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5 hormones that cause weight gain

Did you know that regulating hormones can help control weight gain, even without reducing the intake of food? Yes, really! Angela Tufvesson finds out more.

 Melatonin

What is it? The hormone of darkness, melatonin maintains the body’s circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is an internal 24-hour clock that regulates when we fall asleep and wake up. The body produces melatonin when it is dark to encourage rest.

Is it out of whack? Bright light in the evening or not enough light during the day can disrupt melatonin levels, which can result in weight gain. This is a common symptom of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a winter ailment where too much melatonin is produced.

Quick fix: Regulating melatonin levels can help control weight gain, even without reducing the intake of food. Researchers from the University of Granada in Spain believe melatonin might help prevent heart disease associated with obesity, increase HDL (good) cholesterol and reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Small quantities of melatonin can be found in goji berries, almonds, sunflower seeds, cardamom, fennel, coriander and cherries. Melatonin also has strong antioxidant effects and can be taken in supplement form. If you prefer au naturale, be sure to sleep in a pitch-black room.

Insulin

What is it? Insulin is secreted by the pancreas and used to digest the carbohydrates in food. The pancreas secretes insulin in response to carbohydrates being consumed. It then transports glucose – a simple sugar made from the digested carbohydrates – from the food to the muscles to be used for energy.

Is it out of whack? If you have trouble losing weight, despite eating well and training hard, you may have a condition called insulin resistance, says Buntic. “In insulin resistance, the hormone insulin does not function as it should. The muscle cells build up a resistance to insulin, so the body produces more and more in an attempt to maintain the transport of glucose to the cells for energy. “As insulin works to prevent fat being burnt to preserve muscle and fat mass, high levels of insulin can result in a situation where fat is stored rather than burnt, leading to difficulty in losing and maintaining weight.” If left unmanaged, this condition is likely to result in type 2 diabetes.

Quick fix: Insulin resistance can be managed with a low-GI eating plan and exercise including cardio and resistance training.

Ghrelin and leptin

What is it? Ghrelin and leptin are a double act that together regulate appetite. Leptin is secreted by fatty tissue and regulates energy by sending a signal to the brain that you are full, while ghrelin, a shorter-acting hormone secreted by the gut, stimulates appetite. Is it out of whack? Research suggests that when you don’t get enough sleep, leptin levels dive, so you don’t feel full after a meal, and ghrelin levels rise, which overstimulates your appetite.

A study published in the journal Sleep Medicine found that leptin levels decreased by 18 per cent and ghrelin levels increased by 28 per cent when sleep was restricted to four hours per night over two nights. Essentially, when we don’t get enough sleep, we feel hungry, even though we’ve eaten enough.

Quick fix: Keep your ghrelin and leptin levels healthy with good sleep hygiene. Go to bed at roughly the same time each night and get the requisite seven to eight hours of shut-eye.

Cortisol

What is it? When you’re in danger or on high alert – before a big presentation or hot date – the body releases stress hormone cortisol into the bloodstream. It feeds your brain extra oxygen and releases energy from your fat and glucose stores to help you avert the threat or make a good impression on that date. Is it out of whack? Frequent, chronic stress means more cortisol is released into the bloodstream than the body can use. This puts you at increased risk of heart disease, sleep disturbances, depression and obesity.

“If cortisol is elevated for long periods of time, it can promote weight gain,” says dietitian Angela Buntic. “Stress hormones trigger the fight or flight response, making the body’s fuel sources, such as glucose, ready and available for use. However, if you don’t actually use this energy for a physical response, the body stores the released energy as fat, usually around the abdomen, ready for the next threat.”

Quick fix: Take steps to manage the stress in your life, says Sally Symonds, author of 50 Steps To Lose 50kg…and Keep It Off. Eat a healthy diet of fresh fruit and veg, lean meat and wholegrains; practise relaxation techniques like meditation and yoga; enjoy regular exercise; and spend time relaxing with friends away from your stressors.

Oestrogen

What is it? The constant see-sawing of oestrogen and progesterone production keeps the reproductive system running. Oestrogen plays an important role in the menstrual cycle (high levels induce PMS) and pregnancy. It also helps maintain strong bones and may help prevent heart disease. Is it out of whack? Studies suggest oestrogen fluctuations across the female lifespan may help explain our higher prevalence of obesity compared to men.

Low oestrogen is a significant contributor to weight gain in our older years, particularly approaching menopause. In younger women, spiked oestrogen levels can lead to irritability, migraines, depression and a raft of reproductive disorders. “Oestrogen is the culprit for many of our problems, from breast cancer to endometriosis, PMS and cancer of the uterus,” says GP Dr Maura McGill.

“Progesterone can ameliorate the effects of oestrogen gone wild, but if we are chronically short of one hormone, we need to reintroduce the missing hormone in the most natural way possible.”

Quick fix: Avoid oestrogen-induced weight gain in your premenopausal years by eating a wholefood diet and limiting your intake of processed foods. Dr McGill recommends steering clear of high oestrogen foods like chicken and soy products at PMS time.

