Today I was thinking about some of the times in my life where the fitness thing wasn’t easy and I wasn’t seeing many results. I was in the gym for hours every week, I was counting calories and eating right (at least I thought I was), but I still wasn’t any closer to my goal…
And I finally realized why!
So last week I was reading some of your questions and studying up on how I could help. There was one nutrition question that seemed to keep popping up, just worded differently every time:
What can I do with my diet to burn more fat?
Ok so first of all, you’re amazing for asking this. Not everyone realizes how important their diet is. Not everyone is willing to even work out, let alone exercise AND eat right. But I am so happy that you are.
But as I was studying nutrition the other day, I learned something MIND-BLOWING!
So your body has quite a few fat-burning hormones, and a lot of people talk about what foods can get your body to make more of those hormones. What most people DON’T talk about is that there are actually “fat-making” hormones…
And if you’ve got too much of any of these hormones, then it will be almost impossible to burn fat. That's why I call them fat-making hormones.
So what are these hormones, and how can you lower them?
Adiponectin is produce in the fatty tissue adipose. It's role is to regulate glucose levels and breaks down fatty acid - so essentially it helps burn fat. This is a fat-burning hormone that you want more of, not less. Studies show that decreased levels of this hormone play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes and obesity. 
If you're struggling with weight loss and fat loss then most likely adiponectin is the culprit. Two reasons as to why your body may not be producing this hormone enough are: consuming too many calories and/or eating a diet high in fats (specifically unhealthy fats like trans-fat). This is why eating a balanced, healthy diet is so important! Overeating and eating unhealthy fats causes insulin resistance which lowers the body's ability to synthesize and produce adiponectin. This also messes with how your muscles ability to use carbohydrates as energy, which they need to function properly!
To boost the adiponectin level focus on eating within your calorie limit and eat healthy fats - limit trans-fats! Another thing that may help is drinking green tea! Drinking a cup of green tea daily can help boost your metabolism, balance blood sugar level, and help with reducing body fat!
Adiponectin is the one hormone you definitely want your body to make more of... But let's talk about the ones we want to lower.
Leptin is produced by your fat cells and often referred to as the satiety hormone. It's main purpose is to regulate fat storage and the amount of calories consumed and burned. When you have enough fat stored, the fat cells use leptin to signal to your brain that you're full. This prevents you from eating more so you can burn calories at a normal rate. So high levels of leptin tell your brain that enough fat is stored, low levels means fat stores are low and it will signal to your brain that you need to eat. Sounds great so far, right? It is, but too much leptin is not always good.
Most people assume that those who are overweight or obese must have higher leptin levels which results in eating less and losing weight. Well that's not really the case, and that's thanks to leptin resistance. Leptin resistance is when the signaling is impaired, this may be a result of high insulin levels. So they have enough energy stored in their fat cells, but their brain is not receiving the signal. So in their mind they're still starving which drives them to eat more.
To decrease body fat and leptin levels limit inflammatory foods. Limit sugary foods and drinks, and trans-fat. Exercising can help with leptin sensitivity, so try to exercise regularly. Lastly, get enough sleep! Not getting enough sleep can drop your leptin levels and increase appetite.
So this hormone has very little to do with what you eat, and has almost everything to do with how stressed you are. When you get really stressed this hormone spikes and causes your body to store more fat. That's why it's known as the stress hormone.
But how does stress lead to weight gain? Well chronic stress leads to high circulating cortisol levels which can turn off certain hormones that control appetite and weight gain. Symptoms of high levels of cortisol are fatigue and blood sugar imbalance. This can lead to unhealthy food cravings and overeating, which will mess with your dieting efforts.
It gets worse....
Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands. Secreted cortisol can slow down the production of the hormone testosterone and over an extended period it can lead to something called adrenal fatigue. The adrenal fatigue and testosterone loss creates a catabolic state in the body. Your body starts to wear down on bone and muscle mass... and it starts storing fat. Your body starts to store fat because the reduction of lean body tissues slows down the bodies metabolism which leads to elevated insulin and insulin resistance. Now you can understand why keeping your stress levels balanced is extremely important, especially if you don't want to gain weight or belly fat!
