Many people come to my clinic because they’re frustrated with their weight loss efforts. Our patients often tell us that they sweat and starve for weeks or months with success at first, but that the weight just comes back. Almost everyone is surprised to learn that natural age-related fluctuations in hormones can affect the way their body gains weight and burns fat.
About Those Hormones
Hormones are your body’s chemical messengers. Hormones play a significant role in nearly every bodily function, from controlling reproduction to regulating sleep. Many of these hormones also help control hunger and thirst, and affect the way your body absorbs and uses sugar.
Insulin, for example, is directly involved with the way your body cells use sugar. It facilitates the transport of blood sugar (glucose) from your bloodstream into your body’s cells, where it can be used for energy.
Here’s how it works: The cells in your body can only absorb glucose from blood with the help of a special hormone, insulin. Working like a key to “unlock” the cells, insulin allows your body to absorb the glucose it needs for fuel.
The good news is that insulin is your friend, because it helps your body burn glucose rather than storing it as fat. The bad news is that high insulin levels can cause your glucose levels to fall rapidly; your body takes this as a sign that you’re starving and sends a message to your brain telling you that you should eat as quickly as possible.
Hormones and Your Metabolism
Insulin and other hormones can affect your metabolic rate, sometimes known simply as your metabolism. Your metabolic rate is the pace at which your body burns calories throughout the course of a normal day.
You might be surprised to find out that you burn 60 percent to 75 percent of your daily calorie intake just sitting there at rest. Health professionals refer to this as your resting metabolic rate (RMR), or basal metabolic rate (BMR). People with a high resting metabolic rate will burn more calories while at rest than will those with a low basal metabolic rate.
Your resting metabolic rate can actually change, and for several different reasons. Diet, exercise, smoking, stress, sleep and many other factors can rev up or slow down your metabolism. The changing size of your body as you gain or lose weight can even affect your metabolic rate, as it takes more calories to run a larger body than it takes to run a smaller one.
In many cases, diets can change your metabolism. In other words, your body might say, “Oh, I’m living on 1,600 calories instead of 2,200 – if I consume anything over 1,600 calories, I will store it as fat.”
So the extreme calorie cuts needed to create rapid weight loss can actually work against you by teaching your body to store fat even on a low calorie diet. How frustrating!
Sleep, Hormones and Weight Loss
Getting too little sleep can actually cause weight gain. Sleep deprivation changes your glucose metabolism, causing your body to hoard the calories you consume instead of burning them. Inadequate sleep increases cortisol, which is the body’s “fight or flight” hormone. Cortisol increases insulin levels, which causes your blood sugar levels to drop quickly and trigger cravings for sugary foods.
My #1 recommendation if you are trying to lose weight is to get enough quality sleep each night.
So what is good quality sleep? The National Sleep Foundation says that the key elements of good quality sleep include:
- Falling asleep within 30 minutes
- Sleeping at least 85 percent of the time that you are in bed
- Waking up no more than one time in the middle of the night
- Being awake for 20 minutes or less after you have fallen asleep the first time
While insulin has the most notable influence on metabolism and weight loss, other hormones can affect your metabolic rate as well. These hormones include testosterone, human growth hormone (HGH), estrogen, DHEA and thyroid hormones.
Testosterone is important for good health in both men and women. Men produce testosterone mainly in their testicles and women produce testosterone mainly in their ovaries. Men, of course, produce more testosterone than do women.
Testosterone performs many jobs in the male and female bodies, including keeping bones strong and increasing libido. Some of the hormone’s most important jobs, though, are to promote the growth of muscle tissue and maintain muscle mass. Since testosterone helps build bigger muscles, and because bigger muscles burn more calories than do smaller muscles, adequate testosterone levels can help you burn calories and lose weight.
Unfortunately, the levels of testosterone and other hormones tend to drop with age. Low testosterone levels causes you to lose muscle mass, so your body burns fewer calories while in motion. The loss of other hormones can also lower your resting metabolic rate, so you burn fewer calories while at rest too.
The good news is that we can help you overcome many of the natural consequences of aging that lead to weight gain. The Carragher Method is a scientifically-based approach to aging focused on preservation of optimum human function and quality of life, making every effort to slow the process of degeneration of the body that comes with aging. We take a proactive approach to losing weight and preserving the highest quality of life for you for the longest time possible..
If you’re interested in learning more about our comprehensive Age Management & Hormone Optimization program, contact us through this form to schedule your free consultation, or call us at 323-874-9355.