Weight Loss Hormones

Well I am back with Part 2 of the Hormonal Series; I know you’ve been excited all week for this.

Well this week first up is Ghrelin.

Ghrelin is produced and released mainly by the lining of the stomach but also in small amounts by the small intestine, pancreas and the brain.

Ghrelin is your hunger hormone! Think Stomach Growling hormone! Ghrelin stimulates appetite, therefore increases food intake and also promotes fat storage.

Ghrelin also stimulates the release of growth hormone from the pituitary gland, which, unlike ghrelin itself, breaks down fat tissue and causes the build-up of muscle. This is important if you want to bulk up but it’s not something I will go into today.

As well as helping to build muscle it has some more important functions like having a protective effect on the cardiovascular system and a role in the control of insulin release.

Ghrelin levels are high during a fast, or just before a meal i.e. anytime when you have not eaten for a significant period. It can actually fall into a pattern with our regular meal times and therefore bring on your stomach growling when you are close to a regular meal time-clever huh!

It does this by sending a message to your brain, specifically the Hypothalamus and tells you that you are hungry. When you eat, Ghrelin levels drop.

So how can aspects of your lifestyle affect Ghrelin? Firstly, lack of sleep. Ever noticed how hungry you are when you are tired?

Secondly, it has also been shown that having raised Insulin Levels can keep Ghrelin raised. This is where the circle starts to come together from last week’s post! As I mentioned last week Insulin can increase your Leptin levels, which tell the brain it is hungry.  Par exemple you eat something sugary, your Insulin levels increase in order to turn the sugar into energy. Eating the sugar has then increased your Leptin levels-which regulates your appetite and fat storage and decreases production of Leptin. However if your Insulin response is impaired, Ghrelin levels remain elevated after eating so you are still hungry! So you eat and well you know the rest.

So we have just linked up how Insulin, Ghrelin and Leptin affect your weight. Let’s continue the hormone cycle.



Cortisol is a very important hormone as it has many functions including blood pressure regulation, metabolism of glucose, controlling blood sugar levels, supporting the immune system and many more.

Upon waking your Cortisol levels should be high and this should decrease as the day goes on.


Cortisol is often referred to as the stress hormone, as your body releases more of it during stressful periods. This has positive benefits such as high pain threshold, increased energy and memory. However if this happens over a prolonged period problems can occur.

The Dark Side of Cortisol!

When you are constantly producing a high amount of cortisol, it can deregulate your normal cortisol production. This means instead of having more in the morning and less at night, it can be high all day.

In order for Cortisol to provide you with Energy, it stimulates the metabolism of Carbs and Fats. It will also encourage the release of more Insulin.

So more Cortisol  will increase the insulin which as mentioned above increases the Leptin, and then your Ghrelin stays high so you are still hungry.– Do you ever find you are hungrier when stressed, particularly for carbs?? I feel like that should be a song – “The Sugar increases your Insulin, The Insulin Increases your ….Leptin……..” I bet you all sung that!


But it is not just the increased food intake that will cause weight gain. As Cortisol increases blood sugar levels, there will be an excessive amount of glucose in your body. This Glucose will not be required for energy as is therefore stored as fat. It has been shown that body fat caused by cortisol is predominantly stored around your middle i.e. your stomach and your back. (At no point in my legal career did I grab my back fat and shout to a manager that he was the sole cause of that particular bit of fat, honest……)

So I know that was a great whack of Science for you there but I do feel you are all intelligent enough to cope (except for you Mum, I imagine you won’t have read this far anyway……….) and I promise this is all going somewhere with my crusade against Sugar. Davina just tells you it’s bad, but I respect your intelligence enough to tell you why-just saying!

Nicola x


Ps. If you would like any further help with Weight Loss in Liverpool and the Surrounding areas, or you would like to know more about my Mobile Personal Training Services across Merseyside and The Wirral please do not hesitate to contact me E: info@ns-pt.co.uk

Weight Loss and Hormones

When it comes to the battle of weight loss, our hormones can play a major part in our success – I know something else we can blame our hormones on ladies!

There are several hormones that affect weight loss, Insulin, Leptin, Gherlin, Oestrogen and Cortisol.

I won’t cover them all this week, I fear for your concentration spans!

Also I want to go into how our diet affects these hormones. As it still seems to be (despite my best efforts) that many people believe as long as you stick to this magical calorie allowance (usually about 1200 calories which is actually classes as starvation) it doesn’t matter what you shovel into your gut. Well I hate to break it to you-it does matter! Not just for weight loss but also for your overall health. Your body and how it functions is a reflection of how you nourish it.

So first to take the stand- Leptin.


Leptin is a hormone that is secreted by the fat cells. So obviously the more body fat you have, the more leptin you have. Leptin is the hormone that sends a message to our brain when we have enough stored energy and don’t need to eat. So I know already you’re thinking-well if I have loads of it, surely that means my brain would be constantly getting messages that I don’t need to eat? Well unfortunately those little Leptin messages aren’t getting to the brain. The brain isn’t acknowledging the Leptin meaning you are Leptin resistant.

