Fit to Succeed Podcast Artwork Image
Fit to Succeed
Leveraging hormones in weight management
August 09, 2018 Nordic Fitness Education
Food recommendations are provided for national populations without considering the more specific requirements of certain sub-groups. There is no doubt that overweight / obese individuals have a considerably different internal metabolic environment that changes their nutritional needs beyond simple caloric restriction. This short audio shares some vital thoughts regarding hormonal considerations and suggested dietary approaches to support weight management. This audio is a short segment taken from our online Nutrition for Health and Fitness Certificate:

Episode Transcript

Speaker 1:0:04So beyond calories, hormones, or perhaps one of the most potent influences on fat storage, especially in situations where these important biochemicals become somewhat imbalanced because of modern life, food intake is controlled by the hormonal regulations in our body, not the other way around. Have you ever felt the real drive of hunger, this craving, and you don't know why you feel you need to eat something that isn't just your mind being weak, that is often driven by hormones that are constantly messaging to your brain to go and increase your energy intake or to increase salt intake or to seek after something sweet insulin and Leptin resistance are examples of two hormones that can become imbalanced. That can be a major cause of hormonal weight gain. Unfortunately, it's usually seen that we're just overeating. Rather than that there's a driver within the body that's causing the overeating to occur.

Speaker 1:1:04Cortisol excess or the burnout of the adrenal glands can also lead to weight gain, but it tends to be focused more around the midsection. You may have seen people who seem to have a very big pot belly. That type of weight gain only in one very central location can be as a result of excessive stresses that are now imbalancing the hormonal controls. Another example of how hormones can change our body shape is that when at levels of estrogen, the female sex woman become elevated, we may find that there's a particular weight gain in the gluteal region, so around the hips and the thighs. Yet the rest of the upper body doesn't look particularly overweight. Calories on their own cannot explain those differences in where we store body fat. If weight gain is only on the center but not on our legs, how does energy intake or energy expenditure explain why it's just in the central part of the body?

Speaker 1:2:01If a woman or even a man for that matter has gained weight just around their hips and thighs, but their upper body is relatively lean, how do we explain that weight gain just by saying you ate too many calories? My question would be, why do those calories get placed on that specific body location? As we begin to go down the route of looking at hormones and how hormones can influence weight gain, some of these answers begin to get more obvious because we understand the role that these hormones play on controlling our food intake and on controlling the result of how that food is managed in the body. Let's start by looking deeper into how insulin helps with fat storage. This diagram will look somewhat familiar. We learned about it as we were looking at the way that insulin affects carbohydrates. There's no doubt that glucose is managed through the process of insulin, but insulin has a bigger effect than on just pure glucose.

Speaker 1:3:01Insulin can impact on fat storage as well. So let's talk through the process. Imagine that someone has just eaten a particularly tasty food. For example, some sort of pastry biscuit cake, pizza, any of these sorts of foods are not only high in carbohydrates, but they're also high in fat, so having consumed that food, the blood is likely to be high, both in blood glucose and in triglycerides. Triglycerides are these larger form of fats before they're broken down into their individual fatty acids. So if both of these are now elevated in the blood, through increased levels of glucose are going to signal that insulin is therefore released, insulin levels go up, and then the insulin docs to the cell membrane signaling to the Protein Channel to allow glucose to pass through into the inside of the fat cell. Also though insulin stimulates an enzyme known as lipid protein, lipase or Lpl for short, to break down these large triglyceride molecules into their smaller fatty acids.

Speaker 1:4:14This allows that change in size to let these small fatty acids work their way through the channel into the inside of the fat cell. The large triglycerides can not get in until they had broken apart into those smaller molecules. So now on the inside of the fat sale, we have fatty acids and we have glucose. The glucose is broken down and converted into a substance called Alpha glycerol phosphate. And then together with those fatty acids is rebuilt up into the larger triglyceride molecule again through a process known as re esterification. So now we have on the inside of this molecule, large triglycerides and they cannot get out unless they are broken back down into fatty acids to then pass back out of the sale. If an individual is insulin resistant, this drives the level of insulin in the blood even higher, and if there's more insulin in the blood stream, then there's more lpl activity.

Speaker 1:5:14If there's more lpl activity, then triglycerides are broken into fatty acids more readily and driven into the fat cell. The other interesting thing about the fat sale compared to the muscle cells or the liver sales is that the fat sal's seems to be able to retain its sensitivity to insulin even when the muscle cells and the liver cells have long since become resistant. So an individual who was gaining weight because they're insulin resistant, will feel tired and fatigued a lot of the time because they can't get their glucose into their muscle cells, but insulin is perfectly capable of influencing the fat cell. It has not become resistant and so glucose and fatty acids continue to pour into the fat and are rebuilt into triglycerides, which cannot pass out. The only time triglycerides will move out of the fat cells when insulin levels in the blood lower down, so an insulin resistant person with high levels of insulin gets stuck in a situation where they struggled to lose weight because they're constantly in a fat storing state and rarely in a fat burning state.

