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15 Hormonal Influencers of Fat Loss

1. Insulin – The Fat Storer

In the hierarchy of hormonal influencers for fat loss, insulin still reigns as King according to current evidence. This hormone, relative to the others, is most strongly influenced by carbohydrate intake and over consumption of food, both of which cause a detrimental increase in blood sugar. Over consuming any macronutrient whether it be carbohydrate, fat, or protein will elevate this hormone. For the average American, who tends to be sedentary, and also over consumes, insulin will increase and remain high. Chronic high levels of insulin will eventually cause your body to become resistant to this hormone, meaning you will have difficulty burning fat. With the epidemic of type II diabetes and obesity, this means that most Americans are insulin resistant and thus unable to burn fat. With lots of insulin around you cannot burn fat.

To remedy the high levels of insulin floating around one should lower their carbohydrate intake and be mindful of not over-eating.

2. Glucagon – The Fat Burner

Glucagon can be thought of as insulin’s good twin. It is insulin’s twin because these two hormones, in a healthy body, work together to keep your blood sugar and energy needs in balance. It has the opposite personally of insulin, because higher levels of glucagon in the body enable the body to burn fat instead of storing it. If insulin levels are low then glucagon can begin to help the body burn fat.

To cause an increase in glucagon one should not over-eat, while at the same minimize carbohydrate intake.

3. Ghrelin – The Hunger Hormone

Ghrelin – This hormone is called the hunger hormone, because levels increase in the body when you are physically hungry. (Note: There is a big difference between being physically hungry and being emotionally hungry; and knowing the difference can significantly impact fat loss. See the table below.) If you are slightly hungry then you are probably burning excess fat on your body. If you can keep this hormone at a level that does not ring the alarm bells for eating food then you are probably burning fat. Bodybuilders influence this hormone by timing their meals and workouts in a way that maximizes fat burning while also minimizing muscle loss. The Japanese have a saying called “Hara Hachi Bu,” that basically means you should only eat until you are 80% satisfied. Practicing Hare Hachi Bu does not completely suppress this hormone thus enabling you to use your excess fat as a fuel source for your energy needs.

To positively influence this hormone be mindful by understanding the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger. Also, remind yourself of Hara Hachi Bu.

Physical Hunger vs. Emotional Hunger 1

Physical builds gradually; Emotional develops suddenly.
Physical strikes below the neck (i.e. growling stomach); & Emotional occurs above the neck (i.e. a taste for ice cream).
Physical occurs 3+ hours after a meal; & Emotional occurs at random times.
Physical can be temporarily offset by drinking water; & Emotional still persists after drinking a glass water.
Physical goes away when full; & Emotional still persists after a good deal has already been eaten.
Physical is satisfied with food; Emotional leads to guilt after eating food.
Physical can be suppressed with stress; Emotional is activated with stress.
Physical enhances taste; Emotional does not.

4. Thyroid Hormone – The Metabolic Manager

Thyroid hormone, secreted from the thyroid gland, helps to manage the body’s metabolic processes including your fat burning potential. This hormone is keenly sensitive to your daily lifestyle choices and events including: sleep (how long and how deep), nutrition (types and amounts of food), stress (acute or chronic), and exercise (longer moderate intensity or shorter high intensity), etc. It influences every system in your body by sensing your internal and external environment. Unfortunately, your thyroid gland is primed to think food will be scarce like food tended to be long ago in prehistoric times. This is why when someone goes on a diet of eat less and exercise more your thyroid will cause your body to slow down it’s metabolism.

To positively influence this hormone for fat burning do not chronically diet.

5. Cortisol – The Stress Hormone

Cortisol, secreted from the adrenal glands, has a split personality in the body. In other words, it is not all bad or all good. Acute stressors on the body tend to cause a short-term increase of this hormone. It gets the body primed to either fight or flee from the stress. This served us well in paleolithic times when we were not at the top of the food chain. A lion jumping out at us requires a metabolic messenger that is quick acting to prime us to fight or flee for our lives. Once we got out of danger this hormone allowed us to get stronger and better for the next time a predator thinks we are food. Unfortunately, these days our hectic lifestyles cause our adrenal glands to think there are dangerous creatures everywhere jumping out at us, thus cortisol levels tend to be either chronically elevated or very, very low; both of which can create a fatty, fatigued body.

Cortisol that is released with HGH and testosterone becomes a fat burning influencer. To positively influence this hormone one should exercise in the two extremes, long duration low intensity or short duration high intensity, with the primary focus being the former. Also, sleep and meditation will positively influence this hormone to help you become a happy healthier fat burner.

6. Leptin – The Fuel Gauge

Leptin is actually secreted from your fat cells and tells the brain how much fat you have on your body to burn. Leptin also helps influences the metabolic manager, thyroid hormone. Unfortunately, regular over-eating or under eating causes leptin’s message to the brain to be scrambled or ignored. This is also known as leptin resistance. In other words, leptin’s signal or lack of, makes the brain think that a body with excess fat is actually skinny or lean and therefore causes us to get fatter or at the very least not lose the excess fat.

To positively influence this hormone one should not chronically over-consume or under-consume food. Also, keep in mind that it is very easy to over consume food when one’s diet is mostly refined carbohydrate, which less satiating than protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates. As with ghelin, eating slowly helps to support appropriate levels of leptin. Check out the App “Eat Slower” to help regulate both Ghrelin and Leptin.

