Hunger Hormones & How they are Impacted by Diets

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Written by Lauren Killey

When it comes to your client’s success, COMPLIANCE IS KEY. One of the greatest impactors of a client’s compliance is hunger, more specifically their hunger and satiety hormones, GHRELIN and LEPTIN.

Ghrelin (the hunger hormone) is produced predominantly by the stomach and the small intestines, pancreas and brain to stimulate appetite, leading to signals to the brain to increase food intake and promoting fat storage.

Leptin (the satiety hormone) will work in balance with ghrelin to regulate intake. When the stomach is stretched, these will send the necessary signals to the brain to indicate we are full, releasing the hormone leptin which will ultimate reduce ghrelin (hunger).

Ghrelin is one of many hormones which are impacted due to dieting and calorie deficits, but also as a result of poor sleep and acute or chronic stress levels.

Ghrelin works with leptin to manage energy balance, or the calories consumed in relation to our TDEE (total daily energy expenditure). When daily consumption is below TDEE and your client is in a deficit, they may experience negative adaptations to their ghrelin response. As ghrelin increases your client’s hunger, cravings will also increase. Their leptin levels will drop, leading to lower satiety after meals. This increase in hunger and decrease in satiety will ultimately become a challenge on compliance.

Along with calorie deficits, the intake of micronutrients and the way in our clients are eating, can impact the balance of hunger hormones. When reducing calories to achieve a deficit, often the variety of foods consumed is reduced and clients may find they are either eating the same foods or meals consistently, or cycling their food sources less frequently. Though this makes the ‘food prep’ and dieting process easier, a lack of variety in micronutrient intake can lead to ‘hidden hunger’ or an increase in hunger signals due to nutrient deficiencies.

At the same time, due to busy lifestyles and habits, many clients will often eat ‘on-the-go’ or whilst distracted by work, social media, television etc. This lack of conscious awareness while eating can mean our clients are not taking the time needed for optimal digestion or, if they are particularly hungry, they may ‘rush’ through their meal. This does not allow the body the time it needs to optimally digest the food consumed and send the appropriate satiety signals to the brain to release leptin – leading to unnecessary over consumption or a feeling of lingering hunger and impacted digestion after finishing meals.

Our top tips when working with a client through a dieting phase are:

  1. Monitor hormonal balance with biofeedback
    When your client checks in with you, monitor their hunger levels! Ask them how they are feeling, if their hunger or satiety levels have changed and if this is leading to an impact on energy or compliance
  2. Use diet breaks and refeeds
    If you are monitoring hunger levels you can work preemptively to implement a refeed or diet break to help boost your clients leptin levels and reset hunger hormone balance BEFORE the hunger becomes too unbearable. Two days back-to-back at higher (maintenance) calories and with a higher carb intake will help to increase leptin and reduce ghrelin temporarily, making the dieting process a little easier for your client
  3. Encourage your client to SLOW DOWN
    Have your client eat in a relaxed state, in a quiet environment and without distractions so they can focus on eating slowly and making sure they chew their food. This will aid in optimal digestion and will mean they are more likely to remain aware of their natural hunger and satiety signals whilst eating
  4. Teach VARIETY
    Ensure your client is frequently cycling their food sources. This could simply mean choosing between white fish, chicken and steak every few days, or ensuring every single meal, inclusive of the chosen protein, fat and carb source, is different. How much variety, will be dependent on your client’s individual circumstances, but the more often they can change up foods, the more nutrients they will be consuming and thus, less likely to experience deficiencies and hidden hunger

Want to learn a trialed, tested and evidence based nutrition course that will teach you how to create effective and results driven diets for clients from all walks of life?⁣⁣
Get The Ultimate Physique Science Bundle by Dr Layne Norton, which includes the Science of Nutrition and Training the Physique Athlete online courses!⁣⁣ Enrol below.

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