Speaker 1:6:22What about the Hormone Leptin? Let me explain how Lepton functions and how it operates. Leptin is a hormone that is released from the adipose tissue, so our fat cells following the consumption of food, and one of the purposes of Leptin is it tells our brain that we are satisfied. We're now beginning to store fat. We've eaten enough food, therefore you should feel satisfied and stop eating in. The diagram is kind of explained this in a visual manner. So before we eat a meal, there will be two hormones that are being released at any one time here. Our grant and levels, which is a hormone released from the stomach, will be elevated in the short period prior to our typical routine meal times. So if you always eat lunch at half past 12, well you would tend to find corella and we'll begin to kick in around 12:00, maybe half an hour before then and you begin to feel hungry.

Speaker 1:7:17So those Ghrelin levels start to rise and that stimulates hunger. But right before we've eaten, if we haven't eaten for for quite some time, our leptin levels will be very low and Gretta levels will be very high. We feel hungry. We then go and have our lunch and a very short time after lunch, we will find that our Ghrelin levels drop. So our hunger disappears. We're now satiated, were satisfied, and gradually the levels of Leptin begin to rise as the body draws in those nutrients from the gut into the bloodstream, and we begin to move into a fat storing position. So the reality is is every day we shift from fat storing to fat burning several times throughout the day based on our eating and meal patterns. The longer we go without eating, we shift towards more fat burning. The more often we begin to eat and post meal, we will usually shift into fat.

Speaker 1:8:13Storing the role of Leptin is to primarily signal to the brain that we're feeling satisfied and therefore to reduce our levels of food intake. Insulin is another hormone that has this same role. When insulin levels are elevated, we normally feel more satisfied and we don't feel hungry because that's a sign that we've had carbohydrate intake. When we are fat storing, we also tell our brain, we don't need to eat because we have an excess of energy. That's why we're storing it as fat in people who are overweight, potentially insulin resistant insulin is not telling the brain that it should stop eating because their brain is insulin resistant. It's not picking up the signal, but also if the individual is Leptin resistant than the brain is not responding to that increased level of Leptin that's telling it to stop eating, and so the insulin resistance, Leptin resistant individual isn't getting the loud message coming from the body that it shouldn't eat because the cells of the brain have shut down a little bit and protected itself against these excessive outputs that don't ever seem to stop. Unfortunately, this leaves an overweight individual, never truly feeling satisfied. They always feel like they haven't quite got what it is that they need to satisfy their cravings and their appetite.

Speaker 1:9:34So how do we manage that process? How can we support somebody who clearly is showing signs of insulin and Leptin resistance? Well, number one, we need to reduce refined an inflammatory foods and the thing that really drives our carbohydrate levels up in the body, we need to bring that right back down, so removing away from those highly refined processed carbohydrate foods. Getting intake down to under 150 grams of carbohydrate per day would be an absolute essential. The more insulin resistant to person is the stricter you will need to be with managing their carbohydrate intake.

Speaker 1:10:12Let's look at the exact things that we should avoid. We should completely avoid white processed junk foods, white, Brad's pittas wraps, cakes, biscuits, cookies, sugar, soft drinks, fruit juice, sweet potato chips, crackers. All of these sorts of foods that are highly refined, processed carbohydrates need to be avoided. They will wreak havoc on the blood sugar system and encourage more insulin and more Leptin resistance. What about the healthy whole grains or the healthier wholefoods? These can still, for an insulin resistant person be somewhat problematic whilst they may not be quite as damaging as the process type. We should moderate these foods and keep them down underneath the 150 gram intake limit that we're setting ourselves in working with a client in this situation, so whole grains of any variety, looking at foods like white potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, corn and parsnips. The more starchier foods that we would find in the vegetable category, we just need to moderate these and ensure that the amounts that we eat are quite small. That way, even the less processed versions of these foods will not wreak so much damaging carbohydrate control on the system.

Speaker 1:11:31What about carbohydrate foods that we can enjoy for the insulin and Leptin resistant person? Well, there are numerous, very beneficial carbohydrate foods that we can turn into. There's a huge list here of vegetables and that list is not exhaustive. Green leafy veggies, wonderful spinach, lettuce, Kale, Bok Choy, collards. The brassica family like Broccoli and cabbage, wonderful foods for people to eat, celery, mushrooms, tomatoes. The list could go on and on. Many very nourishing and colorful vegetables can be beneficial for that person to bring variety and nutrient density into their life without an excess of starchy carbohydrates in the system. In terms of fruits, we need to be a little bit more careful with fruits in particular, we would look towards the fruits that I would deem the low sugar. Fruits have a caddo grapefruit and melons Papaya, a little careful maybe with peaches and apricots, oranges and lemons, but berries of all varieties are wonderful.

Speaker 1:12:36The note is to watch out for the seven sweet high sugar fruits. These can be problematic for the insulin resistant person, dates and the grapes, Bananas, mangoes, apples, pears, and plums. Not only are these some of the sweetest fruits around, they tend to be the best sellers for supermarkets because they are so sweet. People like them, but two, they're also even higher in fructose, and fructose is really problematic for people who are insulin resistant, so we want to avoid those high sugar. High fructose fruits focus on the other fruit options that are available and ideally in season.

See All Episodes