Ghrelin and Leptin: The Hormone Helpers

ghrelin and leptin

We’ve talked at length in other articles about the effect of certain hormones on the body’s ability to lose weight. Recent research is starting to establish a much more pressing association between hormone control and weight loss. If you can control two metabolism-related hormones, Ghrelin and Leptin, there’s a good possibility your weight will follow suit.

Many dieters struggle after the first month or so to continue the weight loss regimen that they started off so enthusiastically. After showing some initially encouraging gains, weight loss has slowed to a point where the dieter is in limbo, following all of the diet and exercise instructions, and yet not realising the weight loss. You’ve basically hit “The Wall”, just like a long-distance runner. However, all is not lost. According to new research, it appears that the two primary hormones that are linked to weight fluctuation and metabolism change, can be a help. The first is Ghrelin, which causes the body to “feel hungry” and so requires food. The second is Leptin, which we’ve talked about before in previous articles. This chemical makes the body feel “nourished and satisfied”. These two substances work hand in hand and when controlled, can get a dieter over that “Wall Effect”.

We’ll talk here about some of the practices that we can use to help along the dieting process, but bear in mind that some of what we suggest here may contradict what I’ve recommended before. Remember – these are opinions based on factual research and in no way are designed to confuse or deceive. It’s just another way to approach a problem.

Ghrelin is a hormone that’s secreted in the brain and stomach and when released, tells the brain that the body needs food. It generally surfaces in higher levels at 8am, 12pm, 3pm, and 6pm (basically meal times – no surprise there!). Ghrelin cannot be controlled artificially but we can “fool” it. If we can trick it into thinking the body has had its “fill” by consuming high volume foods that are low in calories, that’s half the battle. Lean meats, white fish, and non-fat Greek yoghurt will suppress the Ghrelin effect. Carbohydrate foods such as lentils, sweet potatoes and rolled oats have the same effect. Also, large quantities of water will fill the stomach and reduce those annoying hunger pangs.

Leptin is produced in the fat cells and tells the body that “I’m done”. Usually, the more overweight a person is, the higher the Leptin content, which suggests that the body would require LESS food. That’s not the case according to researchers. Overweight people typically become resistant to Leptin so reducing its “satiating” effect. Frankly, the body needs to have an even balance of Ghrelin and Leptin to reduce weight and provide a curve which leads to consistent results. Here comes a curve-ball. In order to effect this balance, sometimes too much cardio-exercise can cause overproduction of Ghrelin which isn’t what we want, so as always, set your gym schedule in moderation.

The evidence presented here should be somewhat beneficial to those of us struggling to get back on the horse again, and also, those of us having no success reducing belly fat. However, once again, “moderation” needs to be a factor here to make sure that concrete results are obtained without any adverse health effects.

I’d be interested to get any feedback from someone who has tried this hormonal control approach. Tell us in comments about your experience!

Liquid Diets: Do They Work?

liquid diets

You’ll read and hear a lot about the effect of liquids and fluids on weight loss, predominantly from infomercials desperate to sell you the latest gizmo that turns 5lbs of farm fresh vegetables into one delicious tasting smoothie drink. The question is whether a diet consisting of liquids like these, actually contribute anything to a diet regimen. Do they work?

Personally, I have always been a fan of a large amount of fluid intake during the course of my day. Water, juices form the major part and here we go with my confession! I love sodas and milk too! These last two items mean trouble for any credible weight loss plan, but when you eliminate those two “outlaws”, fluids can be beneficial. They perform two tasks. Physically, they fill your stomach with volume that takes away the hunger pangs that can be so distracting whilst trying to maintain a regimental diet plan. Secondly, and more importantly, they can provide quick, nutritious supplements following strenuous workouts.

The trick in using fluids to is to buy a top quality food processor, like a Bullet Blender, that will create a thin, palatable drink free of annoying lumps and pieces. Poor quality blenders don’t do good enough jobs of crushing up the food products and causes the drink to be somewhat unpleasant. Use vegetables and fruits initially to create a sweetness that makes an enjoyable drink. Some of the more nutritionally beneficial drinks are based on recipes using bland tasting foods and frankly, take some getting used to. However, if you start slow, maybe at one drink per day, you can work up to eliminating one meal per day by substituting a nutritious, vegetable and fruit based drink.

Now there are people who believe that purely liquid diets can replace solid food completely in order to speed up the dieting process. I am not one of those people. There is no doubt that this type of food regimen can “kick start” a weight loss program into high gear, and like we discussed above, help to replace the volume of solid food intake, which in itself helps our target goal. However, the notion that a diet lacking in solid food is in some way beneficial, for me, stands on shaky ground. I happen to think that the human body has a tolerance level for what we put it through with abusive intake, diets, lack of one thing or another and the opposites, of course, but I firmly believe that there is a tipping point. A point at which the body screams “No Mas”, and in my opinion, the elimination of solid food is one of those points.

