A recent study, published in the Journal of Endocrinology, shows that limiting our access to unhealthy foods increases the level of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, but increases also our motivation to work out. The study reveals that although the level of the food-requesting hormone has increased after a period of fastening, it is the same one that determined guinea pigs to initiate voluntary eating behaviors. These new discoveries suggest that a better diet control, such as, for instance, limiting our food intake or periodic fastening, could help overweight people stick to a more effective workout routine, lose weight and avoid debilitating complications such as diabetes and heart diseases. In other words, when we are hungry, some physical exercises would help us not to nibble everything we find in the fridge! Besides, it would help us stay active, it would help us feel alive, and, I kid you not, it would help us want to live a better life!

Food restrictions and physical exercises 

Obesity develops very quickly, makes victims even amongst children, and its social consequences are also increasing. Food restrictions and regular exercise are two valuable strategies for preventing and treating obesity. As we all know, this condition is most often associated with a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating habits, such as snacking, sugary juices and binge eating. Due to a long-term lack of exercise, it could be even difficult for someone who suffers from obesity to decide and to stick to regular exercise regime. We can also add the lack of motivation, as most often the obese patient feels at peace with his condition and has given up the will to fight for a healthy condition. 

The hunger hormone and its role?

Ghrelin, also known as "the hunger hormone", is the one that stimulates appetite, sending signals to the brain, through which it stimulates the need for food. The higher the level of this hormone is, the bigger the appetite. The lower the level, the fuller you feel, and the easier for you it is to consume a smaller amount of calories.

Within this study, published in The Journal of Endocrinology, Dr. Yuji Tajiri and his colleagues from the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Kuruma, Japan, have investigated the connection between ghrelin and exercise in mice. A comparison between food intake and wheels rolling activity has been made in two groups of mice, some of them had unrestricted access to food, whilst some of them were fed only twice a day, for a limited period of time. Although both groups received a similar quantity of food, those mice who were fed less have rolled more. 

An appetite for food or for exercise?

These discoveries suggest that ghrelin can play an important part both as far as motivation for eating is concerned, as well as motivation for exercising, as an answer to restrictive eating plans. According to Dr. Tajiri's declaration: "Our conclusions suggest that hunger, which stimulates ghrelin production, can also be involved in increasing the motivation to exercise when the eating process is limited. Consequently, maintaining a healthy eating routine, combined with physical exercise, would improve the condition of overweight patients".

How to diminish ghrelin and hunger

  • Ghrelin seems to be a hormone which cannot be controlled with medicines, diets or supplements. However, there are a few things that you can do in order to keep it at a healthy level.
  • Avoid extreme weight: Both obesity and anorexia modify the level of ghrelin.
  • Sleep well: not getting enough sleep increases the level of this hormone.
  • Increasing your muscle mass through exercise: higher masses of lean muscles are associated with lower levels of the hunger hormone.
  • a diet that is rich in protein reduces the hunger levels, hence the level of ghrelin.
  • Maintain a stable weight: Drastic weight fluctuations and yo-yo diets stop the activity of key hormones, including ghrelin.
  • Alternating calories intake: Periods of higher caloric intake can reduce hunger hormones and can increase leptin. A specific study revealed that a 29% to 45% higher caloric intake over a period of two weeks decreased the ghrelin level by 18%.

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Text: Mihaela Moldoveanu