Continued from previous article, which contrasts the futility of calorie counting with the effectiveness of a metabolic approach. To further the notion that calories don’t count, I’d like to submit this article by Diet Doctor going through a case study of someone who ate something like 5800 calories!
The human body is such a great mystery, even to this day. It seems that the more we start to think we have it figured out down to a molecular and even atomic level, the further the real and definitive answers to the biological problems we experience seem to evade us. It doesn’t help that looking at things on such a deep level sometimes requires high-powered equipment which emits electronic disturbances in different frequencies that disrupt our cells, skewing the data that they get. Sometimes in trying to prevent illness, we even effect negative outcomes with such equipment. A great example of this is mammograms’ contribution to the development of breast cancer.
This dichotomy goes hand in hand with the Observer effect, which I’ve referenced previously. I can’t help but think electromagnetic properties in Heisenberg’s experiment had something to do with why the electrons behaved differently when there was something “watching” them. In any case, applying this to biology, it is wise to try and understand a physiological process by just looking at outcomes, as close observation can clearly get a little tricky and even mess up the results.
When it comes to weight and fitness, many have taken a close microscopic look at the behavior of hormones, but more importantly they’ve achieved observable desired results visually and measurably by taking a hormonal approach. Our hormones are dispersed according to what our brains in tandem with certain glands tell them to do. Problems in these glands can be traced back to imbalances, which can stem from mineral deficiencies, a bad fatty acid profile, inflammation, gut bacteria, and the health of our digestive system in general. Let’s go through some evidence supporting taking the hormonal approach, as well as some strategies that are known to work for balancing hormones and thus effecting a weight change in your favor.
Why the Hormonal Approach Works
There are countless articles presenting the hormonal approach on the Web right now. Even Dr. Oz’s website has to talk about it! The truth is definitely starting to come to light. Before we get into some of these different approaches, let’s cover the official hormones involved in weight control. I’m gonna owe Dave Asprey and Robb Wolf—and probably Mark Sisson—a lot in this part, but I’ll try to include the research that they’re sourcing.
To my understanding, as well as in my opinion, the most important hormones directly affecting your weight in a negative way are leptin, cortisol, insulin, estrogen, and ghrelin. Of course, we can use these hormones to correct your weight, so don’t take the phrasing of the last sentence too much to heart.
Leptin is actually more of a positive thing, except when there’s so much that you’ve become resistant. It is the “fat-burning hormone,” but it also has to do with appetite, hunger, and movement, tag teaming with ghrelin and insulin. That’s right, according to this review on PubMed, leptin, ghrelin, and insulin all work together. Of course, one review linked therein mentions that leptin lowers appetite and therefore results in decreased body weight. Though this takes the heat off of overeaters by blaming their “bad behavior” on hormones, I still must insist that we need to focus on quality of food and not quantity, for the very reason that hormones are affected by specific kinds of food and inflammation they cause.
Ghrelin (pardon my Wiki) is the only hormone that’s been tied directly to hunger. In it’s attempt to maintain energy homeostasis, it regulates energy input by adjusting hunger signals, and it regulates energy output with regulation of ATP production, fat storage, glycogen storage, and short-term heat loss. Since the end result of all this is reflected in body weight, yeah, it seems like it’s a pretty important hormone to keep under control.
Insulin really gets to the heart of the matter, as does this article from Mercola explaining how insulin resistance is the cause of metabolic syndrome, rather than belly fat. This is one of those classic chicken-or-the-egg switcharoos that the general public has been fed by the scientific elite for decades to make them feel guilty for their weight gain. Basically, they’ve been saying people’s belly fat, which is caused by their overeating, is the cause of the insulin resistance that develops and gives them diabetes, which makes them more fat. So, you’re fat, therefore you’re fat.
Let’s try and get around the circular logic here a second. While the “fatness begets more fatness” mentality is kind of true scientifically, it is more important to address the root cause of the problem by thinking hormonally. Mercola describes metabolic syndrome as “the group of symptoms including diabetes, pre-diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol that increases the risk of heart disease.” It’s basically the catch-all term for the beginning of the end result of a prolonged Standard American Diet (so SAD). A yogi that we recently met, who was the resident yogi for vacationers at the timeshare where we stayed in Williamsburg, described metabolic syndrome as a number of stress-related symptoms that included anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, and soreness. We could definitely lump all of the ills of civilized society into the metabolic syndrome pot. Mercola and I are arguing that insulin resistance is the thing that comes first in the equation, so we need to find a way to reestablish an ideal insulin balance.
