In this post, I introduce key hormones that directly or indirectly affect fat burning. This article is not about weight loss, but it is about fat loss. The difference is people may lose weight by losing fluid, glycogen, muscle, and even bone density. However, of course, no one wants to lose valuable muscle and critical bone density for the sake of losing weight. Thus, my focus is losing fat, more precisely, using fat as energy for sustainable vitality, fitness, and health.
From my experience and research, the most impactful hormone on fat loss is insulin. Let me explain what insulin and particularly insulin resistance means for fat loss or fat gain. While insulin has multiple roles in our metabolic health, one of the critical roles of insulin is to manage glucose in our bloodstream. Our bodies cannot handle excessive sugar and regard it as toxic. We can measure and monitor blood glucose.
In fact, in simple terms, the acceptable sugar level in the bloodstream is believed to be equivalent to a teaspoon at a given time. This gives a guide for consuming carbohydrates, especially the refined ones.
Elevated blood glucose is known as a health condition called hyperglycemia. This condition is a kind of glucose toxicity causing nephropathy, neuropathy, reactive oxygen species.
When our bloodstream experiences hyperglycaemia, the insulin hormone can spike. The purpose of this metabolic reaction is to prevent blood from glucose toxicity. At first attempt, insulin sends signals to cells in various organs to use the glucose. However, if cells of those organs, such as muscles, cannot use the offered glucose, our body has a mechanism to turn the glucose into fat.
So in simple terms, the eye-opening scientific finding is that sugar can turn into fat. Many medical textbooks and scientific papers documented this fact. For details, you can check this paper titled “From Sugar to Fat” explaining lipogenesis occurring in the liver, where dietary carbohydrates control the expression of key enzymes in glycolytic and lipogenic pathways.
One key piece of information is that after excessive use of insulin, we experience a phenomenon called “insulin resistance”. It means that our cells cannot get the required signals from insulin. They stop responding to signals. The bloodstream may need more insulin to function. Insulin resistance is a common condition and one of the root causes of Type 2 diabetes .
Fat utilization is associated with hunger. Hormones also control our hunger and satiety feelings. Thus, the second critical hormone associated with fat loss is leptin. To understand the role of leptin, we also need to know its antagonist hormone, ghrelin. These two hormones are chemical messengers running the metabolic show in our body. These hormones are like “yin-yang”. They work together. It means that while ghrelin increases hunger, leptin lowers it. So, when one hormone is active the other one gets passive.
Ghrelin hormone makes us hungry. The goal is to feed our bodies and obtain vital energy from food. For example, we need protein, dietary fat, minerals, and vitamins to nurture our cells. Without ghrelin, our body will not know when we need nutritional support.
However, our body has a specific capacity for food. It is unique for each person. So after a while, we need to stop eating. This mechanism is realized by leptin which makes us feel satisfied and prevents us from overeating. So leptin is a satiety hormone. Ideally, these hormones work well until a tricky situation happens.
The trick is caused by leptin. Similar to insulin, there is also a phenomenon called “leptin resistance”. The tricky bit with leptin is a condition known as “leptin resistance”. This condition causes excessive and unnecessary hunger. As mentioned before, leptin instructs the brain to stop eating. If we have “leptin resistance”, our brain does not get the signal from the leptin hormone. Thus, we feel hungry even if we eat more than what we need.
We are all unique and experience various situations and solve our problems using different methods.
However, learning from the body of knowledge and experiences of other people can give us valuable perspectives to customize our solutions.
I posted several articles about my health and fitness journey. I hope some of these stories can give you useful perspectives.
About the Author
I am a technologist, postdoctoral researcher, published author, editor, and digital marketing strategist with four decades of industry experience.
I write articles for Medium, News Break, and Vocal Media. On Medium, I established ILLUMINATION, ILLUMINATION-Curated, ILLUMINATION’ S MIRROR, ILLUMINATION Book Chapter, Technology Hits, and SYNERGY publications supporting 11,000+ writers on Medium.