One of the best books I have read on fitness and nutrition is entitled, “The 7 Principles of Fat Burning” by Eric Berg. This book documents how hormones truly affect our bodies and cause the resistance to lose body fat. It is a fascinating read that take the information that I will talk about today and expounds on it.
First things first, I am not an endocrinologist and I am not a registered dietitian. I like to think of myself as a problem solver, a MacGyver of sorts. Because in all reality that’s what we do as trainers, we solve problems with the knowledge base that we have, no matter how unconventional it is. With that said, there are a lot of theories out about how people lose and gain weight.
With the rise of obesity at an unparalleled high, people are trying to get healthy and lose body fat in record droves. From Atkins diets to the Zone diet, to the weird tropical fruit diet and my favorite the carrot stick and apple diet (holy cow!), people are trying to find the quickest way to lose weight. The fact is there is no easy way, if it were easy the obesity rates would not be where they are now. We would not be spending billions of dollars on medications that control weight related diseases. This is not an easy process by any stretch of the imagination. However when I look at weight loss books and these fad diets, I rarely see anything about a person’s hormones. When in fact it is your hormones that decide where and how much fat you store. That’s a fact. Throw the calories in vs calories out, out the window, your hormones are in the driver’s seat. Let’s take a look at them:
Fat Burning Hormones
Fat burning hormones are that will help you burn body fat,
Growth Hormone-released from the pituitary gland (brain), it travels down through and works in the liver. It has anabolic (building muscle) and lypolytic (losing fat) properties. A key function is building up collagen and cartilage. Without it your muscles fall apart. Stimulated by protein and intense exercise (not light exercise)
Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF-1)– made by the liver and triggered by growth hormone. Function is to give the body fuel between meals and does it through releasing stored sugar and fat. Stimulated when the stomach is empty.
Glucagon-raises blood sugar by tapping into the fat reserves. Helps control blood sugar between meals and is stimulated by dietary protein and intense exercise
Adrenaline– main hormone that releases fat from fat cells. Triggered by exercise.
Thyroid Hormones (T3 and T4)– speed up the metabolism, increase the size and number of mitochondria (that is a good thing)
Testosterone– stimulated by exercise and countered by estrogen. This is a good thing, even for the ladies (in small doses).
Fat Storing Hormones
Fat storing hormones are hormones that when present will cause the body to distribute fat to certain areas.
Estrogen– released from the ovaries of a woman but can also be converted from testosterone. Can also be found in meats we eat because it is the most common injected hormone into animals. The very presence will nullify all effects of the thyroid hormones that maintain your metabolism.
Insulin– Most anabolic hormone in the body but also is at its highest following a high carbohydrate meal. Can push fat into the fat cells causing an increase in body fat. The main culprit in Type 2 diabetes.
Cortisol– The nasty stress hormone. Your body does not understand types of stress, it only reacts and adapts to stress. Whether that be stress from work, home or mental, physical, when it is stressed it will release cortisol. This will affect your body composition.
OK. Now without getting so technical with you, let’s look how we can turn off the fat storing hormones and turn on the fat burning ones.
The 10 Fat-Burning Triggers
1. The Absence of Sugar
Sugar has the most impact on the metabolism because it causes the release of insulin and in the presence of insulin not only will fat be blocked from being used as a fuel but sugar will be converted to fat. To burn fat DON’T eat sugar. It doesn’t matter if its whole wheat or white bread these starches turn into sugar fairly rapidly. High fiber foods are acceptable because they slow the insulin response. Fruit: apples have a high sugar count but also high in fiber blunting the effects of insulin. Bananas, raisins, canned fruit; dried fruit have lower fiber and have a greater effect on insulin. When sugar is not consumed, glucagon is turned on. Sugar also decreases potassium in the body causing it to store more fat than sugar. Also excess sugar mixed with excess protein will impact insulin in a huge way.
Weight problems are often caused by a failing endocrine system (4 body types). Raw vegetables have qualities that aid in healing the body’s organs. High in fiber and low in sugar with healing properties. It is very common for people to have normal body fat but be 50-100 lbs over weight because of the fluid retention. This is why the BIA does not work properly on most people and why some can drop 20 lbs almost overnight. Potassium helps lower insulin and also needed to adequately hold protein in the body
A powerful fat burning trigger if not consumed in excess.
4. Essential Fatty Acids
Eating fat will help me burn fat? Yes it will! Eat foods high in Omega 3 such as salmon, tilapia, cashews and almonds. Your body needs these for proper brain function and hormone creation.
5. Skipping Meals, Reducing Calories or Letting Yourself get Hungry
When you skip meals or restrict calories your blood sugar decreases several hormones are released: cortisol which will turn the body’s tissues to sugar (muscle). Also creates cravings for nutrients it needs: sugar (sugary foods, high saturated fat foods). Here’s the rule EAT BEFORE YOU GET HUNGRY and NEVER SKIP A MEAL, ESPECIALLY BREAKFAST..
6. Gland Destroyers: Alcohol, Caffeine
Alcohol triggers insulin and also destroys the liver. 7 calories per gram for alcohol and most alcoholic beverages contain excess sugar or starches. Caffeine weakens the adrenal glands and liver and irritates the gallbladder. The liver has to detoxify the caffeine from the body causing it to weaken.
7. Water Retainers
A huge hidden source of being overweight is water weight!!!! Eating foods high in MSG will cause sodium retention and make one stay heavy. Artificial sweeteners (sugar alcohols, splenda, xyitol). Because they are sodium depleting this causes increased insulin and water weight. Counteract with potassium high foods (labels)
8. Exercise– DUH!!! High anaerobic exercise!!!!
Stress plays a huge part in the weight loss/gain game. When you become stressed your body releases cortisol and wants to use muscle tissue as fuel instead of body fat. This does the reverse of what resistance training would do, lowers your muscle tissue and increases your body fat percentage. Also some people tend to be emotional or nervous eaters, consuming more calories than is necessary.
when you sleep your body releases growth hormone. At its peak serum concentration, about 4 am, your body can now build muscle tissue and lose body fat. This is the period of time where your body changes. A vital part of losing weight is getting enough adequate sleep. Research suggests that you need 6-8 quality hours of sleep to take the benefit of the growth hormone spike.
To sum all this wonderful information up, I would suggest that if you are trying to lose weight you should pay close attention to the 10 items listed above. These nutritional/behavioral habits may allow you to burn more body fat, build more muscle and allow you to achieve the body of your dreams.