What is Ghrelin?
It is a hormone produced in your gut that is called the “hunger hormone”. It travels through your bloodstream and your brain, and signals you to become hungry and seek out food.
Ghrelin’s main function is to increase your appetite, make you consume more food and store fat. It also affects your sleep/wake cycle, taste sensation, and how your body breaks down carbohydrates. The higher the levels, the fuller you feel and the easier it is to eat fewer calories.
When you are sleep-deprived the level of Ghrelin spikes which means you are going to be hungrier and may go over your calorie needs.
What is Leptin?
This is a hormone involved in regulating your appetite, metabolism, and calorie burning. Letin tells your brain when it is full, when it should start burning calories, and when it needs to create energy for your body to use.
During sleep, Leptin levels increase which tells your brain that you have plenty of energy for the time being. When you don’t get enough sleep you end up with too little Leptin in your body, which makes your brain think you don’t have enough energy. So, your brain will tell you that you are hungry even though you don’t actually need food at the time. It will then store the excessive calories that you eat as fat.
The decrease in Leptin (due to sleep deprivation) can result in a constant feeling of hunger. This will slow down your metabolism, making it difficult for you to lose weight.
How are Ghrelin and Leptin related?
Ghrelin stimulates appetite, while Leptin decreases it.
When the body is sleep-deprived, the level of Ghrelin spikes while the level of Leptin falls. This leads to an increase in hunger.
So, if Ghrelin is increased (it tells your brain that you are very hungry) and if Leptin is not balanced correctly, your body will have a difficult time knowing when it needs food and when it doesn’t.
As you can see…
If the two hunger hormones are not balanced properly this will throw off your hunger and ability to sense hunger cues correctly.
Leptin tells you that you are full, Ghrelin tells you to eat. When dieting you can down-regulate these hormones and also mentally shut your hunger cues off if you’ve dieted for too long. (Ghrelin decreases, leptin increases)
When you reverse diet you can increase your hunger hormones sensitivities and metabolic rate. This in turn increases your level of hunger.
Consistency is so important, especially when reverse dieting. Letting your body adapt and regulate is super important rather than just saying “I’m not going to eat because I’m not hungry.” Our bodies and metabolism adapt to what you give it, so over time, increasing your calorie intake may help to increase these hunger hormones.