In last weeks blog we discussed the hormones testosterone, estrogen, growth hormone and how you can optimize them with nutrition and lifestyle factors.
This week we are keeping the hormonal optimization train rolling and are covering a few of the hormones that regulate your appetite leptin, ghrelin and insulin.
Even though leptin was only discovered in 1994 it is regarded as one of the most important hormones when its comes to adequate function of the human body.
Leptin is a hormone secreted by fat cells, and the body uses Leptin like a dipstick in a car. It help’s us measure, and regulate energy intake and expenditure.
Leptin communicates with the brain to manage energy balance and prevent us from eating too much or too little.
Excessive spikes in insulin have shown to block the signal of satiety from leptin and can lead to overeating.
Leptin is a manager for many other hormones, and helps with the signaling pathways for sex hormones, thyroid hormones, pancreatic hormones and adrenal hormones.
One of the biggest roles that leptin plays is in its communication with the brain and thyroid to determine whether the body should be burning more or fewer calories.
Leptin is also one of the satiety hormones that signals to the brain that we have sufficient energy available and can turn off hunger to stop eating.
With leptin dysfunction the brain can’t recognize that energy stores are full, and hunger stays turned on which leads to overeating and increased body fat.
On the other side of the coin when you are in a caloric deficit and dieting for too long or have lost a significant amount of body fat leptin decreases significantly
This drop in leptin signals to the brain that energy stores are low, and you need to burn fewer calories to make sure you don’t lose any more body fat. Lower levels of leptin will also translate to being much hungrier on top of it all.
I recently release an entire video series about fat loss for women and how leptin works differently for them then it does men, click HERE to watch it.
I also wrote an entire blog series on leptin for fat loss purposes that you can read HERE.
Leptin Cheat Sheet:
Don’t drop calories too low for too long
Avoid excessive fructose consumption
Eat more protein
After dieting eat at maintenance level
Lose body fat in a slower fashion
Strategic higher carb days ( not a license to eat crap, but helps boost leptin)
Sleep ( 8 hours in a pitch dark room. inadequate sleep is connected to lower leptin)
Ghrelin is known as the hunger hormone and is produced in the hypothalamus and the stomach to trigger the feeling of hunger, and works with leptin to regulate energy.
Ghrelin stimulates hunger and a lack of energy, leptin signals satiety and lets the brain know we have enough energy.
When your stomach is empty it produces ghrelin, and signals to the brain that we need to eat to restore energy balance.
Ghrelin is supposed to be high before you eat which stimulates hunger and low after you eat because you’re no longer hungry.
The interesting aspect to ghrelin is that it can be trained when to increase, this is why we get hungry around the same time each day.
This is also the reason behind your appetite adjusting after a few weeks of a new eating schedule. Now you get hungry at your new meal time.
Those who are obese or are carrying around excessive body fat typically have a disrupted appetite signaling.
This usually means that leptin and ghrelin could either be dysfunctional or the overall system could be disrupted.
A better meal schedule and improved sleep, and stress management are going to be key factors when looking to improve ghrelin.
Ghrelin Cheat Sheet:
Sleep ( lack of sleep leads to less leptin, more ghrelin and inefficient glucose metabolism)
Train your hunger (when losing fat or fasting you may get hungry, it’s completely normal)
Fish oil ( omega 3’s are linked to better leptin and ghrelin signaling)
Consume more protein ( protein keeps you fuller for longer, and signals satiety)
Avoid small frequent meals ( this does not boost metabolism, it only makes you hungrier)
Eat higher satiety foods (Blog on highest satiety foods HERE)
Avoid eating sugar ( sugar consumption leads to a stimulation in appetite)
Insulin contributes to many different aspects of health from energy regulation to nutrient delivery and inflammation in the body.
Insulin is our main storage hormone that’s produced in the pancreas. It transports nutrients into the cells of the liver, muscles, fat tissue and the skeleton.
Insulin is a hormone that can either be used to your advantage to get leaner and build muscle, or cause inflammation and make gaining fat easier.
When we consume a meal with too many processed carbohydrates and calories the pancreas pumps out insulin to help clear the glucose from our blood stream.
After the immediate energy needs are met the body turns to the storage sites in the liver, muscles and skeleton.
Any calories that exceed immediate use, and storage sites capacity are stored as body fat for later use… maybe.
If we follow this cycle multiple times a day month after month eventually cells stop responding to the signal from insulin.
As a result of this insulin resistance the body becomes far less effective at delivering nutrients to the cells.Blood sugar stays elevated because insulin can not deliver the glucose from the blood stream to the cells.
The body responds by making the pancreas pump out even more insulin to “solve” the problem, but it only makes the situation worse.
Finally sugar is cleared from the bloodstream and stored in your fat cells where we have unlimited storage.
With this repeated cycle of too many processed carbohydrates and calories your muscles can become insulin resistant, and will not receive the glucose or the amino acids that aid in growth, recovery and repair of the muscles.
Because glucose delivery is impaired, and needs are not being met the body will break down your hard earned muscle to provide the body with fuel.
Insulin resistance is linked to obesity, cardiovascular problems, heart disease, erectile dysfunction and cognitive problems.
However though you can take certain measure to make help make the body more sensitive to insulin.
By making the body more sensitive to insulin the cells are primed to store nutrients, and will preferentially direct those nutrients to muscle cells instead of storing them as fat.
By taking the steps to improve insulin sensitivity you will be able to elicit the desired effect.
On your insulin cheat sheet you will find a number of tips to help improve insulin sensitivity.
Insulin Cheat Sheet:
Run, bike, swim or row intervals ( this burns sugar in the cells quickly, leaving them hungry to restore glycogen levels)
Train Fasted (exercise in general helps, but fasted exercise increase the effect)
Consume magnesium rich foods ( magnesium is a critical mineral in the proper regulation of blood sugar, glucose disposal and insulin sensitivity. Good sources are leafy green, nut seeds and dark chocolate)
Lose body fat (insulin resistance is caused by excess calories, when you lose fat you are creating an energy deficit or increasing energy going out)
Cycle Carbohydrates ( by cycling carbs you give the body extra carbs when they can be used to build muscle, and avoid them when they would be stored as fat)
Avoid excess sugar
Manage stress ( walks, reading, journaling, yoga or meditation)
Get enough sleep ( Not getting enough sleep causes the body to have trouble regulating blood sugar, and can cause insulin resistance)