Turning on Metabolic Hormones to Fight Fat
By Dr. Scott Saunders, M.D.
The human body secretes thousands of hormones, many of which have multiple functions. Hormones are signaling molecules found everywhere inside of us. They affect how the cells and organs function by communicating what is going on in the body. In this article, I’m going to focus on the hormones that affect metabolism, or energy production. You have surely heard about some of these hormones:
Adrenal hormones come from two little glands situated on top of each kidney, the adrenal glands. Although small, these glands are very important. They give us our sleep-wake cycles, and keep everything in line with the metabolism. They get you started in the morning, and put you down at night. They also have a lot to do with fat storage.
Cortisol is the major metabolic hormone from the adrenal glands. Cortisol affects fat in the following ways:
- Long-term elevations of cortisol raises insulin and increases fat
- Rapid, or short spurts of cortisol pair with adrenaline or HGH (Human Growth Hormone) and decreases fat
Stress causes us to make more cortisol. Positive stress can help build muscle and decrease fat by being coupled with HGH (human growth hormone). But negative stress, or long-term stress, coupled with insulin causes a loss of muscle and increase in fat. If you think about it, the very things people do when they are stressed may worsen their situation. Cortisol causes us to crave sugar and starch, which increase insulin, causing more fat gain. So, eating chocolate when stressed is exactly the wrong thing to do – if you don’t want to gain weight.
You can maximize the good effects of cortisol on fat with positive stress through:
- Helping others
- Writing a book
- Starting a business
- Raising a family
Whenever we are improving, we are stressed. That’s why life is hard. However, when we choose our stress, accept it, and love it, we are in positive stress mode. This increases our growth hormones and we actually build our bodies and reduce fat storage.
Negative stress, on the other hand, occurs when we don’t choose. When a choice is forced on us from the outside, we feel loss, depressed, or trapped. This increases the negative effects of cortisol.
Fear and distress are negative stressors that result from:
- Trauma or injury
- Car accident
- Death of a loved-one
- Illness, infections
- Dead-end job
- Lack of money
You can make simple lifestyle choices that will reduce stress and lower your cortisol levels. Meditation, prayer, sleep, enjoying a hobby, and maintaining a regular routine all help to manage cortisol and improve the ratios of adrenal hormones.
The hormone that causes your heart to race and your blood pressure to go up when you have a scare is also one that can help you burn fat.
In a dangerous situation, adrenaline mobilizes fat in order to increase the energy supply for the muscles and brain. You can use this to your advantage to stimulate adrenaline and burn more fat without having to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, ride 3.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu, or go spelunking with a torch. You can do this in the safety of your own home!
Interval training is a good way to release adrenaline. Engage in interval training in a controlled way to gain all the benefits and avoid any negative stress effects. An interval training routine looks like this:
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