So your brain thinks you’re starving, so you eat more and…….well we know what happens. And ignoring Leptin is not just a matter of willpower, your hormones are your body’s inbuilt responses, like for your fight or flight response, if a bull is chasing you, you are going to run so if your brain says your starving you’re going to eat!


Second onto the block is one you may be more familiar – Insulin.


Insulin is made in the Pancreas and is responsible for converting the food we eat to Glucose and then storing as energy as either as glycogen or fat.

Studies have shown (The work of Dr Lustig or Prof Sugar as I call him is based on this) that insulin may block the leptin signal to the brain (a ha!). Therefore if we have constantly raised Insulin levels we put ourselves at a greater risk of Leptin resistance. Hence as explained above we are always hungry!

Insulin is also responsible for telling the fat cells to hang onto their stores and to keep storing more. Yes, no matter how low a calorie you go your body is still going to hang onto that fat- it will lose water and muscle mass first before it starts to let go of that pesky fat!

This doesn’t make Insulin an out and out bad guy. We need Insulin for survival as we do need to store energy – for when we are running away from bulls obvs! But if it is chronically elevated, it can cause serious health problems. As with Leptin, the messages can get blocked and the brain cannot see the Insulin and therefore tells the pancreas needs to make more. This is what is known as Insulin Resistance which long term can lead to Type 2 Diabetes and with that brings a whole world of trouble.


So what has all this got to do with Sugar?????


Well, when we eat sugar our bodies release Insulin to convert it to glucose, unfortunately if we eat too much sugar very quickly our body panics and releases too much insulin causing our blood sugar levels to drop – Sugar Crash!!! So we eat more sugar and the circle starts again. If this becomes a repeated cycle our bodies become constantly topped up with too much Insulin, which as mentioned above blocks your Leptin signals so you are constantly hungry, therefore feeding the cycle over and over and creating the Insulin Resistance. All the while your body is hanging onto those fat stores for dear life because despite the food intake it still thinks it starving! So your there eating less and less calories and still the fat doesn’t shift!

For now I think that’s enough food for thought, although there is waaaay more to this story but I bet some of you have already considered a KitKat to keep your concentration levels up………………..you know who you are! So I will continue this next week but for now, just give a thought to your sugar intake, read your food labels and see how much you are really consuming you will probably be quite shocked .

To Coffee or Not To Coffee?

To Coffee or not to Coffee? That is the question


The Legend of Kaldi has it that Coffee was discovered by his herd of Goats in the Ethiopian highlands. It is said that Kaldi (or technically his goats) discovered coffee after noticing that upon eating berries from a certain tree, his Goats became so energetic that they did not want to sleep at night.

Kaldi then reported his findings to the abbot of the local monastery who then made a drink with the berries and discovered that it also kept him awake for long hours.  The Abbott shared this discovery with other Monks of the Monastery and the origin of Coffee began.

So although it can never be proven that this story is entirely true it forms part of the Coffee Associations history and is yet further evidence following on from last week that Goats are in fact magic! I have as yet not tried feeding my Goats coffee as to be honest they are spritely enough and I dread to think the consequences-perhaps in the summer I shall share an iced Macchiato with them. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Anyway in terms of health and nutrition Coffee is a bit of a split subject. As Personal Trainers it is the actual law that we are obsessed with coffee. I’m not sure why it just is.

And in honesty Coffee does have many health benefits, but it also has a downside.

We will start with its good points.

Firstly Coffee contains a huge amount of anti-oxidants. These are the things we usually associate with fruit and vegetables (which you do still need!). Anti-Oxidants clear our body of free radicals gained from chemicals ingested either via food or from the environment. It is because of these anti-oxidants that Coffee has been shown to help protect against some cancers, namely Colo Rectal and Liver Cancer. Coffee also actually contains vitamins!  It contains although in small doses B3, B5, Manganese and Potassium, so you know definitely a health food.

As I am sure most people are aware Coffee can increase your energy levels and improve your mental focus. This is because of the caffeine, which blocks an inhibitory neurotransmitter in your brain called Adenosine (the brain fog stuff).  This then increases the firing of other neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and dopamine which effects, most importantly your movement patterns which is why it has also been shown to increase sporting performance; but also your brain reward centre which is why Coffee can make you happy. You can’t look sad in Starbucks can you!

Caffeine has been shown to boost metabolic rate and thus aid fat burning. Studies have shown that it could increase fat burning by around 10% however studies suggest this may be diminished in long term coffee drinkers. I imagine if this were not the case I would be a matchstick as my metabolic rate would be soooo high from my caffeine intake.

Now for the Bad News………………………….

Coffee is actually one of the most heavily sprayed crops in the world. For this reason I would highly recommend opting for Organic Coffee where possible, Clipper do a nice one and it can be found in most supermarkets. It has a parrot on the jar!

Anyway, onwards.

As so many of us do (by this I mean me!) grabbing a coffee on the run first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, stimulates hydrochloric acid production. This is problematic because HCl is used to digest meals and the cycle of constantly over producing may mean you struggle to produce enough to digest actual meals later in the day.

