Archive for the ‘hormones’ Category

Carbohydrate TimingIlovecarbs

High levels of insulin and insulin resistance puts fat burning on the back burner.  If you can limit your carbohydrates so that you are only eating them during the time periods when your insulin sensitivity is at its highest (low insulin), you will make your goal of losing fat a whole lot easier.  When are these time periods?

(1) Your first meal of the day – After a night of not eating, your insulin sensitivity is higher than normal. This is because your body has been using the glucose in your blood and the glycogen stored in your liver to maintain body functions throughout the night. Upon waking, your body’s stores of glycogen are lower – resulting in a lower amount of insulin needed to store the carbohydrates you’re about to eat.

(2) Your pre-workout meal – Most people don’t think of insulin sensitivity being high just before your workout. And really, it isn’t. However, during exercise, your insulin response is muted. Your pre-workout meal is a great time to get in some carbohydrates and some much needed energy for your workout.

(3) Your post-workout meal – Your post-workout meal is the time when your insulin sensitivity is at its highest, and it’s a great time to implement nutrient timing principles. While you work out, your muscles use glycogen to fuel your exercise. So much so, that after your workout, your muscles just soak up the glucose in your blood. Your muscles are so starved for glucose that they are able to take the carbohydrates you eat and convert it into glycogen without any real need for insulin.

Knowing that these 3 time periods are preferred for carbohydrate intake, we can then start to formulate a diet plan. Depending on your carbohydrate demand and your goals, I would prioritize my carbohydrate intake like this:

Carbs post-workout only

Carbs post-workout and first meal of the day

Carbs pre and post-workout, and the first meal of the day

If you have a stubborn metabolism and have trouble losing body fat, eat the majority of your carbohydrates post workout. This meal should consist of protein and carbohydrates and very little fat. The remaining carb-less meals should consist of protein, healthy fats, and veggies. Planning your meals this way enables you to get all the benefits from the 3 macronutrients (fat, carbs, and protein).

It also puts you in a prime metabolic state to mobilize fatty acids. Nutrient timing is your answer to successful fat loss. By eating your carbohydrates at specific times of the day, you enable your body to remain in a fat burning state for a longer period of time.  If your energy is low and you feel you need more carbohydrates, add additional ones first thing in the morning.  If you workout early, then add them post-workout and before 2pm.  For those high energy, high volume exercisers, you could probably get away with all three, pre and post workout as well as first meal of the day!!!


Insulin – a hormone produced in the pancreas regulates the amount of sugar in the blood.  In diabetics, the pancreas produces no insulin at all, too little, or it is defective.  Only about 10% of the people with diabetes are Type I where their bodies do not produce insulin.  The majority of the diabetic population produce too little or the system is defective.  The major function of this hormone is to distribute the broken down food (glucose) to leave the bloodstream and enter the cells of the body for energy.

Obesity is the excess accumulation of fat.  The excess fat is stored in the fat cells (adipose cells), which, collectively make up the adipose tissue.  So, how does this fat get into the fat cells?  The answer is Insulin.  It’s well known that insulin stimulates an enzyme on the surface of the fat cells that moves the fat into the cell.  So, if you produce a lot of insulin, there is going to be large amounts of fats moving into the fat cells.  People always ask about the fat in their diet.  You would assume a lot of fat in your diet would increase your fat storage.  That is not the case.  Take a look at Type I diabetics.  They can have large amounts of fat in their diet and eat ravenously but cannot store fat because their bodies don’t produce insulin.  So, dietary fat, even in enormous amounts, won’t even find the way to the fat cells without insulin.  The opposite holds true for a low amount of insulin.  With it low, insulin’s sibling, glucagon, plays a role in retrieving energy from the fat cells for usage.  Problems arise when this system becomes defective, which most commonly happens when people develop insulin resistance.  Insulin talks, but the cells don’t listen.  In other words, the pancreas keeps producing insulin and the blood levels continue to rise until the cells finally get the message.  But it’s a message that has taken a lot of insulin force to deliver. 

If all the different types of cells developed resistance to insulin at the same rate, we wouldn’t have as much of a problem.  But they don’t. Different cells develop insulin resistance at different rates.  Typically the first cells to become insulin resistant are the liver cells.  The liver cells are continuously producing sugar and dumping it into the blood.  Insulin shuts this process down.  If the insulin level drops to zero, as it does in type I diabetes, the liver dumps a huge load of sugar in the blood causing all the blood sugar problems associated with this disease.  Under normal circumstances, just a little insulin stops the liver cells in their tracks.  But if these cells are resistant to insulin, much more is required to get them the message to turn off the sugar flow.

In most people, the fat cells develop insulin resistance later, which creates the problem.  If insulin levels are high to control the liver’s sugar output, then these elevated insulin levels are sending a strong message to the non-insulin-resistant fat cells.  The message is take this fat and store it.  High insulin not only drives fat into the fat cells, it prevents it from getting out.  Fat is packed into the fat cells and kept there.