Cortisol is the stress hormone. The yogi mentioned above spoke with us in depth about this hormone as well. Here is an excellent description from Project Aware of coritsol’s mechanism of action and its direct effect on weight gain. Of course, once again, here is someone claiming that the appetite increase which results in “eating a lot of carbohydrates or fatty food that can easily be stored as fat” is the culprit. While I will acknowledge that this desire makes you more likely to eat the corn chips and Wheat Thins, which have refined carbs, toxins, chemicals, gluten, and trans-fats/omega-6 oils that actually do cause the obesity, I’m more interested in the direct effect of cortisol on weight gain. Not only does the chronic elevation of cortisol contribute to raised insulin and appetite, but according to the article above, “continual stress leads to a constant state of excess cortisol production, which stimulates glucose production.” This glucose, of course, ultimately gets stored as fat.
Perhaps when talking about estrogen, we should always mention it’s “brother” hormone, testosterone. Estrogen dominance (as opposed to of course testosterone dominance) is always associated with obesity. Generally, as estrogen goes up, so does weight stored in fat. Estrogen seems to cause all kinds of problems. In decades past, upon asking any woman if they wanted to increase estrogen, they would have probably asked “how?” These days, though, your average woman has wisened up and started to find ways to increase their T (and not just because of women’s lib). When it comes to weight gain these days, both in men and women, estrogen seems to have earned a starring role. And, like so many other hormones, it contributes to the cause via insulin resistance.
How to Apply the Hormonal Approach (and How Not to)
I like to refer to websites with what seems to be a mainstream approach to illustrate points about the right approach. You could call this section of my article, “What they’re doing right (and what they’re doing wrong)” or “The crap you’re being fed (with some hidden kernels of truth).” Perhaps that second one is getting a little too scatological (and corny). You know, I’ve been noticing that people who are having kids (especially in the past few years) are more likely to know what gluten is, even when neither parent is a celiac. It’s because parents are reading all of these baby books, and thank God, usually people who are on the cusp of prenatal research understand epigenetics and the many risks from the environment that are documented for developmental disorders. This is a good thing.
In any case, here’s the article we’re looking at for a minute. It’s about boosting weight loss.
Let’s cover the bad first. Again, we’re looking at metabolism. They recommend some spices and stuff as metabolism boosters. The increases in metabolism you can get from these kinds of spice hacks (racks?) are usually kind of insignificant. However, spices are fine with me, as long as they’re as fresh as possible. They can be a big source of mycotoxins if kept above the stove (moist and warm) for years and years. Update your spice collection, people, if you haven’t already. Look for ones with a low mycotoxin content (check the Bulletproof chart), because mycotoxins (as we’ll see in the toxin-oriented approach for weight loss article) can overload your liver, to which the response will often be their sequestration in fat. I am also interested in some of the new concepts they introduce in this tip, like “the metabolic adaptation phenomenon.” May be something worth looking into.
The worst thing about this article is Tip #2, where they diss both salt and fat. Terrible! Salt and fat both have an excellent effect on your hormones. When are we going to get past this, guys? Well, of course, considering that most salt in products is table salt, and most fat people eat is GMO vegetable oil, I’d tend to agree. And they do happen to be right about sugar. Really, though, just don’t eat anything with a Nutrition Facts box. Usually if it’s packaged it’s not real food, unless it’s coconut oil/coconut butter, grassfed meat from a grocery store, seaweed, raw organic sauerkraut, or butter.
The first good tip which I would apply from this article is number 5, “Go for speed intervals.” They actually talk about HIIT (high-intensity interval training), which I mentioned in the last article! Woo-hoo! It’s apparently been catching on. They point out that you can burn up to 9x as much fat in a shorter amount of time but don’t provide any research to back it up. I suppose you could always look it up, though. Their estimate sounds about right according to what I’ve read. I can tell you for sure that cardio is a conspiracy. The explanation behind the amazing amount of fat burning from HIIT is hormonal, though.
Did I not mention HGH above? Well, I should have, because doing HIIT increases HGH up to 450 percent. Check out this article on Shape to get this and 7 more benefits of HIIT. I’m not sure why everyone doesn’t know about this yet. It’s depressing watching people trudge along on their daily jog, destroying their knees in the process and getting more and more depressed from the lack of results.
The rest of the tips in the Mommy Edition article are about positive thinking, destressing, and getting enough sleep, which I am all for! These will evoke good changes in your hormones. I guess I forgot to mention seratonin and melatonin, but these, along with the aforementioned cortisol, are the hormones that come into play with these tips.
Optimizing hormones is still something that we’re trying to master as part of our survival of modern life. Considering that we live in an estrogenic environment, because of all the chemicals we come across, like PCBs, BPAs, phthalates, etc., it is an uphill battle to get a grip on the right balance. I can tell you what has definitely worked for me, though, starting with the estrogen/testosterone paradigm.
Becoming More Virile (For Women, too!)
