So You Wanna Hack Your Fat Hormones
Men's Health South Africa|September - October 2020
In the weight-loss conversation, everyone talks, talks, talks about diet and exercise. Meanwhile, hormones can’t get a word in edgewise. Which maybe makes sense, since hormones aren’t something you’ve thought about since high school. But new science shows that not only are these complex chemicals worth paying attention to as you age, they may also play a key role in how you put on (or take off) weight. Granted, there are dozens of hormones, so we’ve created a crash course on how you can make ten of the big ones work better for you. That sounds complicated. (It’s not.) Here’s how to do it.
Cassie Shortsleeve

LEPTIN AND GHRELIN

BLAME THESE two hormones when your gut grumbles an hour after you ate dinner. Leptin, a hormone your fat tissues release, alters your appetite long-term by telling your brain when you’ve stored enough fat. Ghrelin, a hormone made in the gut, tells your brain you’re hungry. If either one is out of whack, cravings strike, and a pre-bed bowl of Frosted Flakes quickly follows.

Hack it: Protein, protein, protein. Eating at least 30 grams of the nutrient at each meal reduces ghrelin, which is why you feel so full after housing a rib eye. And then there’s the fact that regularly eating enough protein may lead to increased leptin sensitivity in the brain. Thirty grams is about a palm-sized amount, says registered dietician, Brian St. Pierre, director of performance nutrition at Precision Nutrition. Yes, that includes non-rib-eye vegetarian sources like tofu and tempeh. Frosted Flakes? Not so much.

CORTISOL

LEVELS OF this stress hormone peak in the morning, decline throughout the day, and drop at night. That’s normal. But exposure to chronically high amounts of stress (if you’ve been through, say, a prolonged worldwide pandemic) stimulates production of cortisol, which can cause muscle breakdown and a redistribution of body fat to your gut. “High cortisol levels at night are one of the biggest causes of weight gain, especially belly fat,” says Dr Theodore Friedman, a professor of medicine who has studied hormones for decades.

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