Between meals when insulin levels would normally fall, allowing the fat to freely feed all the body’s tissues, insulin remains high in an effort to keep the liver in check.  Fat can’t get out of the fat cells, and the tissues begin to starve.  Even though there is plenty of stored fat, the body can’t get to it because elevated insulin is preventing its release.

Starving tissues send a message to the brain, saying ‘we’re hungry.’  The brain responds by increasing the drive to feed.  We eat, and the carbs we eat are consumed by the cells for immediate energy, and insulin stimulated by the dietary carbohydrate drives the fat into the fat cells where it is trapped with the rest of the fat already there.  The fat cell mass gets larger and larger, and we become obese.

We make too much insulin because we eat too many carbohydrates, especially sugar and other refined carbohydrates.  The key is to stay away from these kinds of foods, increase your amounts of lean proteins, choose healthy fats, and moderately eat fresh fruits and vitamin packed veggies.

Leptin, from the Greek word “leptos” meaning thin, strives to live up to its name.  Although this hormone has many functions, its main role is to let your brain know how fat you are.  Leptin is manufactured in the fat cells and sends satiety (fullness) signals to the hypothalamus – the brain’s eating control center and tells us when we can stop eating.  In the absence of leptin, the brain never receives the message that the body has sufficient food, believing it to be in a constant state of starvation.  Consequently, one would think that it would be desirable to increase leptin levels.

However, in most overweight people, leptin levels are actually excessively high due to leptin resistance, a process similar to the concept of insulin resistance.  To understand why this is so, we must look at the way a normal weight body is designed to communicate.  The process begins when the brain notes the amount of leptin secreted by fat cells.  If the brain determines these leptin levels are normal, it shuts off the signal to store extra calories as fat.  The body no longer feels like eating because the brain, with the help of leptin, has given the full signal.

When our hunter/gatherer ancestors experienced decreased food supply, calories stored as fat were broken down and used as fuel.  This caused leptin levels to decline and metabolism to decrease to adjust to the decreased food supply.  When food supply once again increased, so too did leptin levels.  Once the hunter/gatherer humans had replenished their reserves, leptin signaled our ancestors to stop eating.

In today’s society, however, food surrounds us and overeating is common.  This disrupts the hormonal signals in our bodies.  Eventually leptin receptors become desensitized to leptin’s effects.  Once a person becomes leptin resistant, the body has a difficult time transporting leptin past the blood brain barrier to the hypothalamus where it is needed to send satiety signals.  Even though blood levels of leptin may be excessively high, brain levels are insufficiently low, resulting in food cravings and weight gain.  The brain believes the body is in a famished state and tells it to continue to store fat.

Leptin levels tend to rise as we age, one possible reason why individuals under 30 have an easier time losing weight gained than people who are in their 40s and beyond.  Furthermore, estrogen deficiency is related to a rise in leptin, offering a potential explanation for why women gain weight more easily after menopause.

Sufficient sleep is one of the most important factors in controlling leptin.  Like melatonin, leptin is secreted in the highest amounts at night, and in human subjects deprived of sleep, leptin secretion is premature which disrupts hormonal profiles and encourages weight gain.

So, how do you get leptin to make you thinner? For one, get the proper amount of sleep.  Begin by scheduling your sleep regimen to have similar wake up and lights out times.  Shoot for 7.5 to 9 hours a night.  In the lighter (spring/summer) months, this can decrease a little as the body can regulate the hormones better.  Also, eliminate all processed sugars and refined grain products from the diet and replace them fresh fruits and veggies.  Processed sugars including high fructose corn syrup, as well as white, refined grain products, are most responsible for the modern epidemic of leptin and insulin resistance. These foods trigger surges of leptin and other hormones in the blood due to their refined nature, and these surges cause the body to become desensitized to leptin over the course of time. 

Minimize starches in your diet.  Even whole grain products, potatoes, rice, and other seemingly healthy starches aren’t necessarily ideal for the body.  Starches and fruits should be consumed according to how active a person is over the course of a day.  For instance, your average person only needs 30 to 70 grams of carbohydrates per day, while an endurance athlete might need up to 300 grams of carbohydrates per day.  One banana provides about 20 to 24 grams of carbohydrates, one piece of typical bread provides 12 to 20 grams and one medium potato provides 37 grams. 

Eat plenty of protein from the right sources.  Choose fresher cuts of meat and poultry, wild-caught fish, eggs, minimal amounts of dairy and try to buy as organically as your budget will allow.  The quality of your protein increases your Omega 3’s and packs your body with more amounts of vitamins and minerals.  In addition, eat all the healthy fats you desire.  Incorporate healthy oils like olive and coconut.  Stick with walnuts, almonds, and macadamia nuts.  And finally, eat more frequently and eat until you are satiated each time.  Overfeeding on the right foods actually balances insulin, leptin and all other related hormones, while eating less food with less frequency promotes hormonal instability setting you up for failure and continued weight gain.