The less commonly discussed hormones that can help burn fat work in tandem with or at different times than those mentioned more frequently, and are important factors to address in order to achieve hormonal balance. While insulin and human growth hormones (HGH) are vital, there are three hormones that work in conjunction with these to help put you in fat burning mode: leptin, ghrelin, and glucagon. Your body is different than any other person’s body, so learning to effectively work with your hormone levels and eating schedule can promote fat loss, muscle building, and overall health and vitality.
The role of hormones
Hormones are messengers to your cells, and most hormones are secreted by glands. There are receptors on each cell to receive these messengers, so that the cells know how to respond. Persistent belly fat, low energy, brain fog, and low libido are a few of the signs that your hormones may be out of balance, and bringing the lesser known hormones into balance will also improve the balance of the other hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol, DHEA, and adrenaline.
Growth hormones promote protein synthesis and fat burning, and help to shift your body from burning glycogen to burning fat. With adequate growth hormones, your body will burn fat instead of sugar and your insulin sensitivity will improve. When you are hungry and you refrain from eating, your body stimulates growth hormones.
Insulin and growth hormones do not coexist well. When your insulin is high, your growth hormones are low, and vice versa. Insulin is secreted by your pancreas in response to sugar in the blood, but it also promotes fat storage. Even if your goal is to gain weight, learning to work with your insulin can help you to gain muscle weight rather than fat, since body fat and energy levels are controlled by insulin.
Insulin stores sugar, and overeating or eating too often causes your body to go into fat storage mode. Unless it is necessary for you to eat many times a day, eating meals less than an interval of 5 to 6 hours causes elevated levels of insulin in your body all day.
When insulin is out of balance, it causes insulin resistance, and your cells no longer respond to the insulin hormone. Even though sugar usually gets a bad rap, flour, high fructose corn syrup, refined foods, excess carbohydrates, processed foods, hydrogenated oils, and oxidized fats all contribute to increased blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. When insulin is working well, it is possible to bring your hormones into balance.
The role of the hormone leptin in fat burning
Leptin is a protein hormone that regulates energy intake and expenditure, and is produced by your fat cells, not by a gland. Leptin partners with insulin, and exists in direct proportion to the number of fat cells in your body. It signals your brain that you are full and to stop eating. Excess fat causes leptin resistance when your hypothalamus (which regulates your appetite and metabolic rate) turns off its receptors for leptin, causing your brain to think that you are hungry. Then your hypothalamus sends a message to your thyroid to go into starvation mode, which slows down your metabolism.
When you eat, sugar goes into your blood stream and triggers insulin release. Insulin enlarges your cells and releases leptin, which signals the pancreas to reduce insulin. When your insulin levels are reduced, leptin goes to work to keep you burning to fat. Eating meals too close together causes constant high levels of insulin, which continues for about three hours after eating. Insulin barely gets down to normal levels before it shoots back up again, so leptin does not have a chance to burn fat. Waiting 5 to 6 hours between meals helps this process work normally, and triggers your liver to release fat to burn. If you find it difficult to go at least 5 or 6 hours without getting hungry between meals, it is a sign of a hormone disruption.
The role of the hormone glucagon in fat burning
Insulin triggers your body to store fuel, but another hormone, glucagon, triggers burning fuel and keeps your blood sugar stable between meals. Glucagon is secreted by your pancreas when your blood sugar falls too low. Glucagon triggers your liver to release fat and to convert stored sugars into glucose to release into your bloodstream.
The role of the hormone ghrelin in fat burning
Ghrelin is a hormone and amino acid that is produced mostly in the stomach lining and pancreas. Eating suppresses ghrelin production, and ghrelin is responsive to leptin and insulin. When you are hungry, your stomach produces high levels of ghrelin, which stimulates your appetite and growth hormone production, which promotes fat burning and muscle sparing.
How to keep your hormones in fat burning mode
By learning to listen to your body and understanding the role of hormones, especially the less commonly discussed hormones in fat burning, you can build more muscle and lose fat more easily. By adjusting the amount of time between meals and the timing of meals, getting plenty of rest, and eating sensibly, you can turn your body into a healthy, fat burning machine.
- Eat omega-3 fatty acid rich foods. Omega 3 fats help your hormones to function efficiently. Chia seeds, algae, walnuts, krill oil, fish oil, and cold water fish are high in omega-3 but low in omega-6. It is best to keep a ratio of 2:1 of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, but a 1:1 ratio is better.
- Avoid eating at least three hours before bedtime, or five hours if you have a heavy meal.
- Gradually increase the amount of time between meals, even if it is only 5or 15 minutes at a time.
- Wait at least an hour after exercise to eat, especially carbohydrates.
- Eat greens and cut down on carbohydrates for meals, especially early in the day.
- Wait 5 to 6 hours between meals to eat again (but don’t let this lead to binge eating at meals).
- Get plenty of sleep. Sleep deprivation slows down your growth hormone production.
- If you must snack between meals, avoid carbohydrates and fats by eating something that is digested quickly such as a green smoothie or green drink