people (even those trying desperately to lose weight) tend to tune out discussions of insulin because it sounds like something that only affects diabetics. However, if you want to take charge of your metabolism, you need to understand what insulin does whether you're diabetic, pre-diabetic, or non-diabetic. The good news is that if you understand how offensive lines protect quarterbacks, you already understand how insulin protects your fat stores from your own metabolism.

Like a center, guard, or tackle, insulin is a blocker. And just as NFL blockers are supposed to open lanes for the runner in addition to protecting the passer, insulin opens the cells inside your body for blood sugar in addition to protecting the energy stored in your fat cells. Having more than 5 grams (roughly 1 teaspoon) of glucose in the bloodstream is life-threatening for all of us, so insulin works hard to flush any excess glucose we consume out of our blood and into cells that can use or store it. Insulin also blocks fat metabolism. Ordinarily, if our pancreas is producing a lot of insulin, it's because there's a lot of sugar in our blood, and if there's a lot of sugar in our blood, then we shouldn't be burning fat for energy; we should be burning that sugar—before it kills us. This inhibition of fat metabolism is why insulin can seem like it's working against us even when it's doing precisely what it's designed to do.

So imagine you are an NFL team that can choose to play against David Carr's Texans or Derek Carr's Raiders. Would you rather face the quarterback who is easy to sack (David) or the one behind a nearly impenetrable wall of blockers (Derek)? If you want to win, the answer is easy.

The answer is just as easy when it comes to weight loss. Think of your fat cells as tiny quarterbacks that you want to sack. To lose weight, you need to squeeze the stored energy out of those cells by dogpiling them one at a time. Unfortunately, if you follow the conventional advice of eating six small carb-laden meals every day, you'll be instructing your pancreas to pour more and more insulin into your bloodstream. That's as silly as inviting your opponent to put extra linemen in front of the quarterback you're trying to sack.

NFL defenders don't fool around; they do everything possible to knock over the linemen blocking their path to the ball. If you're serious about weight loss, then you need to do everything possible to access your own fat stores, which means keeping your insulin levels as low as possible for as long as possible. When you avoid foods full of added sugar as well as carbohydrates that break down into sugar, you instruct your pancreas to decrease the production of insulin, which means there are fewer blockers to prevent your body from accessing its own fat stores for energy.

Sustained weight loss can begin the moment you realize how important it is to evaluate the impact that the food you eat will have on your insulin levels. You can eat in a way that keeps your insulin high so that your body fat is cozy and protected (like Derek). Or you can eat in a way that keeps your insulin low so that your body fat is vulnerable and exposed (like David). It's not a hard choice for any but the most dedicated Raider fans.

If you're still here, thanks for playing along. Remember, I'm not a nutritional expert—just a guy explaining how I've come to think about insulin. You shouldn't base your eating habits on anything you read in a fantasy football column, but if your belly hangs over your belt, you might want to Google "metabolic syndrome" and "insulin resistance" and review some of the dietary strategies for tackling those problems once you understand them. Now let's get back to your regularly scheduled fantasy programming.

This Week's Question: Has the anthem controversy impacted your fantasy league in any meaningful way?

I sometimes run into people who don't play fantasy football but nevertheless feel obliged to tell me what's happening in the fantasy world.

This weekend, one such person asked me how the fantasy community is dealing with the fallout of all the commissioners who are quitting fantasy football to protest the fact that some NFL players aren't standing for the national anthem.

I said I wasn't aware of a single commissioner quitting fantasy football for that reason, but he stood his ground: "I heard it's happening all over."

I wasn't looking to argue, so I excused myself for a drink and didn't return to the conversation.
I don't think any such phenomenon is happening "all over," but I'll take the bait and ask if it's actually happened anywhere—even once.

I'll go further and expand the question to invite commentary on any impact whatsoever that the anthem controversy has had on fantasy leagues. I doubt that the impact amounts to much beyond a slight fluctuation in Colin Kaepernick's value in dynasty leagues.

Survivor Pool Picks - Week 7 (Courtesy of Matthew Schiff)

Is your survival pool still going? Many of the people I know are out of their pools—some because they relied on my #1 pick from last week (or even the week before . . . [sigh]). Who would have thought that a week after losing their top THREE wide receivers, the New York Giants would travel to Mile High Stadium to beat the top defense in the league? Well, as they say, ANY GIVEN SUNDAY. Let’s get to it.

Trap Game: Seattle at NY Giants

Would you want to be Russell Wilson or any of the other Seahawks who have to play the Giants on the road this week? The G-men were amazing in Denver, as they rediscovered their running game and shut down an offense that had been extremely efficient against poor teams. I’m not sold on the Giants' turn-around, but the formula for last week’s win over Denver seems to be the same formula this week at home. As such, buyer beware; this one has upset written in neon lights.

#3: Philadelphia over Washington (2-4, BUF, TB, CLE, NE, NYG, ATL)

I can already hear the crowd singing “Fly Eagles fly, on the road to victory” this Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. Philadelphia has all the pieces in place to make a run at the NFC East title, and this is their chance to put some distance between themselves and their only divisional rival with a winning record. The Redskins have a shutdown corner in Josh Norman to neutralize Alshon Jeffrey, which gives me pause, but Carson Wentz knows how to use Zach Ertz consistently, Nelson Agholor surprisingly, and Torrey Smith sneakily. With the addition of LeGarrette Blunt, a healthy Fletcher Cox, and a Washington offense that has had the injury bug, you have to give the nod to a young Eagles team that appears poised for a playoff run.

#2: Tennessee over Cleveland (3-3, NE, SEA, PIT, ATL, PHI, HOU)

Oddsmakers think the Browns are a really bad team and the Titans are a playoff-bound squad with few blemishes. At first blush, I disagree with their assessment. But even with Marcus Mariota not 100%, Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry have been able to average more than 130 yards a game and keep the pressure off a receiving corps consisting of Rishard Matthews and Eric Decker—with first-round draft pick Corey Davis conspicuously absent. Meanwhile, the Browns find themselves with Deshone Kizer back under center after a one-week experiment with Kevin Hogan. A quarterback carousel is no way to build team chemistry, so I look for the Titans to power through a strong but uneven Browns effort on the way to winning with a last-minute field goal.

#1: Dallas over San Francisco (4-2 ATL, OAK, NE, SEA, PIT, DEN)

The Cowboys are fresh off their bye and have at least one more week before Ezekiel Elliott serves his suspension. Sooner or later he will be suspended–but not in Week 7. Cowboy fans are obsessed with the Elliott suspension because it helps distract them from the fact that their secondary is giving up 26.4 points per game this year. Fortunately for them, the 49ers are ill-suited to generate that much offense with rookie C.J. Beathard under center in his first career start (though he did see action in San Francisco's Week 6 loss to Washington). You should expect Dallas to focus on shutting down Carlos Hyde and the running game to make the rookie QB beat them, but you shouldn't expect the rookie QB to beat them. This game certainly looks like an easy win for Dallas on the road. Unfortunately, there haven’t been many "locks" in 2017, and this week doesn’t get any easier.

Mike Davis has been writing about fantasy football since 1999--and playing video games even longer than that. His latest novel (concerning a gamer who gets trapped inside Nethack after eating too many shrooms) can be found here.