Hormones and Fat Loss: Ghrelin 101

If you want to lose weight you have GOT to start paying attention to the link between hormones and fat loss. If you haven’t heard, the calories in/calories out model is DATED. It might make you lose some weight but you’ll be hungry, tired and doing damage to your hormone balance along the way! There is a better way. Hormones dictate your ability to burn fat. If you feel like you’re doing all the right things but not seeing the results you want, its time to start working SMARTER, not harder.

Have you ever been so hungry that you can hear or feel your tummy rumbling? That right there, that rumbling sensation, is thanks to the hunger hormone known as ghrelin.

When your body senses that fuel is needed, either because of low blood sugar or your stomach being empty, a hormonal cascade is initiated. Levels of ghrelin increase, triggering your brain to stimulate hunger. Elevated ghrelin levels also encourage your body to store fat in and around your abdominal region. Low levels of ghrelin have the opposite effect – they minimize hunger and cravings.

Understanding how to control ghrelin levels gives us the power to control our hunger and cravings. Here are some strategies to consider to help keep ghrelin levels low and hunger and cravings at bay.

  • Avoid severe caloric restriction. Low calorie diets increase ghrelin production.
  • Eat your veggies. Non-starchy vegetables like Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbage are high in both water and fiber. They stretch out your stomach, lowering your ghrelin levels and keeping them low for longer.
  • Eat protein and healthy fats with each meal. This slows the digestive process and slows the rate at which food is emptied from your stomach. The longer you have food in your stomach, the longer your ghrelin levels stay low.
  • Avoid fructose, especially from processed foods, soft drinks and fruit juice. Yes, fructose is found in fruit but its most concentrated in processed foods in the form of high fructose corn syrup. Fructose raises ghrelin levels, making you feel hunger, and it also lowers leptin levels, preventing you from feeling full.
  • Eat often. Especially when you’re starting out in your fat loss journey you’ll be best served to eat every 3-4 hours. This will help keep your ghrelin low and your hunger and cravings to a minimum.
  • Avoid chronic stress. We all need to work on this one, but chronic stress increases ghrelin production.
  • Exercise regularly, especially in the form of high intensity intervals and weight training. These activities increase our production of human growth hormone, which inhibits ghrelin.
  • Make sure you’re consuming adequate omega 3 fatty acids, especially EPA and DHA, from oily, cold-water fish like salmon, sardines, anchovies or mackerel. Studies have shown that insufficient omega 3 intake increases ghrelin production.

Being hungry and battling intense cravings makes fat loss harder than it needs to be. Controlling hunger and cravings can make healthy eating almost effortless. Pick one or two of these strategies to focus on this week!


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