3 Hormones That Can Make or Break Your Weight Loss Efforts

 

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Do you find yourself eating less, exercising more, and not losing a pound or an inch? If so, hormones may be to blame. Hormones are chemical messengers that are responsible for triggering or regulating bodily functions. When hormones are out of balance, negative effects within the body can result, including weight gain. Cortisol, insulin, and serotonin are just a few of the hormones that can and do play a significant role in making or breaking your weight loss efforts.

Insulin

Insulin can play a vital role in making or breaking your weight loss efforts. No matter how many calories you remove from your diet and no matter how many exercises you incorporate into your daily routine, if insulin is not stable, you may feel the need to eat more. In fact, according to Dr. Mercola, on his web site Mercola.com, explained that insulin is the central part of the weight loss equation and the reason 200 million Americans are overweight is because they have impaired insulin receptor sensitivity. An overabundance of insulin can prevent your fat-burning hormone, lipase, from releasing fat into your bloodstream to be used as fuel. So, instead of using fat for fuel, your body will use carbohydrates and amino acids from your muscles. The key to weight loss success, according to Mercola.com, is to have LOW levels of insulin so your body can produce large amounts of hormone-sensitive lipase and burn fat all day so you can look thin and slim. People with high insulin levels should also avoid overeating, especially refined carbohydrates and processed foods, and get regular exercise.

Serotonin

Serotonin is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter in the brain, which plays a vital role in whether or not your dieting efforts will succeed. Serotonin can also affect your appetite, mood, sexual arousal, perception of pain and body temperature. Consuming high carbohydrate foods will increase serotonin levels in the brain, whereas low serotonin levels will cause your body to crave carbohydrates. Furthermore, researchers at the Beth Israel Deaconess Research Center (BIDRC) found that decreased serotonin is linked to increased appetite. Therefore, weight loss can occur when you increase your serotonin levels either through diet, supplementation or both. SAM-e and 5-HTP are supplements that may be of assistance in weight loss, and it has also been used for depression. Consult with your doctor before taking these supplements, especially if you are already taking medication for depression.

Cortisol

Cortisol is known as the stress hormone, which is responsible for the flight or fight syndrome. This hormone plays a key role in metabolism, helping to determine the best source of energy – protein, carbohydrate, fat – for your body to use.  Chronic or long-term stress can increase cortisol levels and cause metabolic and hormonal imbalances that lead to weight gain. Too much cortisol not only increases your appetite and craving for unhealthy foods, but also lowers testosterone levels in women and men. Lower testosterone can mean the loss of lean muscle, causing your body to burn calories less efficiently. Remember that muscle burns more calories than body fat. To keep your cortisol levels in check and lose weight, you need to incorporate stress reduction techniques, such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi; and get regular exercise such as cycling, hiking or walking; and get at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep. In fact, according to Shawn Talbott, Ph.D., author of the book called “The Cortisol Connection,” says that getting just two nights of restful, sound sleep can be more effective at reducing cortisol than a lifetime of stress-management classes. And, lastly, taking certain supplements, such as DHEA, may also be helpful for lowering cortisol levels in men and women, according to a University of Pittsburgh study published in the “Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology” in February 2003.

So, as you can see, it is important to watch calories and include exercise; however, it is equally important to be aware of your hormonal balances, as well.

 

4 Great Reasons Why You Should Be Using Coconut Oil

Photo credit: Tom Woodward CC BY-SA 2.0

There is a widespread misconception that coconut oil is bad for you because it contains saturated fat. However, people all over the world are reaping the health benefits of coconut oil, and it’s truly one of the healthiest oils you can consume. Here are 4 reasons why you should use coconut oil as an alternative to other traditional cooking oils.

1.  Coconut oil boosts your metabolism.

Not only is coconut oil easily converted to energy by your body, it also increases your metabolism and promotes weight loss. Because it boosts your metabolism, it helps your body burn fat more effectively.

Coconut oil may triple your calorie burn. Since coconut oil is a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT), it is converted to energy so quickly that it creates a lot of heat. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, MCT’s burn three times more calories for six hours after a meal than LCT’s.

The February 15, 2005 issue of Woman’s World magazine stated that coconut oil is the “underground high-metabolism secret.”