To improve your testosterone levels, eat Kerrygold butter and other saturated fats, and I mean lots of it. I’ve said it before, and I’ll continue to say it: I eat about 10-12 tablespoons of the stuff a day (I dunno, maybe more by now). The saturated fat feeds the brain and keeps you full, the butyric acid feeds gut bacteria and heals the gut, and most importantly, the cholesterol improves testosterone production. I started with about 300 total testosterone (pitiful for a 30-year-old) before I opened the floodgates on butter, and after only a couple of months, I had doubled it to about 600. I’m probably at 800 now. To take care of the estrogen side of things, I took a lot of liver support like milk thistle and artichoke extract, which helped to bind and remove it. I also tried to be mindful of estrogenic chemicals, mostly by being aware of whether plastics had entered the food and water I consumed. BPAs would be the thing here.
Source: Redbubble.com, Doctor Hu
Low-Carb is Not a Crime
A high saturated fat diet and a mind towards when you eat your carbs and protein will go a very long way in balancing the rest of your hormones, especially insulin. Insulin is responsible for telling your body where to shuttle nutrients, glucose, and fatty acids, so it can work in your favor or against you (usually the latter). What you’re looking to do with a low-carb diet is affect insulin resistance by timing (and limiting) insulin release, which lowers insulin in general and increases insulin sensitivity (allowing glucose to be cleared effectively from the blood and thus not stored in fat). Don’t ever go low-carb for too long, though. Cycle in and out of ketosis strategically to avoid problems of glucose deficiency and to help reset leptin. My interpretation of low-carb is in agreement with the Bulletproof approach to safe starches.
It is important to be mindful that meat causes a spike in insulin sometimes worse than carbs and sugar. A lot of Paleo people don’t know this, so they enjoy their lean meats without reservation. However, it’s better to have really fatty grass-fed meat or even grass-fed organ meat, because this helps the liver process the protein.
Avoidance of grains (which contain lectins) and fructose allows you to go one level up and hack leptin. Specifically, fructose raises triglycerides, which get in the way of leptin absorption at the hypothalamus. This is, of course, again following Dave Asprey’s approach. He’s a clever chap.
This Section on Melatonin Has Been Brought to You by Robb Wolf
I also seem to have forgotten to mention melatonin. Melatonin has so many functions that are good, it is probably the reason why sleep can plausibly heal all ills, even of the modern world. Of course, this in turn suggests the quandary that the absence of it may be the cause of all the ills of the modern world. What to do, what to do…
Most of the benefits of melatonin have to do with its being the master control hormone and the most powerful antioxidant. With decreased melatonin, we become extremely susceptible to cancer. In my opinion, melatonin gets most messed up when you are exposed to light and/or EMFs at night. (Pay no attention to what time this article gets published.) This means, when you sleep it really helps to have blackout curtains and no lights on in your vicinity. Perhaps even in adjacent rooms.
If you can swing it, to boost your melatonin to optimum levels, try to eliminate all sources of EMFs. This is nearly impossible to do, because EMFs are everywhere from wireless devices. You must turn off your cell phone, baby monitors (very dangerous), and the router at night at least, if not at all times. Also, if you own a portable phone (you know those wireless 2.4-GHz numbers from the early 90’s?), get rid of it. It is the most powerful source of EMFs of all the things I’ve mentioned. If you want to go all out, turn off the electricity in your house completely. I guarantee you will sleep like a baby (one without a baby monitor).
Sleep deprivation, which can obviously be brought on by melatonin deficiency, can also cause insulin resistance, as well as reduced leptin and raised ghrelin levels. Have you ever had that feeling of painful hunger upon waking up out of a deep sleep 1 or 2 hours earlier in the morning than usual? Yeah baby, that’s ghrelin kicking in. I recommend you throw the alarm clock out the window and go back to sleep. The hunger will subside, I promise, and you won’t be as likely to gain that extra roll of fat when you wake up and have breakfast.
Please also do not forget to work out HIIT style, or classic circuit training. Don’t jog, but do sprints. The effect this has on HGH and your insulin sensitivity is divine. Jogging, as we’ve discussed before in the cardio conspiracy article, causes increased coritisol, which we’ve already established can lead to fat storage. We will look more deeply into how you can adjust your diet to optimize your beneficial hormone output after workouts in a future article.
The best way I can put it is to put your health first, always. This does not preclude your social life entirely, however, because being social is good for your hormones, too! A balance can be struck for sure, but if you’re having a hard time of losing weight or recovering your energy, be fastidious about your diet and your sleep to achieve amazing results. Fight the temptation of eating carbs by upping your clean fats. Don’t count anything but carbs, and maybe protein (if just counting carbs isn’t getting you the results you want). Know all the details of your new healthy lifestyle, and always try to learn more. I’m doing the same!