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.
Insulin resistance resulting in excessive insulin has been known to block leptin from signaling satiety in the brain and can lead to overeating as a result.
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.
Leptin Cheat Sheet:
Don’t drop calories too low for too long
Eat more protein to help with satiety
After dieting eat at maintenance level before considering another diet
Lose body fat in a slower and more sustainable 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 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 you need to eat.
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 the body uses to regulate the amount of sugar in your blood.
Insulin is released by the pancreas when it detects rising glucose (blood sugar) levels in the blood.
Insulin transports the glucose from your bloodstream into the cells of the liver, muscles, fat tissue and once blood sugar levels decrease so do insulin levels.
Insulin has gotten a way worse wrap than it actually deserves, as there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about this hormone.
Insulin doesn’t just transport glucose around the body but also triggers your muscle to build new proteins and can trigger satiety as well.
So why has insulin gotten such a bad name ? Because it stops the breakdown of fat, and begins the creation of fat.
This hypothesis between insulin and carbs is what drives the logic behind carbs making you gain body fat.
People commonly believe that carbs spike insulin, which in turn causes excess fat gain due to the insulin spike from carbs preventing you from burning body fat.
The reality is though your body doesn’t need insulin to store body fat at all, you can store body fat from dietary fat as well, insulin isn’t to blame it’s an excess of calories.
When most people eat refined carbs usually blamed for spikes in insulin and fat gain they forget that its not just carbs but fats, refined sugars and excess calories and aren’t as satiating as many other foods.
We also need to keep in mind that protein causes large spikes in insulin as well, yet protein is one of the best the macronutrients for managing appetite.
Dairy which spikes insulin to a large degree has been been shown in many studies to actually to be beneficial for people to consume when looking to lose body fat and keep the weight off, regardless of the fact dairy is highly insulinogenic!
Some people can develop what’s known as insulin resistance where their body stops responding to the signal from insulin, and in turn glucose isn’t removed from the bloodstream as efficiently, and blood sugar stays elevated for longer than it should which can lead to health problems.
Although commonly attributed to carbohydrates and sugar, which can contribute, there are multiple causes of insulin resistance including excess calories, lack of activity and constant psychological stressors.
In the same way you become more resistant to insulin you can also become more sensitive to it as well meaning less of the hormone is needed to do the same job. These include
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 use nutrients and carbohydrates more effectively for energy rather than storage.
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)
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)
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)