Weight loss is fairly simple - make the scale go down regardless of where the weight loss comes from. While it simply makes the number go down, it doesn't mean that the results will be what you want. Fat loss on the other hand, is a complex thing and it's what you really should be concerned with not only to look better but to be healthy.
There are many hormones in your body that do all sorts of things. For fat loss, there are hormones that can make you lean or fat depending on what's going on in your body. Part of your goal with your nutrition plan is to manage your hormones to keep you in an anabolic, fat burning, muscle building state. Here we will discuss some of the heavy hitters. I have compiled excerpts from a variety of sources listed below to give you an overview of some big hormones in the fat loss arena. There are many more and you could go on forever about hormones, thyroid and such but this is just a shotgun blast.
Insulin: A peptide hormone composed of 51 amino acid residues, which is produced by the beta cells of the pancreas and released when any of the several stimuli is detected. These stimuli include ingested protein and glucose in the blood, produced from digested food. Insulin has expansive effects on metabolism and other bodily systems. It causes the uptake of blood sugar (glucose) by the vast majority of bodily cells. These cells include muscle, fatty tissue, and liver cells. Insulin is primarily responsible for storing glucose as glycogen in the liver and muscles. When insulin is at high concentrations in the body, it prevents the use of fat as an energy source.
Ghrelin: Your stomach makes ghrelin when it’s empty. Just like leptin, ghrelin goes into the blood, crosses the blood-brain barrier, and ends up at your hypothalamus, where it tells you you’re hungry. Levels are high before you eat and low after you eat. Ghrelin seems to be affected by growth hormone release, which differs in men and women.
Leptin: is made by adipose tissue (aka fat) and is secreted into the circulatory system, where it travels to the hypothalamus. Leptin tells the hypothalamus that we have enough fat, so we can eat less or stop eating. the more fat you have, the more leptin you make; the less food you’ll eat; and the higher your metabolic rate (possibly). The less fat you have, the less leptin you have, and the hungrier you’ll be. So for weight loss — the more leptin the better. Leptin resistance is similar to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when there’s lots of insulin being produced (for example, with a diet high in sugar and simple carbohydrate), but the body and brain have stopped “listening” to insulin’s effects. Both types of resistance seem to occur together in obese people, though obese men who tend to have more internal belly fat (visceral fat) have higher insulin levels, and women who tend to have more fat under their skin have higher leptin levels. Leptin seems to influence reproduction and fertility in women, which is related to women’s body fat levels. Women appear to be much more sensitive than men to leptin levels… unless men are given estrogen.
Hormone Sensitive Lipase (HSL): This hormone is responsible for releasing fat into your bloodstream to be utilized as fuel. When HSL is increased in muscle, fatty acids are liberated from intramuscular lipids where they are utilized by muscle fibers as an energy source. With regard to muscle contraction, HSL activity appears to be increased by the frequency and duration of exercise as a result of changes in muscle glycogen. Low glycogen stores induced by a low carbohydrate diet increases HSL activity in muscle.
Adiponectin: is a hormone exclusively secreted by body fat. This hormone has been recently gaining attention from researchers because of some of its functions. Two important ones are the regulation of glucose and fat metabolism. Elevated levels of adiponectin are associated with increased insulin sensitivity, and increased fat catabolism (i.e., fat burning). And these associations appear to be causal. That is, adiponectin levels do not seem to be only markers, but causes of increased insulin sensitivity and fat catabolism. In other words, an increase in circulating adiponectin seems to lead to increased insulin sensitivity and increased fat catabolism. Insulin sensitivity is the opposite of insulin resistance. The latter is a precursor to diabetes type 2, and is associated with elevated fasting and postprandial (i.e., after a meal) glucose levels. Adiponectin also seems to work closely with leptin, another hormone implicated in a number of diseases of civilization. It appears that adiponectin and leptin modulate each other’s secretion and effects in metabolic processes. Adiponectin is unique among hormones secreted by body fat in that it increases as body fat decreases. Other important body fat hormones, such as leptin, decrease with body fat loss.
As stress heightens, cortisol is released. While cortisol has beneficial effects on the body, the constantly high levels of it are problematic. Cortisol still tends to promote the storage of fat, specifically to the abdominal area where it can quickly be utilized for the fight or flight response. Scientists have found an increased level of activity of the enzyme 11b hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11b HSD-1) in abdominal fat that they believe is the cause of the correlation between cortisol and abdominal fat. A recent study by Roland Rosmond and Per Bjourntorp found that stress-related cortisol secretion in men is strongly associated with abnormalities in glucose, insulin and lipid metabolism as well as abdominal obesity. Over the long-term, elevated cortisol may be as detrimental to overall health as elevated cholesterol or elevated blood sugar.' High cortisol levels have been linked to a lowered testosterone: cortisol ratio, a prime marker of anabolic status and the ability to recover from exercise and build muscle. Further, as cortisol continues to increase, chances for muscle atrophy, impaired immunity, vitamin depletion and increased blood pressure occur. During intensive strength training, the type of training used to transform bodies, the body enters a catabolic state where there is a net protein breakdown in the body. During this time, ACTH and cortisol are released to decrease muscle inflammation and to begin breaking down amino acids for the process of protein synthesis after exercise. While this is a natural and necessary response, excessive cortisol has been associated with overtraining syndrome. During exercise, the body will breakdown an increased amount of muscle proteins as fuel if there is an inadequate supply of carbohydrates. However, it has been found that consuming a carbohydrate beverage during exercise attenuates the rise in cortisol levels and limits the amount of exercise-related immunosuppression. Current research indicates that sleep deprivation can lead to an elevation in cortisol and is harmful to carbohydrate metabolism.
So what can you do:
Psychology and education: get your head in the game and learn about whats going on with your body.
Nutrition / water intake: Eating right and staying hydrated is essential
Exercise smarter - don't just endlessly workout and beat your head against the wall
Sleep -get some
Stress management: stressors cause damage. Try to limit and manage stress.
Lifestyle changes - the big picture for long term results.
Social support - friends and family or groups can help tremendously
Dempsey's Resolution Fitness