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Fat Burning 101: The Hormones of Fat Burning

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Most people have been getting dietary advice all wrong. Eat less, move more works only for some people for a period of time, but it is not solid long-term dietary advice. Low carbohydrate diets again and again show greater weight loss, increase in HDL, reduction in blood pressure, resolving diabetes and metabolic syndrome and also reduce risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer in numerous studies. So why do we still give the wrong information? In the next few articles, we will look at how the body becomes fat and the best performing dietary change for weight loss: a low carb/high fat diet.

In our first article, we talked about insulin and how insulin levels affect weight gain. Insulin isn’t the only hormone related to fat gain/fat burn in the body. Let’s take a look at several of the hormones that are at work in your body helping you burn or store fat.

Insulin — Insulin affects your ability to actually burn fat even if your fat cells are releasing fat into the blood stream. If your insulin levels are even mildly elevated, your body will essentially cannibalize muscle by taking it to the liver to convert to glucose to use as fuel, rather than using stored fat as fuel.

Glucagon — When insulin and leptin (another hormone related to weight gain and weight loss that regulates fat storage) are low, glucagon is released from the pancreas to keep glucose levels in the blood stable during fat burning. Essentially, glucagon and insulin take turns managing the fuel needed for your body to live.

Cholecystokinin (CCK) — CCK is a hormone that is released from the cells in your intestines whenever you eat potein or fat. CCK communicates tells your brain that you are satiated while simultaneously working with your stomach to slow the rate of digestion. The end result is that you feel fuller longer.

Ghrelin — Ghrelin is produced in your stomach and works with your brain to signal that you are hungry. Reducing calories, in an effort to lose weight, causes an increase in ghrelin. Even after 12 months of a reduced-calorie diet, research shows that ghrelin levels stay elevated. In other words, your body never adapts to eating less and constantly sends the “I’m hungry” signal.

Epinephrine — The “fight or flight” hormone, epinephrine drives the burning of fat and its release for energy in the body. Epinephrine can also aid in appetite suppression.

Growth Hormone — Growth hormone interacts with fat cells directing them to break down and burn stored fat for energy. Growth hormone can be increased through intense exercise like weight lifting, intervals or circuit training and sleep.

In our next article, we’ll take a look at adipokines and cytokines, two molecules made by fat cells that affect the behavior of other cells. Stay tuned!