Let's talk about hormones. I know, I know, I am always talking about hormones but this is something I think that is not understood nearly enough in the weight loss world. Our bodies use hormones as messengers. Hormones tell us we're hungry or that we're full, that we're tired, that we're aroused, that we're happy or sad. Hormones also tell our bodies to store food as fat or to use stored fat as energy.
Ever noticed that on some food wrappers, it says 'low glycemic index' on the label? The glycemic index of a food basically determines the level of impact that food will have on your blood sugar levels and, more specifically, how much insulin (one of your hormones) your body will pump out in response. If a food has a high glycemic index, a lot of insulin is going to be pumped out from your pancreas and that insulin is going to signal to your body to store that food as fat. If a food has a low glycemic index, it's more likely that insulin will signal your body to store that food as glycogen (basically, muscle food). And here's the kicker: it doesn't matter how many calories that food consisted of.
The other thing about the glycemic index: high glycemic index foods trigger your hunger signalling hormone grehlin to kick into gear earlier than necessary. Ever notice that when you eat a lot of pasta or simple carbs, you feel full but after a while, suddenly you're hungry again? That's because A. you've only eaten from the carb family and B. you've eaten a high glycemic food. When a lot of insulin has to be pumped out to decide what to do with the food you've eaten, it triggers grehlin to pump out earlier than it needs to. Does that mean that pasta or carbs in general are bad? Not at all.
This is where the need for balance comes into play. Your body wants all macronutrients to be represented in your meals. Your macronutrients consist of fat, protein and carbs. Fats will trigger your happy hormone, serotonin to pump out. This hormone is also responsible for feeling 'satisfied' from your meals. Protein will slow down your digestion so you feel physically fuller longer. Having all 3 macronutrients will help your hormones stay level so even though you may eat more in one single meal, you eat less throughout the day. Better to eat 400 calories all in one meal than to eat 200 calories in one meal, 200 an hour later and 200 an hour after that, right?
Ultimately, our overall calorie number is important (and you can calculate what your daily calorie intake should be using this post) but even more important is keeping our hormones balanced. Need some ideas for some healthy, balanced snacks? Check out this list:
- Kiwi slices dipped in Greek Yogurt
- Apple slices and nut butter
- Carrot sticks and hummus
- Hard boiled egg with a piece of fruit
- Protein shake with protein powder, berries and ground flax or chia seeds
- Yogurt parfait: plain yogurt topped with honey, sliced almonds and berries
- Home made trail mix (almonds, seeds, raisins, dried fruit - check ingredients to make sure no added sugar!)
- Whole grain toast with nut butter
- Zucchini, celery, other sliced crunch veggies dipped in Trader Joe's yogurt based spinach dip (seriously off the hook!)
- Tortilla chips and hummus