Whether it’s one inch or twenty … fat loss is difficult for most people due to a wide variety of factors. The body is a very complex machine with eleven different systems working at the same time (circulatory, digestive, endocrine, immune, lymphatic, muscular, nervous, reproductive, respiratory, skeletal and urinary). The endocrine system, a system of glands that each secrete different types of hormones to specific organs and tissues, plays a significant role in metabolism, fat loss and fat gain.
Hormones act as chemical messengers released into the bloodstream to help the body maintain homeostasis (i.e. a stable, relatively constant condition). If an imbalance of these hormones exist, the body can respond by either increasing or decreasing its metabolism (i.e. the energy it burns through daily activity). In the next part of the series, “Fat Loss Fundamentals”, you will learn about three specific hormonal factors that affect fat loss and how hormonal imbalance can ultimately affect one’s efforts to lose unwanted inches.
3. Sex Hormones
Men and women have different primary sex hormones. Relative imbalances and deficiencies in particular sex hormones for each can significantly affect fat loss over time.
For women the most important sex hormones are estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen promotes the storage of body fat. Progesterone on the other hand, is essential for a woman’s body to access body fat to use it as a source of energy. Aside from its reproductive functions it is one of the more potent anti-anxiety agents, an anti-depressant, a diuretic (aids in the excretion of excess fluid in the body), and is essential for burning fat as fuel.
Estrogen and progesterone work in synchronization with each other to maintain optimal hormonal balance. An imbalance between the relative ratio of estrogen to progesterone can result in either an increase or decrease in body fat. It’s not a deficiency of one or the other, but rather an estrogen dominance, which results in excessive fat being stored in certain areas of the body.
For men, testosterone is the primary sex hormone that differentiates male physical characteristics compared to females. This hormone is used in the production of lean muscle and is utilized in the process of burning of fat. Testosterone levels naturally decline with age – about 1 percent per year after the age of 30. Low testosterone levels have been associated with increases in body fat and overall weight.
4. Thyroid Gland
The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland found in the neck region. This gland is the largest in the body and regulates all of the metabolic processes in the body. The most common thyroid problems involve either too much production of thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) or insufficient hormone production (hypothyroidism). Hypothyroidism can lead to lower energy levels and weight gain.
The thyroid gland is susceptible to auto-immune diseases (where the immune system has an inappropriate response to the body’s own tissues), which is typically initiated by infection or poor liver function. Optimal thyroid function can be achieved through proper nutrition and supplementation, regular exercise, stress management and pharmaceutical intervention (if necessary).
Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, is central to the regulation of carbohydrate and fat metabolism. The primary role of insulin is to maintain a constant level of glucose (i.e. sugars) in the blood. It accomplishes this by triggering cells in the liver, skeletal muscles and fat tissue to absorb glucose from the blood. By doing this, insulin stops the body from using fat as a source of energy.
Insulin production occurs when we consume carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet because they are vital to the function of our brain, kidneys and red blood cells. When it comes to body fat accumulation, it is the over production and large surges of insulin that create the problem. The goal is to keep blood sugar levels (a.k.a. blood glucose levels) within a normal range at all times to avoid excess body fat. Nutrition, supplementation and lifestyle choices can help control the production of insulin in the body and increase its sensitivity to ensure proper function.
In Summary …
Fat loss is more than just counting calories and doing exercise. The endocrine system plays an important role in how the body uses energy, which sources it uses and how quickly. Body fat accumulation is primarily due to an increase or decrease of a specific hormone or an imbalance between two hormones that rely on one another for optimal health. Maintaining these hormones, including adrenalin and cortisol, in normal ranges through diet, exercise and lifestyle choices is the best way to avoid fat gain and promote fat loss. The next article in the series will include more valuable information on fat loss, with a focus on the liver, gut bacteria, and alkalinity.