Yes, I know, life is stressful for almost everyone. BUT what you can do is just take a few deep breaths when you are stressed, or even just make a list of people that help you relax and spend some more time with them. Taking care of this will not only help you to lower cortisol levels, but it is also a good way to let yourself glow!
Insulin is the energy storage hormone, or as I like to call it, the fat storage hormone. That's because it helps your cells use the macronutrients from the foods you eat as energy, but then it stores whatever is leftover (mostly fats) as storage. It tells your fat cells to store fat and then prevents that fat from being broken down!
Insulin is secreted in small amounts throughout the day and in larger amounts after eating a meal - to control the level of glucose in your blood. Overeating foods high in fats, sugars, and refined carbs will drive insulin resistance and skyrocket your insulin levels. That is something you definitely want to avoid!
The best way to avoid this hormone is by cutting out as much sugar as possible. A few hidden sugars to avoid are juice, granola, coconut water, iced tea, and even some protein bars.
Another reason Insulin levels rise is snacking. Eating constantly throughout the day will cause your body to constantly be releasing insulin. An easy solution for this is to stick to the normal 2-3 meals / day. Do this and you’ll drop fat like you’ve been wanting to.
This hormone is produced by your stomach cells... Can you guess what it's nickname is? The hunger hormone! When your stomach is empty ghrelin is released and sends a signal to your brain telling you to eat. Ghrelin levels are typically the highest before a meal, and the lowest after a meal.
But what else can trigger ghrelin levels to rise?? Being on a diet! When you reduce your calorie intake your body's natural response is to protect it from starvation. So the level of ghrelin rises and triggers an increase in appetite. Not only that, but your leptin levels decrease! This makes it hard to lose weight, but especially maintain the weight off.
The best way to control your hunger hormones levels is by eating foods rich in protein and avoid sugar. Protein is known to keep you full longer so your hunger hormone levels are low.
Estrogen is a female sex hormone that is mainly produced in the ovaries. Estrogen does NOT equal fat gain, but too much estrogen from your diet DOES make your body gain fat, especially around the hips :’(
So what foods have estrogen in them???
Well the simple answer is GMO. Many GMO foods have been treated with products that are very estrogenic. So the fix for this one is to make sure you’re eating organic foods like cruciferous vegetables and high fiber foods. Doing this will keep your estrogen levels normal and keep your body from holding on to extra fat.
Tips for hormonal balance
That was a lot of information! It might seem difficult to keep all your hormones balanced and in check, especially after reading all of this. An important thing to remember is that all your hormones work together to increase or decrease appetite, manage fat storage, energy, and metabolism. If your struggling with weight loss then it's most likely because your system of hormones are not working properly.
Here are a few simple tips on how to make sure your hormones are in check:
- Stay hydrated- This one is a given, but in case you need a reminder... DRINK WATER! Limit the amount of sugary drinks and prioritize drinking water and green tea.
- Manage stress levels- Try to reduce stress, remember cortisol? High levels of cortisol can have an impact on your cravings. Not only that, but overworking your body can mess with your hormones. So take breaks, go on a walk, take deep breaths, do whatever you need to do to unwind and relax.
- Eat a healthy diet- The food you put into your body is important!! Most of the issues with hormonal imbalance is due to bad eating habits. Eat foods rich in protein, fiber, healthy fats (omega-3), and probiotics. Avoid sugar and refined carbs.
- Exercise regularly- Exercising regularly - cardio, strength training, or any other form of physical activity- has so many benefits. Helps reduce stress, improves blood sugar balance, can help with sleep, and weight loss.
- Get high-quality sleep- This one is often overlooked, but it's the most important, especially when it comes to your hormones. Actually, not getting good sleep has been linked to hormonal imbalance! So try to get at least 6-8 hours of quality sleep a night. 
Now this may seem easy to some of you, but it may seem hard for others. So just start by working against one of these hormones, and once you get the hang of it, try another!
So give these a shot and let me know if they help you burn fat in the gym AND in the kitchen :)
Until next time Fam,