The body is built on the notion that we behave scientifically in a certain way. For instance, digestive processes need a certain amount of daily fiber to function properly, but flooding the system with nothing but fiber, tips that balance so far to one side, that difficulties arise. Again, there are advocates who swear by the principles, but I’d rather throw my weight behind the use of liquid diets as a gradual alternative that’s used intelligently instead of a “go for broke” plan that possibly digs up other, more difficult health issues.

I think we can say that liquid diets have a role to play in the overall scheme of weight loss, but like everything else we discuss here, moderation is the important criteria.

Can Stretching Help in Weight Loss?

stretching

One of the questions I seem to have been asked more frequently recently is whether stretching exercises can help in losing weight. The short answer is directly no, but there are some definite benefits that in my view, make it a definite enhancement to any well-organized weight loss plan.

For older people like myself, a major reason for decline in fitness relates to the issue of muscle loss. I’m not talking about suddenly waking up one morning and finding yourself all skin and bone. The degradation of muscle definition is a gradual process that is caused by the aging process, and fundamentally, one way to slow down that decline is to stretch regularly. Have you ever had the occurrence to suddenly stretch out your shoulders and arms after being sat for too long in one spot? I’m sure you recall the feeling of utter “ecstasy” rippling through your muscles as they stretch out. That feeling is caused by the release of endorphins which is the “feel good” hormone. That in itself isn’t beneficial except that it is the body’s way of telling you to “repeat more often”.

In order to lose weight we have to burn calories and to do that we have to exercise aerobically for about two and a half hours a week, give or take a few minor details. In order for your body to be able to “survive” the process of aerobic exercise, especially for people above the age of 50, they have to be “tuned up” beforehand. That is where the stretching exercises come in. They prepare, if you will, the muscles of the body so that when you are in the middle of your workout, you don’t have to stop because of tightness in a hamstring or in a calf muscle.

Stretching for us is like “warming-up” for professional athletes. Watch whenever a player is being subbed into a game and see how he/she prepares. They will do at least 5-10 minutes of warming up to make sure that their body is in peak condition for when they join the action. That is what stretching does for us. Of course, this all begs the question of “How much stretching and which exercises do I use?”. It’s my belief, for older guys and gals like myself, stretching should be a daily routine, even for just 10-15 minutes. You can even do it at your desk or while watching TV. It’s simple, short, and not tiring but it will tone your body correctly.

There are many different types of stretching exercise regimens and it’s difficult to hurt yourself with such mild extending of the muscles and joints. One resource I have found is over at Mayoclinic.com which I’ve used and can recommend. Start off slowly as we always insist and used regularly in conjunction with your aerobic workouts, I think you’ll realise a huge benefit.

The Fastest Way to Lose Weight Through Exercise

We are continually back and forth on this blog trying to find the best way to lose weight and shed pounds. We do it through research, discussion and feedback and invariably never come to a definitive conclusion. However, there is a group of scientists that believe that they have found the absolute fastest way to lose weight through exercise alone.

Before we go any further, let me first emphasize that, as you know, I am no fan of “get rich quick schemes” when it comes to weight loss and dieting. In my world they don’t exist. However, just like in any other walk of life, some methods and systems work better than others so for the sake of argument, let’s assume that I’m on board with this philosophy..for now.

Scientists studied individuals who were tasked with 3 twenty minute exercise bike sessions per week for 12 weeks. The researchers found that a high-intensity 8-second bursts of exercise, followed by a 12-second period of low intensity work and on and on repetitively causes the subject to lose more weight than a 5-6 hour weekly jogging regimen. Apparently the biochemistry behind this phenomenon is based on a group of hormones called catecholamines which get released into the bloodstream in large amounts when using this training schedule. Their effect is to force the body to burn abdominal fats as energy and also to reduce lactic acid levels in the muscles enabling the subject to prolong the workout and reduce muscle pain.

If you’re any kind of expert on fitness training you will recognize this method for what it is and that’s High Intensity Interval Training or (HIIT) which, in its crudest form has been around for decades. Marathon runners use a very primitive form of interval training to prepare for their races (that involves much different time intervals and intensity levels so don’t think that what we’re talking about today will turn you into a marathon runner – IT WON’T).

Despite the simplicity of the approach, and it is easily done, there are some pitfalls to consider. The research was only carried out over a 12-week period because the body tends to break down after such an intensive level of training. As we have discussed before, consistent weight loss and dieting is a state of mind that needs to be adopted as an attitude going forward and not just over short periods to achieve temporary goals before tumbling away back down the hill.

My own personal opinion is that this type of HIIT can be attempted over that short 12-week period but in fact after that, the subject simply must revert back to some kind of dieting control and exercise program. The HIIT should be seen as a way to give an already well established weight loss focus a swift burst of progress to encourage additional focus and to increase motivation. This is obviously not a way for the average dieter to suddenly begin to think about weight loss and exercise,