Wanting a snack a short time after eating dinner, not having an appetite at all, or reaching for anything in sight after coming home from work.
These scenarios may sound all too familiar to some of us. But have you ever wondered why exactly these feelings are happening? Hormones my friend, hormones! Hormones like leptin and ghrelin to name just a few play a huge roll in why we feel hunger or not!
Today, I want to focus on the “hunger” hormone, ghrelin!
Ghrelin is a hormone that plays a role in how hungry we feel. Ghrelin increases our appetite and make us feel hungry. Ghrelin is produced by the stomach and is in it’s highest concentrations in the body right before feeding. As soon as you’re stomach senses food it stops producing it. When you don’t eat it keeps producing it, well up to a certain point that is. Usually, it will increases a lot before a meal and then go down for about three hours afterward. As the stomach becomes more empty, it will start secreting more and more ghrelin and signal that it is time to eat again.
Learning how to regulate and manage your ghrelin levels is key to controlling your appetite and seeing long term weight loss results! So how do we do that? FASTING!
So in our typical pattern of eating, 3-6 meals a day we basically give into our ghrelin levels on a daily basis. We wake up “hungry” so we eat breakfast, and then a few hours later lunch, then we get “hungry” again and we snack, then its dinner and a few hours after that we are “hungry” again and we snack, till we finally just go to bed. So now we are eating every few hours and we are spiking our glucose levels and then comes insulin and then we store fat. With every meal this cycle is repeating making it VERY hard to lose weight because we are always store fat vs burning fat.
So what happens when we implement intermittent fasting? Here’s what happens! So we wake up maybe a little hungry, but we don’t eat. Therefore our ghrelin levels continue to rise. Now here is good part. As our ghrelin levels rise our body is well equipped to address this allowing us to survive!
1) Higher levels of circulating ghrelin correspond with increase release of growth hormone by the pituitary gland. This is a highly touted benefit of fasting, remember Growth Hormone is responsible for increased fat loss, muscle gain and is touted as a youth hormone.
2) Ghrelin increases the effects of dopamine. Dopamine is the same substance released by your brain in response to certain actions that make you feel freaking incredible. That is why so many people say the feel great while fasting!
3) Ghrelin plays a huge role in neurotrophy (the building, survival and functioning of neurons in the brain). It plays one of its biggest roles in the hippocampus – and this is the awesome part – which is responsible for long term memory, short term memory and spatial navigation. This little hormone that is created by the stomach when you’re hungry can actually help you retain more memories and navigate through physical space better! This is one of the reason people say they have less brain fog and more mental clarity when they are fasting!
So how to do we use ghrelin to our advantage? Well first we have to be comfortable with feeling a little hungry. When we consistently give into our “hunger” we don’t allow all these super beneficial processes to occur. Think about it, have you ever been hungry before but just did not have access to food and eventually that hunger past? This is the power of ghrelin when we allow it time to stimulate growth hormone and dopamine.
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