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5 hormones that cause weight gain

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5 Sneaky Ways To Burn Calories Outside The Gym

You probably associate calorie burning with training, but you burn calories 24/7, even while you sleep. Granted, the gym is your most intense burst of calorie expenditure, but we’re talking one hour of training versus 23 hours of non-training. You can benefit from a much smarter approach to burning more during the other 96 percent of your day.

The calories burned outside the gym matter just as much for health benefits and long-term weight maintenance as the calories burned within the gym walls. Even frequent exercisers are often quite sedentary when not training. Additionally, studies show that people grossly overestimate the amount of calories burned from their workout.

We live on a 24-hour clock. Each hour affords you an opportunity to burn fat; that gives you all the more reason to incorporate small bouts of activity and, of course, the following five calorie-burning strategies into your daily routine!

1 Swap Your Morning Bowl Of Oatmeal For An Omelette

When you swap your bowl of oatmeal for a 3-egg omelette with vegetables (spinach and bell peppers, anyone?), you do your taste buds a favor. You also affect the way your body metabolizes the food constituents. Thanks to a little something called the thermic effect of food, the different macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat) each require varying amounts of energy expenditure from the body to metabolize.

The metabolic pathway for protein digestion is rather complex, and as a result, the body spends slightly more calories metabolizing, say, a bolus of chicken than a chunk of sweet potato. In this case, the protein from eggs has a higher thermic effect—which could boost your calorie burn by an additional 40-50 calories.

So the next time you wake up in the morning, hankering for some grub, pass on the oats and say yes to a heaping pile of eggs and vegetables. With improved satiety levels, this small change to your breakfast could even make waves in your dietary choices throughout the day.

2 Move Throughout the Work Day

Look around your office. Chances are you see your co-workers hunched over, eyes glued to the monitor, scarfing down their lunch at their desk. While this habit is common, it shouldn’t be typical. Take back your precious lunchtime and repurpose it for the good of calorie-burning!

I’m not asking you to do anything drastic like run a couple miles (although you very well could), but your lunch time could be better served as “you” time, as a time to de-stress, and as time for a quick jaunt around the office. Forty-five minutes of light walking will take off 200-300 calories. What’s more, you’ll feel more focused and refreshed by the time you return to your desk.

“Lunch time could be better served as ‘you’ time, as a time to de-stress, and as time for a quick jaunt around the office.”

Maybe you want to dedicate lunch hour to, you know, eating lunch. There’s no rule that your walk must occur during lunch time. So grab your co-workers at any time and push for a quick stroll around the office building. Any excuse to get up and move, such as walking to speak to a co-worker, getting a glass of water from the break room, or going to use the photocopier, will also prove beneficial to your long-term health and help increase the total daily calories burned. Think of it this way: If you burn 20-25 calories for merely five minutes of movement, you can accumulate up to a net calorie burn of 160-200 calories over an 8-hour work day.

3 Stand While You Work

“Sitting doesn’t burn nearly as many calories as standing does.”

Modern society has created an entire culture that revolves around sitting: sitting at your desk eight hours per day, sitting in the car for your commute, sitting at home on the couch, sitting at the dinner table, sitting in the Jacuzzi &mdashyou get the picture.

Sitting doesn’t burn nearly as many calories as standing does. Then there’s the research on too much sitting. It shows a negative correlation with weakened gluteal (butt) muscles, which have been linked to poor hip function and chronic low-back pain. According to a study published by the “American College of Sports Medicine,” this extended sitting may increase your risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mortality from various health-degrading causes.

The next time you talk on the phone or pore over stacks of paper at your desk, do it while standing rather than sitting on your rump. This simple change allows you to be more vivacious on the phone and more fidgety in general, thus allowing you to burn up to an additional 300 calories over the course of a day.

4 Take the Stairs

The prospect of climbing several flights of stairs can be daunting, but it’s a great way to burn more calories. If you’re fortunate enough to work in a multi-story building, climbing stairs should be a simple and effective addition to your daily routine. If not, always opt to take the stairs rather than the elevator whenever you can.

You’ll burn anywhere between 4 and 7 calories per flight of stairs you take, depending on their length and your body weight. You can even make it more difficult by getting lower, pretending to do step-ups, and come up slowly to make sure your glutes are firing.

5 Drink More Green Tea

The health benefits of green tea are well documented. In addition to kicking your metabolism awake, green tea contains polyphenols, which have antioxidant properties that can bolster the fight against cellular damage. Some cellular damage is necessary, of course, but rampant cell destruction is a bad thing and, in the worst cases, may even promote to cancer growth.

“Consuming green tea slightly lifts the overall 24-hour energy expenditure and increases rates of fat oxidation throughout the body.”

Rather than downing another cup of coffee or an energy drink, go for the green tea bags. You’ll probably have fewer people to fend off in the break room. The green tea will still provide a modest dose of caffeine for those morning pick-me-ups; the caffeine content of green tea rivals that of a 6 oz. cup of coffee, and gives a nice metabolic boost.

