Hormones and weight gain is a topic that I have covered in previous posts, but today I am looking at nine hormones that affect our ability to lose weight, and more importantly, what we can do about balancing hormones and weight gain: it’s a lot easier than you could ever imagine!
Ghrelin and leptin hormones and weight gain
The “hunger hormone” ghrelin is produced by cells in your stomach and sends signals to your brain to tell you that you are hungry. The leptin hormone which is released by your fat cells on the other hand tells your brain that you have eaten enough. As you start to gain weight, your body produces more leptin, and if you gain too much weight you release too much leptin leading to leptin resistance. If this happens, your brain stops responding to leptin’s message telling you that you are full.
When looking at hormones and weight gain, these two are biggies because they control your feelings of hunger. Ghrelin and leptin can be severely thrown out of whack if you are sleep deprived, causing you to feel hungry all the time and to crave high fat and sugary comfort foods.
As a double whammy, when you cut down on calories in an effort to lose weight, ghrelin levels increase and can remain elevated 12 months later, which is why it is so important to follow a sensible healthy eating plan for weight loss rather than a starvation diet aimed at quick weight loss.
What you can do about ghrelin and leptin hormones and weight gain
The good news is; leptin sensitivity improves as you lose weight and continues to increase as you keep losing. You can also decrease ghrelin levels by engaging in some intense exercise which is another reason why exercise is so important in helping you to maintain weight loss.
Insulin and glucagon hormones and weight gain
One of insulin’s most important roles is to maintain blood sugar levels. When you eat carbohydrates, insulin is released to help take glucose into the cells to be used as energy or stored as fat in your fat cells. If you eat too many quick release carbohydrates in the form of sugar, white flour, white pasta, processed foods and juices, you will constantly have too much sugar in your blood stream. Eventually your body starts to produce too much insulin and you develop insulin resistance. Insulin resistance then results in more fat being stored in the fat cells instead of being used up for energy.
Glucagon does the exact opposite to insulin and is responsible for breaking down stored carbohydrates in the liver so that they can be used for energy. It also helps to break down fats in fat cells. The best way to keep insulin and glucagon on an even keel is to ditch refined food, eat fruits and vegetables and eat fat and/or protein with every meal and snack as fat and protein slow the release of digested carbohydrates.
Adiponectin is another hormone released exclusively from your fat cells and its role is to regulate blood sugar levels, metabolise fat to be used for energy and raise your metabolism. The leaner you are, the more adiponectin your fat cells will release. You can maximise your adiponectin levels by making sure that you do plenty of incidental exercise during the day, lose weight, and eat monounsaturated fats (e.g. olive oil, avocados, peanut butter, and many nuts and seeds.) instead of carbohydrates.
Cholecystokinin or CCK
When you eat protein and fat, CCK is released from the cells of your intestines. It helps to slow the digestion rate in your stomach, helping you to feel full for a longer period. So eating protein and fat with every meal will help CCK to help you to feel fuller for longer.
Adrenalin and cortisol hormones and weight gain
Adrenalin is released when you are under stress along with cortisol and they are knows as the “fight or flight” hormones. Adrenalin and cortisol are essential for breaking down fats and protein to give you a quick burst of energy should you need to move quickly in times of danger, however, in these days of high stress living we often have too much of both hormones floating around in our system. Too much cortisol leads to increased abdominal fat and the associated health problems of metabolic syndrome (high levels of LDL “bad cholesterol”, lower levels of HDL (“good cholesterol”) and cardiovascular disease.
The best way to control your levels of adrenalin and cortisol are to manage stress levels (meditate, listen to music, read, have some “me” time) and to exercise.
Growth hormone has a number of roles. It helps fat cells to break down stored fat for energy and also suppresses the fat cells from taking in more fat. Growth hormone also helps to break down protein and regulate blood sugar levels. A deficiency of human growth hormone in adults can lead to an increase in fat deposits, a decrease in muscle mass and lack of energy. The best way to increase growth hormone is through intense exercise and getting plenty of sleep.
Balancing hormones and weight gain
- Make sure that you get enough sleep
- Do some moderate to intense exercise most days
- Reduce or cut out altogether your intake of refined carbs
- Eat fat and protein with every meal
- If you need to lose weight, chose a sensible plan for weight loss not a starvation diet
Further reading on hormones and weight gain
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