What’s appetite got to do with losing weight and how does working out affect your appetite?
Let’s face it. Losing weight and maintaining body weight is hard work. You start working out, only to find yourself more hungry afterwards. You finally shed some kilos, only to find you have put it back on a year later. How can something a basic and primal as eating and moving be so hard to get under control? Sometimes we wish we didn’t have such an appetite! Whilst our bodies are all different there are some basic elements of how our appetite works that you might find helpful to reduce those hunger pangs and maintaining that waistline.
Our Appetite and Hungry Hormones
Our appetite is controlled largely by two hormones: Ghrelin and Leptin. Ghrelin is the hormone responsible for telling your body when you’re hungry. When your tummy is empty, receptors send a signal to your brain which in turn increases your ghrelin hormone levels to tell you to get eating. It is the hormone that prevents you from starvation. Back when food was scarce, this hormone was really important to keep you alive. These days, sourcing food is generally not something we need to worry about; rather we tend to consume more than we need so the hormone is often out of balance to what food our bodies actually need. Ghrelin levels normally dramatically increase before you eat, signalling hunger, and then reduce for three hours after you eat. Research suggests that lowering levels of ghrelin will enable you to lower levels of body fat.
The other hormone to helping you understand your appetite is Leptin. Leptin is the hormone responsible for telling your body when you’re full. It is made in the fat tissue and plays a key role in regulating energy intake and expenditure, including appetite and hunger, metabolism, and behaviour. There are foods that will either block or increase leptin, so knowing which foods to avoid and which to consume can really help to get your appetite under control. Leptin resistance is a problem when your body doesn’t respond to the levels of leptin in your body and so your body forgets what it’s like to feel full. It has been found that people who are obese actually have a high level of leptin in their bodies, but the pathway of leptin control is flawed in some way so that they no longer feel the sensation of being satisfied and full. Leptin resistance can be caused by a diet high in energy-dense low-nutrient foods and some researchers think that lectin and fructose can contribute to this resistance as well.
Dieting and Appetite
When you begin dieting, your hormones go through rapid changes. Immediately your ghrelin levels will go up, and these changes will continue over a long period of time. In a 3-month weight loss diet study, researchers found the levels nearly doubled from 770 to 1,322 pmol/liter. That is a big jump! Another study revealed that during a 6-month bodybuilding diet, which individuals put on an extremely low level of body fat through severe dietary restrictions, ghrelin increased by 40%. The research trends show that the longer you diet, the more your ghrelin levels will increase, making you feel more hungry. This makes it harder for you to maintain your new body weight.
You would think that working out should help to maintain your new body weight; however sometimes you’ll find it actually increases your hunger! A recent study showed that depending on the type of work out you do, will depend on whether your body has higher or lower levels of ghrelin. In general exercise lowered ghrelin, but it was more effective when the workout was long and vigorous (90 mins and above 75% maximum capacity). Hormones were also suppressed for an hour post workout when then workouts were longer. Other reasons that link working out to feeling hungry can be dehydration (your body is mistaking thirst for hunger) and how fit you are. The fitter you become, the less hungry you will be as your body and brain gets used to your workout habit. As you get into a regular exercise and fitness regime, you will find you can regulate your appetite better and being hungry after you work out will become less of a problem.
Tips To Hack Your Hunger
- Avoid weight extremes: Both obesity and anorexia alter ghrelin levels.
- Prioritise sleep: Less than 7 hours of sleep a night has been linked to increase ghrelin levels.
- Increase your workout intensity: This will lower your ghrelin levels and increase your muscle mass, in turn making your body more sensitive to leptin.
- Eat more protein: A high-protein diet increases fullness as it takes longer to digest and reduces hunger by reducing ghrelin levels.
- Eat less Fructose: Be aware of fructose sweeteners in drinks and fruit juice.
- Maintain a stable weight: Drastic weight changes and yo-yo dieting disrupt key hormones, including ghrelin.
- Count your calories: Avoid eating less than 1000 calories a day and avoid the hunger pangs triggered by your ghrelin surge.
- Avoid MSG: MSG is found in all fast food and suppresses leptin, so your body doesn’t know when to stop eating the yummy food.
- Reduce stress: Stress has been found to be associated with higher levels of ghrelin.
By having a sustainable and enjoyable diet and exercise plan, you can avoid the large fluctuations in weight that negatively affects your hormones. It is important to keep at your exercise regime and stay motivated. Exercise has many benefits and most Australians don’t get enough. The fitter you become and the more regularly you exercise, the more balanced your hunger hormones will become. If you are struggling to get the motivation you need to get into regular exercise routine, come along to AJs and sign up to one of our group classes. They’re regular and will keep you committed, and you can join as many as you like!
Or have a chat to one of our personal trainers, who can organise and motivate a small group. Contact us for your guided tour of our facilities, sign up right now to become a member, or give our free, 5-day trial pass a go!Sign Up Now