7. Human Growth Hormone (HGH) – The Anabolic Restorer

HGH helps you to build muscle and burn fat at the same time. This is why it has the reputation of being an anti-aging hormone. It works closely with cortisol and adrenaline in order to keep you lean, strong, and youthful. Lack of sleep and being sedentary makes this hormone almost nonexistent in the body.

To maintain optimal levels of HGH one should get plenty of sleep and periodically exercise in short intense bursts of no more than 30-40 minutes at a time. Maintaining a protein adequate diet helps to support healthy levels of this hormone too.

8. Adrenalin – The Gas Pedal

Adrenaline gets secreted by the adrenal glands quickly when you exercise, and tells the body to get ready to start burning fat. This hormone influences all the other hormones, especially HGH, cortisol, and testosterone, to go into fat burning mode. It has a close working relationship with cortisol. It’s effects can be blunted if cortisol levels are not optimal.

Exercise is its # 1 influencer. Short duration high intensity exercise causes this hormone to be secreted quickly, and strongly prompts the other hormones to send their fat burning messages.

9. Testosterone – The Sculptor

This hormone helps give men their V shape. With women it is a little more complicated. It is really the right mixture of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone that help give a women her hour glass shape. There are testosterone receptors all over the male and female body, and as such it influences your state of well-being, sex-drive, lean mass, bone strength, and energy levels, to name a few. Although testosterone has a stronger influence on the male body than the female body, women with levels either too high or too low can also feel and see its negative effects.

Appropriate doses of exercise, sleep, and yes, even sex help to keep this hormone at the right levels for both men and women.

10. Estrogen – The Feminizer

This hormone tends to have a stronger influence on the female body than the male body. However, men also require appropriate amounts of estrogen to maintain a healthy body, although at much lower levels than women. Younger women relative to post-menopausal women tend not struggle with increasing fat gain, especially in the torso, due to higher levels of this hormone. Also estrogen is the main hormone that gives a female her hour glass shape. It is considered both a fat storing and fat burning hormone. Research also indicates that this hormone allows women to handle stress better than men. Makes one wonder how peaceful the world would be if there were more women than men as world leaders.

Appropriate levels of sleep, and eating a plant-based diet help to maintain appropriate levels of this hormone for both men and women.

11. Progesterone – The Partner of Estrogen

Again, the bodies of both men and women are influenced by progesterone, although very little is known how it influences men, especially where fat burning is concerned. In women, this hormone works with estrogen to give her the stereotypical hour-glass it shape. It also helps to blunt any negative effects of cortisol, thus indirectly helps with fat burning.

Appropriate levels of sleep help balance this hormone, as well as any stress reducing activities like meditation or long slow walks.

12. Incretins (GLP and GIP) – The Food Tasters

GLP (glucagon-like peptide) and GIP (glucose dependent insulinotropic peptide) are secreted by the endocrine cells of the small intestine. They basically help the body sense the macronutrient ratio the incoming food. In other words, they taste the food in the small intestine and tell the body whether there is more fat and sugar in the meal or more lean protein and vegetables in the meal. More fat and sugar in the meal cause the small intestine to release more GIP relative to GLP, and the more protein and fiber in the meal causes release of more GLP relative to GIP. Think of GIP as fat storer and GLP as fat burner.

Eating more protein and vegetables influences a stronger signal of GLP relative to GIP thus helping to burn fat.

13. Neuropeptide Y – The Fat Amplifier

Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is produced and secreted by neurons primarily in sympathetic nervous system. It is also secreted in various areas of the brain. It causes growth and amplification of fat tissue. This hormone has a close relationship with cortisol, the stress hormone. Chronic high levels of cortisol cause increases in NPY, thus increasing food intake and storage of energy as fat, as well as increasing the number of fat cells in the body.

Rest-based activities like sleep and meditation can positively influence the effects NPY, by directly lowering cortisol.

14. Irisin -The Exerciser Hormone

Irisin is a recently discovered hormone that is secreted from muscle tissue that has been exercised. It helps the body burn excess fat, while also improving cognition and general well-being. It even appears to have anti-aging effects by lengthening telomeres. Telomeres are analogous to your biological clock. The longer they are the healthier you tend to be. If you are sedentary then you do not get any benefit from this hormone. Contracting your big muscle groups (chest, back, and leg muscles) on a regular basis maximizes secretion of irisin.

Exercising your big muscle groups with weights consistently will help your muscles secrete this hormone so that you burn fat more efficiently. Runners should not fret, because aerobic exercise also helps this hormone get secreted.

15. MOTS-c – The Power House Hormone 2, 3

MOTS-c is unique among hormones in that it is encoded in the DNA of mitochondria — the “powerhouses” of cells that convert food into energy. All other hormones are encoded in DNA of the nucleus. This hormone is one of the most recently discovered hormones. It primarily targets muscle tissue, where it restores insulin sensitivity, counteracting diet-induced and age-dependent insulin resistance. In animals studies it appears to reverse both diabetes and obesity.

Exercise on a regular basis, especially intense exercise, helps one make more mitochondria thus possibly increasing the levels of MOTS-c in the body.


All of these hormones have an influence on how efficiently you burn fat. They also do not require any pill, potion, or elixir to get secreted. All they need is a healthy lifestyle that has its foundation in appropriate nutrition, sleep, exercise, and stress management.


  1. Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink, Ph.D.
  2. https://pressroom.usc.edu/newly-discovered-hormone-mimics-the-effects-of-exercise/
  3. Cell Metab. 2015 Mar 3;21(3):443-54.

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