It’s hard to imagine that our weight depends not only on the number of calories we consume but also on some invisible chemicals inside us. In fact, hormones influence our metabolic processes and command our body to store fat or to stop gaining it.
There are numerous factors that can influence body weight. Among them are our physical activity, genetics, eating habits, and stresses. However, the most important role in this process still belongs to the hormones which are responsible for the regulation of metabolism.
These chemicals are the ones that tell your body to store or burn fat.
Glucose is a major source of energy for your cells. After you eat food and your blood glucose level rises, your pancreas is signaled to release more insulin, the hormone that helps to deliver glucose into cells. It is as if insulin is “knocking” on the door of your cells. The cells hear the knock, open up, and let in the glucose.
Insulin provides us with energy, but it also collects and stores fat. If insulin is high, your body will store fat.
Cortisol is a stress hormone. It is produced by the adrenal glands to prevent blood sugar levels from dropping below normal. That’s why when you’re stressed, you tend to eat more sugary products like ice cream, cake, chocolate, and sweets. By doing so, you help your body to accumulate strength to handle difficult situations.
Cortisol slows down the metabolism in order to preserve more energy. If you have high cortisol levels in your blood, you will gain weight.
Leptin is the satiety hormone. It is secreted by fat cells and sends a signal to the brain that you are full. Leptin controls your metabolism and helps cells figure out whether to store fat or burn it. When your leptin level is low, your appetite increases and your body tends to store excess food as fat. Very often, the level of this hormone becomes reduced because of sleep deprivation. That’s why getting enough sleep is so important.
Thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) are produced by the thyroid gland, and their main function is to induce lipolysis. They also play an important role in regulating metabolic processes. If you have low thyroid hormones in your body, you are likely to gain weight.
How should you eat and exercise to lose weight?
What to eat?
Recent studies show that the optimum eating frequency for sustained weight loss is three meals per day.
Sticking to an extremely strict diet isn’t healthy. By doing so you may become slimmer, but the result won’t last for long. The thing is, when you undereat regularly, your body thinks it is starving and takes energy from muscle and tissue while trying to conserve fat. As a result, you can gain weight even if you eat only once a day.
Losing weight slowly is much better for your body and far more sustainable in the long haul. If you want to become slimmer, maintain a small calorie deficit (for example, if your normal calorie intake is 1,900 Kcal per day, reduce this amount to 1,700 per day — your exact daily caloric needs should be calculated based on your height, weight, age, and activity level). If you follow this simple rule, your body won’t store food for a rainy day.
Eat foods that are less likely to contribute to elevated levels of insulin in your body. These are products which have a low glycemic index (GI), a number that indicates the food’s effect on a person’s blood glucose level.
Avoid fast carbohydrates and eat foods rich in proteins and fiber instead — they will help you feel full faster and thus you won’t overeat. Protein helps build muscle mass, and muscle tissue burns more calories than body fat, even when you’re at rest.
How to exercise?
When you exercise, the muscles work harder and need more glucose to burn as energy. So if you’re a physically active person, you need to replenish your sugar supply every day. Studies have shown that high-intensity interval training is the most effective in enhancing insulin sensitivity.
If you prefer training with moderate reps and loads, then you’ll need to spend from 1 — 1.5 hours in a gym. However, when it comes to high-intensity interval workouts, 20 minutes will be enough. When you finish exercising, your body will continue to burn extra calories throughout the day — even when you sleep! It is also a good idea to consume a shake containing carbs and proteins during your workout. This will help you bring your cortisol back under control much faster than usual.