Coffee can also have an acidic effect on the gut walls which when combined with the potential for less HCL to digest food can mean food, protein in particular is not digested properly and also the increased acidity can irritate the Gut lining which in turn can cause digestive upset such from bloating and gas to IBS, diverticulitis, Ulcers and exacerbate Chron’s disease.

Studies have shown that Coffee (even Decaff) relaxes the lower oesophageal sphincter which can lead to Acid reflux and heartburn due to the contents of your stomach being allowed back into the oesophagus and burning it’s lining.

Drinking coffee can stimulate peristalsis (that’s doing a number 2) , unfortunately it can mean it is done too quickly leaving little time for the nutrients to be absorbed by your body meaning you will be deficient in vitamins and minerals (iron and magnesium in particular). Again this early peristalsis also has an irritating effect on your gastrointestinal tract.

Drinking lots of coffee will promote the release of the stress hormone cortisol. This can increase your body’s heart rate, blood pressure and tension levels. Some people are more sensitive to this than others. But if you find you are increasingly jittery or anxious it may be time to cut back.

So I guess it’s still a split case. But I for one will definitely not be giving it up – I think I would actually die and my 6am sessions would not thank me! But I think it is important to consider your intake and notice any issues that me caused by it.

It is a great pre workout on it’s own and many branded sports supplement pre workouts contain caffeine, but plain old Espresso will do the trick for a lot less money.

And as stated it is great for keeping you alert and getting stuff done, but if your edging over 4-5 cups per day you may find you actually start to feel more tired (and then increase your intake to counteract it) and if that is the case you need to cut back. And of course any jitteriness, heart racing etc is a definite message!

But if like me you just enjoy one or two cups a day, avoid it a few hours before you go to bed and have no side effects then I would say keep going with your tasty healthy drink!

Nicola x

PS. NS-PT provides mobile Personal Training across Liverpool, Wirral, St Helens and surrounding areas. NS-PT provides Personal Training to help you with weight loss and Personal Training to improve your health and well being.

Food as a Reward?

I was speaking with my niece the other day and she asked me a question that was for her school homework. She asked “should kids be banned from having junk food and why?”  Anyway you can imagine what sort of answer I gave “hell yes” but what I found most interesting where the answers given by other people. One in particular that said “no, children should be rewarded for good behaviour” which is what I’m going to talk about, tempting as it was to go on a rant about childhood obesity, maybe another day.

Instead it got me thinking about the concept of food as a reward.

You know how it is, you’ve had a tough day so when you get in you reward yourself with a glass of wine, you finished that important report for work so reward yourself with chocolate. You get a promotion so you go out that evening for a nice meal to celebrate. It’s like a normal part of our lives.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you shouldn’t celebrate great things with a posh meal, but what about the everyday rewards? Certainly if you’re trying to lose/manage or control your weight this is an area you need to look at.

Let’s face it, we probably by habit reward ourselves for everyday small events with food, which over the course of a week, month etc. can actually add up to some serious diet sabotage!

It needs to be said firstly before I go onto the practical stuff that food is fuel and fuel alone, it’s only purpose is to nourish our bodies to keep us alive and performing at its best. But somewhere along the way, food became a part of all of life’s occasions (historically it was a sign of wealth) and we got lost on it’s real purpose. The only time food should be a reward is when it involves rewarding your dog-and even that has implications but I digress.

Don’t get me wrong I looooooove food, and I of course have celebratory social occasions that involve food, but the little every day rewards? Well they have had to stop, I buy myself celebratory Goats now instead……………………….

So, what should we do instead? Well how about making your reward something none food based? It could be anything. Tough day at work, instead of that glass of wine, what about 20-30mins sat in the bath( I know your busy people feel free to take longer if you have that luxury) and read a chapter of a book. Honestly it will put you in a much better mind space and set you up for a great night’s sleep to recover from your day. Or instead of a bar of chocolate, buy yourself a magazine to read when you get in – as trashy as you like, we all know your secret take a break readers when no one’s looking!

Ok so what about the bigger stuff? Got a big project to finish? Why not book yourself a manicure (gents) when you complete it? Equally treaty (new word!) but less damage to your diet. Basically reward yourself but with something more positive than food.

Of course if you are celebrating something big, then fine go for the slap up meal, pop the champagne cork (I know some of you celebrate Fridays this way…..) but if you are seriously trying to lose weight you might want to make this the exception not the rule. Or of course you could bring in the celebratory run idea???  Got a promotion? Let’s go for a run to celebrate! No takers????

And on the subject of rewarding kids with food, well I honestly think you are setting up a precedent that becomes a habit for life, and it can be very difficult to break. Many of the habits we have as adults are a result of things that were ingrained in us as children – ask yourself why you always clear your plate no matter how full you are??? But that’s perhaps something I will discuss on another day.


Nicola x

PS. NS-PT provides mobile Personal Training across Liverpool, Wirral, St Helens and surrounding areas. NS-PT provides Personal Training to help you with weight loss and Personal Training to improve your health and well being.