Getting to Know Your Hunger Hormones
Most think weight loss is as simple as “eat less, do more.” On paper, the math adds up, but when you apply the same concept to the human body, things can get pretty shaky. The fact of the matter is eating less is just one part of the equation, with the rest of your weight loss coming from balancing out your hormones. Your hormones are little chemical messengers that basically have a specific job: for instance, the hormone insulin is responsible for carrying nutrients into your body’s cells. Other hormones help build muscle mass, increase your heart rate and help you fall asleep (or stay awake). There’s even hormones to control your appetite.
Wait you ask – did I say appetite? I sure did; we call these bad boys your hunger hormones and they can be responsible for a late night binge. To be fair, they can also cause you to not be hungry as well. The overall point here is that weight loss goes far beyond just slashing calories but rather getting control over your hormones. Let’s explore things in greater detail:
Ghrelin- This hormone is released by your stomach and pancreas (among other organs). When you fast or partake in very low calorie dieting, your body releases ghrelin in an attempt to stimulate your appetite to make you eat more food. This is where dieting gets tricky, because if you eat adequate “diet” foods (i.e. protein and smart fats) you’re less likely to have to deal with this hormone. Those who are trying to gain muscle mass and need to eat a lot have frequent battles with this hormone.
CCK – CCK stands for Cholecystokinin, a hormone that is released when protein and fats arrive at your small intestine. This hormone is responsible for sending messages to your brain that you’re full and satisfied. If you skip out on your proteins and eat too fast you may miss out on it.
Leptin – Leptin is found in your fat cells and has a major say-so in your overall metabolic rate. It helps reduce your desire for food and helps regulate your appetite. If you’re old enough to remember, you may recall in the mid 90’s that scientists were claiming that they was an obesity gene. Well, this is the one, but the scientists weren’t exactly on point. In turns out that obese people produce plenty of leptin; however, their brains aren’t responsive to it. Following a circuit training program can help attack your fat cells and restore balance to this hormone.
Insulin- Technically, insulin doesn’t have direct control over your appetite. But when you blood sugar gets too high from eating refined carbs (pastas, breads, candy, etc) insulin is releases to try and cast a net over all that sugar floating around in your blood. When your body keeps pumping out insulin, fat burning comes to a complete stand still. If you’re constantly making poor dietary choices, the cravings will never stop.
Getting lean is not about suppressing your appetite. Food is meant to be enjoyed and eating a diet of whole proteins, smart fats, and complex carbs (when appropriate) can get your appetite under control. A diet high in energy drinks, sodas and snack packs will only send these hormones on a roller coaster.