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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. NEXT: 20 ways to stay diet strong>> {nomultithumb}  

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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