30 Mar Hormonally “Smart” Diet & Weight Loss
In the beginning of each New Year we set goals in order to improve ourselves. Many of us have also decided for this year to achieve our normal weight, and lose weight not only to improve our appearance, but also as a long-term health investment. But do we just restart a vicious cycle this year too, by selecting restricting diet programs, while hormonally smart diet is also available?
Most probably, yes. The road to losing weight and improving our health is going through the wrong path if we just focus on calorie and fat deprivation, something that has been demonstrated until now by the usual nutritional and dietary instructions.
And if we simply consider biology, we will realize that both the accumulation and the burning of body fat, i.e. energy metabolism, is a clearly hormonal process.
The human body, if we think of it like a motor, needs fuel to function. And this fuel is glucose or fat. But as it burns glucose, it doesn’t burn fat. Neither the fat consumed with food, nor that accumulated by the body.
For example, as long as we offer adequate amounts of glucose to the blood through meals, what doctors call glycemic loads, then even if we reduce the quantities of food, reduce calories and fat, skip meals, feel deprived, or exercise intensively, our body will never receive the hormonal “signal” to change its fuel. It will constantly burn what we provide it with, glucose.
Our body utilizes glucose as its main “fuel”, so we are hormonally trapped. We accumulate fat, moving away in any way from our target, to stay healthy and have normal weight.
Can a hormonally smart diet help us lose weight without deprivation, so that we can help ourselves in staying healthy?
A hormonally smart diet is not just a nutritional regimen to achieve the loss of less or more extra weight. It is a way of eating that prevents or treats chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, depression, cardiac arrhythmias and chronic internal inflammation. What we actually do is to change the fuel used by our organism. Instead of glucose, through a hormonally smart diet we burn fat.
So, can our meal be filling and tasty but also “hormonally smart”?
The “key” is when we finish our meals to offer a small amount of glucose to our blood, keeping the levels of sugar in the blood stable, so that our body receives the hormonal signal to change its fuel.
When we stop providing sugar to our body, it turns to its other fuel, fat, thus enabling fat burning. When we burn fat as the main fuel, the fat from our food is burnt incompletely (not fully, i.e. each gram of fat finally gives us much less than the 9 calories it contains), thus our brain, heart, kidneys and other vital organs are fed, while we feel more well-being and vitality. At the same time, though, we also burn the fat we have in our body, and the first one to “go” is the fat around our abdomen.
Moreover, the rest of the fat starts relocating more uniformly on our body. The greatest of all, though, is that our health is restored.
But how can we “turn” the cellular switch of fat?
With a hormone called insulin. Its levels rise when the blood sugar levels are increased. And this happens because the main role of insulin is to transfer glucose – the form of sugar used by our body as energy – from blood circulation to “place” it inside muscle cells or the liver. Once it’s in the muscles or liver, glucose can be burnt as a fuel, or be stored as a glycogen to used at a later point. By the way, this is also the way our body prevents high blood sugar levels, as is the case in Type 2 Diabetes.
And this is the exact point where the type of foods comes into play. Contrary to proteins and fat, which are increasing only slightly (only some protein amino acids in large quantities) or not at all (fats) the levels of blood sugar, carbohydrates, such as starch and sugar, are quickly decomposed to glucose during digestion, and they are absorbed in blood circulation. Therefore, the more carbohydrates we eat, the faster and higher our blood sugar is increased. But when our organism has glucose stores, insulin initiates the process to increase both the muscles-bones and the fat.
Thus, in practice, the problem starts when we eat more carbohydrates than those we can burn immediately – while glucose stores are full – leading to only one choice for our body: To start transforming excess glucose from all those carbohydrates to fat.
Then, glucose is led away from muscle cells, heading towards fat cells. This is a characteristic example of nutrients’ allocation, and it is not desirable. Because, when glucose stores have used up maximum capacity, insulin becomes a double-edged sword. It helps in the muscle development – given that you also provide to your body the essential nutrients and the right type of exercise – but it also brings more fat.
The good news is though that when we keep the levels of glucose low in our organism, then our body’s response to insulin changes, too.
Insulin continues to signal muscle development – always under the appropriate circumstances – but it does not block anymore its fat burning ability. Why? Because our body is smart, prioritizing the restoration of glucose levels, so that they are present if needed. Thus it absorbs in the muscles all carbohydrates you eat to be stored as glucose. The result of this for our body is to turn to fat – like the fat accumulated in our belly – as its main source of fuel to function. In this phase, it’s like you have an internal “traffic policeman” leading glucose away from the abdomen, towards the muscles and the bones.
Thus muscular-bone cells are in an increasing state, but fat cells are in a decomposition state. And this means that you have created the ideal internal environment to reform your body; i.e. you allow your body to burn fat, while you build up your muscles and bones, and at the same time your health is good.
I wish all the best
Dr. Nikoleta Koini, M.D.
Doctor of Functional, Preventive, Anti-ageing and Restorative Medicine.
Diplomate and Board Certified in Anti-aging, Preventive, Functional and Regenerative Medicine from A4M (American Academy in Antiaging Medicine).