A study published in the “American Society for Clinical Nutrition” shows that consuming green tea slightly lifts the overall 24-hour energy expenditure and increases rates of fat oxidation throughout the body. What this means for you is more efficient fat burning and a higher metabolism for the rest of the day. All you have to do is raise that cup to your lips!

As you can see, it’s possible to raise your non-workout calorie burning without dramatically disrupting your daily habits. Noticeable change can come from small, yet consistent changes. All these little tweaks to your daily routine and diet will pile on quickly to ignite a sizeable calorie inferno and advance the achievement of your weight-loss goals.

REFERENCES

  1. Chantre, P. et al. (1999). Efficacy of a green tea extract rich in catechin polyphenols and caffeine in increasing 24-hour energy expenditure and fat oxidation in humans. American Society for Clinical Nutrition. Vol. 70, no. 6.
  2. Church, T.S. et al. (2009). Sitting Time And Mortality From All Causes, Cardiovascular Disease, And Cancer. American College Of Sports Medicine. Vol. 41, No. 5. Pp. 998-1005.

 

About The Author

I’ve been working in the field of exercise science for the last 8 years. I’ve written a number of online and print articles.

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Medicine-ball-burpees

Medicine ball burpees

Place the medicine ball on the floor between your feet.

Bend down and place your hands on the ball.

Jump your feet back into the push-up position.

Jump your feet back in so that your feet are either side of the ball.

Grasp the ball and jump up into the air, lifting the ball above your head as you do so.

Land on the balls of your feet and bend forwards to place the ball back on the floor and repeat the sequence.

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Medicine ball burpees

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What’s your fitness age?

The researchers evaluated almost 5,000 Norwegians between the ages of 20 and 90, using mobile labs. They took about a dozen measurements, including height, body mass index, resting heart rate, HDL and total cholesterol levels. Each person also filled out a lengthy lifestyle questionnaire. Finally, each volunteer ran to the point of exhaustion on a treadmill to pinpoint his or her peak oxygen intake (VO2 max), or how well the body delivers oxygen to its cells. VO2 max has been shown in large-scale studies to closely correlate with significantly augmented life spans, even among the elderly or overweight. In other words, VO2 max can indicate fitness age.

In order to figure out how to estimate VO2 max without a treadmill, the scientists combed through the results to determine which of the data points were most useful. You might expect that the most taxing physical tests would yield the most reliable results. Instead, the researchers found that putting just five measurements — waist circumference; resting heart rate; frequency and intensity of exercise; age; and sex — into an algorithm allowed them to predict a person’s VO2 max with noteworthy accuracy, according to their study, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

The researchers used the data set to tabulate the typical, desirable VO2 max for a healthy person at every age from 20 to 90, creating specific parameters for fitness age. The concept is simple enough, explains Ulrik Wisloff, the director of the K. G. Jebsen Center of Exercise in Medicine at the Norwegian University and the senior author of the study. “A 70-year-old man or woman who has the peak oxygen uptake of a 20-year-old has a fitness age of 20,” he says. He has seen just this combination during his research.

The researchers have used all of this data to create an online calculator that allows people to determine their VO2 max without going to a lab. You’ll need your waist measurement and your resting heart rate. To determine it, sit quietly for 10 minutes and check your pulse; count for 30 seconds, double the number and you have your resting heart rate. Plug these numbers, along with your age, sex and frequency and intensity of exercise, into the calculator, and you’ll learn your fitness age.

The results can be sobering. A 50-year-old man, for instance, who exercises moderately a few times a week, sports a 36-inch waist and a resting heart rate of 75 — not atypical values for healthy middle-aged men — will have a fitness age of 59. Thankfully, unwanted fitness years, unlike the chronological kind, can be erased, Dr. Wisloff says. Exercise more frequently or more intensely. Then replug your numbers and exult as your “age” declines. A youthful fitness age, Dr. Wisloff says, “is the single best predictor of current and future health.”

NY Times

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What’s your fitness age?

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We’re all inspired by different goals and people when it comes to fitness. Whether you long for the curves of Kate Upton, or you’re in awe of the athletic prowess of Amir Khan, celebrity trainer Ruben Tabares has you covered. Not only does he train stars like the aforementioned (plus a few more fit A-listers you might have heard of), which means he’s used to the pressure of achieving results quickly, but his variety of clients means that he can help you reach any fitness goal.This full-body workout below, devised especially for WF readers, will boost your fitness thanks to its low rest periods and bursts of high intensity. Combined with smart eating, it also promises to boost fat-loss

The latest high intensity interval exercise: Hollywood HIIT

We’re all inspired by different goals and people when it comes to fitness. Whether you long for the curves of Kate Upton, or you’re in awe of the athletic prowess of Amir Khan, celebrity trainer Ruben Tabares has you covered. Not only does he train stars like the aforementioned (plus a few more fit A-listers you might have heard of), which means he’s used to the pressure of achieving results quickly, but his variety of clients means that he can help you reach any fitness goal.This full-body workout below, devised especially for WF readers, will boost your fitness thanks to its low rest periods and bursts of high intensity. Combined with smart eating, it also promises to boost fat-loss

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The latest high intensity interval exercise: Hollywood HIIT

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