This is great news for people who have thyroid problems, since coconut oil improves sluggish thyroids by stimulating the production of extra thyroid hormones. Most other common oils, like vegetable (soy) and corn have been shown to inhibit thyroid function.

2.  Coconut oil can improve skin and hair health

Coconut oil one of the best things you can apply directly on your skin and hair, as it helps to alleviate skin problems such as rashes, dry skin and eczema. You can also use this oil to help heal and restore skin to a younger appearance, or even use it as a makeup remover.

Not only does it soften and smooth your skin, coconut oil has antioxidant properties that protect the skin from free radical damage. Coconut oil makes excellent massage oil, too.

3.  Coconut oil vs. other oils

Coconut oil has anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial effects when both consumed and used topically on the skin.

Most oils oxidize and turn rancid very quickly causing free radical damage in our bodies. Coconut oil is not easily oxidized and does not cause harmful free radical damage like polyunsaturated vegetable oils. Free radical damage is thought to be responsible for many ailments in our body from arthritis to increased susceptibility to cancers.

Coconut oil also helps our bodies absorb other nutrients more effectively, such as the fat-soluble vitamins A, E, D and K.

4.  Coconut oil is one of the best oils you can use for cooking.

Coconut oil has a higher smoke point than olive oil, which means it can take higher temperatures better. There are several healthy omega-3 oils we can choose to consume, such as flax and olive oil, but they don’t do well under the high heat we use for cooking. Therefore, coconut oil is really the best choice when cooking at higher temperatures.

It’s harder for coconut oil to go rancid, unlike other cooking oils, which are usually rancid long before you even bring them home. Coconut oil, on the other hand, is stable for over a year at room temperature.

I’ve only mentioned four reasons why you should be using coconut oil, but there are many additional uses and health benefits. So, go ahead and blend a little coconut oil into your favorite smoothie, or add it to bitter greens like kale. It also makes a nutritious addition to oatmeal or your favorite baked veggie recipes. Be as creative as you want and enjoy the incredible health benefits of this tropical oil.

 

How You Can Use Group Exercises to Lose Weight and Stay Motivated

One of the toughest things about exercising is staying motivated. Motivation isn’t just about getting yourself to the gym – it’s also about pushing yourself further and further, even when you think you’ve hit your limits.

Group exercises are a great way to get over the motivation barrier. Not only can they help you show up more often, but they can also help you push yourself a lot further.

 How Group Classes Can Help Push Your Limits

When you’re on your own, it’s very easy to call it quits once the pain or burn starts. In reality, your body could be pushed a lot further.

When you’re in a group environment and you see everyone else around you pushing harder, it’s very hard to give up.

In addition, you have the energy of the teacher to help spur you on. Generally in any group class you’ll have a fit, energetic, encouraging teacher at the head of the class.

The Power of Committing to Classmates

Once you’ve been going to a class for a certain period of time, people will start to expect to see you at that class. You’ll become a regular.

Once other people start to expect you to show up, it’s very hard to just stop going to class.

Essentially what you’re doing is using peer pressure to force yourself into doing the exercises you wanted to do anyway.

Sticking to a Class Schedule

One way people talk themselves out of going to the gym is by telling themselves that they’ll come back on another day. That other day then gets postponed or changed and eventually they slide off their gym schedule altogether.

Changing your gym schedule is an easy first step to losing your schedule completely.

That’s why having fixed workout times in the form of gym classes can be extremely helpful. Instead of being able to work out whenever you want, you have to show up to the gym at a certain time.

The Many Different Classes You Can Take

Are you worried that you won’t like taking group classes? With so many different class options available, there’s truly a class for just about anyone.

If you’re into cardiovascular exercise, there are treadmill and cycling classes.

If you need to blow off some steam, kickboxing classes are a great way to do it. In fact, if you really wanted to learn boxing, many gyms offer real boxing classes as well.

If you want something more mellow or spiritual, yoga is a popular option. For a more intense version, try heated Yoga instead.Want something that’s just a plain fun workout? Try a hip-hop or dance class. These classes will have you sweating like no tomorrow, while you’re listening to great music.

Group classes can be a phenomenal way to both get your workout and get motivated. If you’ve never tried a group class, today might be the day to start.