One of the most difficult parts of weight loss is appetite control. The reason appetite is so variable is because of the many ways the sensation is controlled. There is both nervous and hormonal control of appetite with the hypothalamus being the main site of the brain where energy balance is regulated. Therefore, food intake is controlled by the hypothalamus.
The hypothalamus can be deceived however. The consequence of deception is an increase in food consumption that creates a logjam of available energy. Once the buildup of energy reaches critical mass, the liver has no choice but to make fat and store it away. This is part of the cycle of obesity.
What causes the hypothalamus to be hijacked in normal individuals? There are two main causes of increased appetite despite having fed and they are dehydration and intake of refined carbohydrates.
Dehydration is more common in individuals then the opposite. The propagation of dehydration is in large part due to the increased intake of caffeinated beverages coupled with a decreased intake of pure water. Caffeine intake is counterproductive because it increases urine output. If recommended water intake is not met in conjunction with caffeine use then dehydration is almost assured.
The trigger for the thirst mechanism is found in the hypothalamus, oddly enough, the same site for appetite control. When an individual is dehydrated one of the sensations stimulated is hunger. Whether the signals are crossed or the brain enhances food seeking behavior to acquire water from the food itself is inconsequential. The idea that hunger is sometimes actually thirst is however significant.
Refined carbohydrate intake can hijack the brain simply because the response to increased availability is “drug like”. Refined carbohydrates include extracted sugars and extracted starches such as wheat flour. Because of the ease of digestion and absorption, refined carbohydrates hit the blood rapidly causing a tremendous spike in insulin.
The stimulation of insulin leads to the uptake of carbohydrate from the blood into the cell for metabolism. In non-type II diabetics, the rapid increase in blood sugar induces a mammoth response by the circulating insulin causing an equally rapid drop in blood sugar. The decrease in blood sugar triggers hunger.
The clearing of blood sugar is not the only way appetite is enhanced by refined sugar intake. The “drug like” effect of refined carbohydrates cause cravings, like a drug, even when energy stores are sufficient. The reason there is a “drug like” effect of refined sugar is because it has free access to the brain and it floods the brain with dopamine, which is similar to drugs such as cocaine. The resulting increase in dopamine creates feelings of pleasure and satisfaction.
The fix is simple! First drink plenty of water, at least one gallon per day. For optimal hydration drink a large glass of water before eating. Another tip is to chug water because when the stomach is empty the body can absorb water fast when it is delivered fast.
As for refined carbohydrates, reduce the amount of sugar and flour consumed first and foremost. Next remove starches like potatoes and rice as well. The best source of carbohydrate is actually fresh fruit. One to four pieces of fruit a day should be ideal. Couple this with good protein and vegetables and not only will weight loss occur but the appetite will be under control as well.
Thank you for reading and I invite you to read more from the Perpetual Athlete on Fittallahassee.com!
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