Clearly in a sys­tem as com­plex as the hu­man body it is a gross over­sim­pli­fi­ca­tion to as­sume that all calo­ries are equal. Life­style and weight

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - FEATURES -

Stress and over­train­ing are also es­sen­tial in the weight loss game with both in­ter­play­ing with hor­mones that reg­u­late ap­petite. Grehlin is known as the hor­mone that stim­u­lates ap­petite, while lep­tin is the “step­away-from-the-plate” hor­mone that in­creases as we start to get full. An in­creas­ing num­ber of stud­ies show that sleep de­pri­va­tion leads to weight gain and loss of lean body mass – both neg­a­tive out­comes for ath­letes. In­ad­e­quate amounts of sleep (even in the short term) can lower lev­els of lep­tin whilst in­creas­ing grehlin and cor­ti­sol (an­other hor­mone that cor­re­lates strongly with stress). Higher lev­els of cor­ti­sol are known to in­crease ap­petite, but also the drive to con­sume high im­pact/en­ergy foods – high sugar, high fat foods. Th­ese foods di­rectly act on our brains – light­ing up the plea­sure cen­tres by re­leas­ing the hor­mone dopamine – and this drive to eat more has noth­ing to do with calo­ries and every­thing to do with the hor­monal re­sponse to our foods. In other words, dif­fer­ent foods af­fect our hor­mones in dif­fer­ent ways, even when calor­i­cally iden­ti­cal. High lev­els of cor­ti­sol can also spur on de­vel­op­ment of in­sulin re­sis­tance and pro­mote in­flam­ma­tion – both fac­tors which can in­crease the risk of be­ing over­weight (or make weight loss ef­forts very dif­fi­cult).

Just as the no­tion of calo­ries in vs. calo­ries out may be out­dated, it is also wrong to as­sume that calo­ries don’t mat­ter at all. They do. But there are other as­pects of your diet (and life­style) that bear con­sid­er­a­tion be­fore you start try­ing to track calo­ries or en­ergy ex­pen­di­ture in an ef­fort to reg­u­late weight. So, while the in­stinct can be to train more and harder in an ef­fort to get leaner, our hor­mones may not agree. In­stead, look­ing af­ter your gut, some sleep, re­lax­ation and re­cov­ery may be the best work­out you can do. Other fac­tors such as get­ting ad­e­quate amounts of sun­shine and sub­se­quently Vi­ta­min D can also be im­por­tant.

Pro triath­lete Pip Tay­lor is a cer­ti­fied sports nu­tri­tion­ist.

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