You must have seen many people eat too much or not doing any workout and still don’t gain weight and some people even when they don’t eat too much and are very regular on their workout find it difficult to lose weight. Do you wonder why?? The answer is “METABOLISM”. And who decides their metabolism?? The answer is “HORMONES”.
Hormones are organic chemical messengers that decide about everything in your body like growth, mood and behavior, digestion and fertility and most importantly our shape and our weight.
See-Saw of Master Hormones: Insulin & Glucagon
Glucagon is the counter-hormone to insulin. It actually redirects fat for energy use and does not go into storage mode. In fact, when glucagon is present in the body, it will allow the body to open the fat cells, empty them and use the content for energy. In other words, it’s the key to the locked fat cells.
Insulin, a fat-storing Hormone: Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. Insulin is a “key” that “unlocks” your cells for glucose (sugar) uptake from the blood in tissues such as muscles, the liver, and fat. This is an important process to make sure that energy is available for everyday functioning and to maintain normal levels of circulating glucose.
When glucose is present in your bloodstream, insulin blocks access to your body’s fat reserves. After all, why burn fat, when you have sugar around? Insulin also causes the body stores excess glucose as fat under the process called “lipogenesis”.
When there is an interruption in insulin levels, the body gets resistant to insulin. Muscle cells, then, fail to recognize the glucose-bound insulin and glucose remains in the bloodstream. Hence, it causes a spike in the blood sugar levels and leads to weight gain.
Glucagon, a fat-breaking hormone: Glucagon is a counterpart of Insulin. It is also secreted by the pancreas and it actually raises your blood sugar by converting glycerol in your fat cells into glucose for fuel. Glucagon signals the body to release stored fat to be used as fuel under the process called “lipolysis”
The take-home message here is that when you eat something, Insulin is secreted that promotes fat storage and it keeps you fat by blocking access to your fat reserves. But when you are in the fasting stage, Glucagon is secreted which is essential for breaking down body fat and burning it for energy.
Leptin, a hunger-suppressing hormone: Leptin is a hunger-suppressing hormone!…..sounds good right??. But wait ..here is the catch! When we eat food rich in sugar, the oversupply of fructose gets converted into fat that gets deposited in the liver, belly and other regions of the body. These fat cells secrete too much leptin and this makes you “leptin resistant” making your brain stop receiving signals to avoid eating and making you eat too much in turn.
People with obesity tend to be resistant to the effects of leptin. Consuming anti-inflammatory foods, exercising and getting enough sleep may improve leptin sensitivity.
Ghrelin, Hunger hormone: Ghrelin is a hunger hormone that stimulates the appetite and increases fat deposition. Ghrelin levels are also high when people are on a strict diet or while fasting.
Cortisol, stress hormone: It’s known as a “stress hormone” because it’s released by the adrenal gland when your body senses stress such as physical injuries, daily stress (overwork, relationships, finances, etc), and even activities like lifting weights and cardio workouts. Chronic stress leads to an increase in cortisol and chronically elevated levels of cortisol can lead to overeating and weight gain.
Estrogen: Both very high and low levels of estrogen can lead to weight gain. This depends on age, the action of other hormones, and the overall state of health. To maintain fertility during the reproductive years, estrogen starts promoting fat storage at puberty. However during menopause, when estrogen levels drop because less is produced in the ovaries, the site for fat storage shifts from the hips and thighs to visceral fat in the abdomen. This promotes weight gain, insulin resistance and increases disease risk.
Progesterone: A male hormone, required by both men and women at adequate levels. Most adult women have about the same testosterone levels as a 10-year-old boy making harder for women to burn fat and build muscle than it is for men. Low levels of testosterone promote fat storage and inflammation. Conversely, Excess testosterone in women, especially around menopause, is associated with insulin resistance and belly fat. You can see why having this hormone in the right balance is so important.
Cholesystokinin & Peptide YY: A Hunger suppressing hormone: Cholecystokinin (CCK) and Peptide YY (PYY) are other satiety hormone produced by cells in your gut. Higher amounts of CCK and PPY have been shown to reduce food intake in both lean and obese people.
Fight or Flight Hormone, Epinephrine: Known as a “fight or flight” hormone, epinephrine drives the burning of fat and its release for energy in the body. Epinephrine can also aid in reducing hunger. Exercise is the best way to turn on epinephrine release in your body, interval training in particular boost up epinephrine.
Take-Home: The best way to get your hormones back on track is to correct hormonal misfires with changes to the way you eat, move, think, and supplement. 80% of your weight is determined by Hormone-food interaction, so you want to eat in a way that optimizes your hormones. Following are some tips to consider,
- Minimize all insulin stimulating foods. These include white sugar, excess alcohol, and all processed and refined flours.
- Pick glucagon/CCK/PPY stimulating foods at every meal. Reduce carbohydrate content of your meal and include high protein items such as chicken, fish, turkey, cottage cheese, yogurt, lean red beef, eggs, hemp, protein powder (pea, rice or whey).
- Essential fatty acids. In addition to cold-water fish, nuts, and seeds – it is advisable to supplement with a distilled fish oil supplement daily.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking 2 liters of water per day is critical for energy, vitality and overall health. No excuses on this one –just make it a habit.
- Exercise: Exercise is by far one of the most effective ways to lower cortisol and other stress hormone response.
- Sleep: A good night’s sleep can do wonders for proper cortisol secretion and weight loss. Remember you secrete growth hormone only when you are sleeping.