Brain chemistry, metabolic regulation and appetite! What a combination of foods and macronutrients predispose you to fattening and sabotage your progress!
Calories are not everything
We all know that eating too many calories and burning too few leads to weight gain. But if that only makes you fat, why does lack of sleep and chronic stress have such a big impact on weight gain? They have no calories. You can't store them, but they have a big impact on how you store or burn fat. It also greatly affects hunger, motivation to train and appetite.
It is true that without excess calories you do not gain weight, and without caloric deficit you do not lose weight, but things are more complex than that. The body is a complex biological machine, and sometimes it turns your math equations upside down (by the way, if you're passionate about numbers, here's a simple way to calculate your daily caloric needs).
More than the will
The assumption that all overweight are lazy greedy is offensive. Yes, there are many, but not all! It does not mean that all those who do not have optimal results from diet and sports do not stick to work! Or those who can't control their eating behavior are greedy without the will that we have to put in the corner!
When you really look at the question "What makes you fat?", You will find that the lures are more complex than "eat less and exercise more."
Fattening and weight loss are multifactorial and specific. It's about everyone's genes, unique metabolic expressions, psychological sensitivities and even personal preferences. But there are also common themes!
Formula for fattening
The fattening formula even exists:
(G + C) x St = fattening.
G = many fats, C = many simple carbohydrates and St = stress. This is the recipe for disaster.
Calorie obsessions are already raging. Yes, you can gain weight by eating too much of anything, including broccoli with chicken breast, but it is almost impossible for any human being!
The combination of fats and sugars disrupts in mammals the normal metabolic regulation that occurs when eating either fatty or sugary foods. This combination is not only very rich in calories but causes a vicious circle that makes you constantly crave this combination. It alters brain chemistry in a way that disrupts the natural ability to regulate calories.
Fats + sugar = sabotage of the will
How it works: You have an appetite control center in the brain that is in the hypothalamus. There are chemicals that stimulate the appetite: neuropeptides Y (NPY) and Agouti-bound peptide (AgRP). And there is a chemical that suppresses food intake: proopiomelanokortin (POMC).
NPY and AgRP are like acceleration when feeding. I increase my appetite and make you eat. POMC is the brake! Hunger hormones ghrelin and leptin act through these chemicals.
Two different diets but with the same number of calories can have a different impact on these chemicals. The combination of many fats and many sugars short-circuits the hunger centers, resulting in a constant desire to eat!
Like an appetite stimulant
A study in the International Journal of Obesity looked at this problem in mice. The animals received a basic diet for a healthy mouse. Then they had additional access to fat, sugar or fat and sugar.
Let's say you would be in such an experiment, you would have a healthy diet and you would have additional access to cheese, bacon and other fatty foods. This would be the high fat group.
Or you may end up in the group with access to cotton wool, coke and other sugary foods, but without fat.
Or you may fall into the group with access to fats and sugar, ie foods such as cakes, pastries, ice cream, and other foods full of both macronutrients.
What do you think happened? Mice exposed to hyperpalatable foods did what we humans did: they ate a normal diet and then as much as they could from foods full of fat and sugar.
All three groups consumed excess calories and gained weight. But in 1-2 weeks, the groups with extra calories from fats OR sugars, self-regulated their caloric intake, decreased their calories eaten and adapted by reducing hunger.
This natural adaptation did not occur in the group that eats fats AND sugars in combination! In other words, a diet that combines a lot of fat with a lot of sugar leads to a loss of the ability to regulate appetite, just like taking a medicine that stimulates hunger.
It was observed that the group with additional fats and the one with the combination of fats / sugars had the same hormonal response (more precisely leptin, a hunger hormone, had the same response). So they looked for other hormones or nerve signals to cause this. They found that something in the combination of fats and sugars was communicated to the brain through the intestines and liver.
3 kg of fat in 7 days
Studies show that people, isolated in metabolic chambers and with unlimited access to hyperpalatable food (extremely tasty), do what mice do: they eat in a very large excess.
The subjects of these studies end up eating an average of 1000 calories more than the maintenance level and gaining, on average, 2.7 kg in a week. It is true that the metabolism also increases to burn more calories, but not nearly so much that it can compensate for the excess. Most studies of this kind have shown the same effect.
The stress factor
There is another very interesting piece in this whole story. Remember that the fattening formula also included stress. This is the icing on the cake!
When you say stress, you think of cortisol. If you have some deeper knowledge, you also think about catecholamines. And if you are a level 1000 expert, you are thinking of another hormone: NPY.
NPY is involved in the sensation of hunger transmitted by the brain, and is also secreted by the sympathetic nervous system during periods of stress. When you are under acute stress, you release more catecholamines and cortisol. When you are chronically erased you release more NPY.
And, unlike catecholamines and cortisol, catabolic hormones (burn fat), NPY makes you fat, especially when you are around cortisol. When you release NPY, fat cells transform from young, immature cells to mature adult cells. And cortisol makes the body more responsive to NPY. In other words, NPY leads to the proliferation of fat cells and cortisol amplifies its effectiveness.
Confused? Let me rephrase:
Continuous, chronic stress leads to the secretion of a unique mix of NPY and cortisol.
Cortisol combined with catecholamines, as with short-term stress, burns fat (including workouts are a stress on the body).
Cortisol combined with NPY, as in the case of continuous stress, increases the number of fat cells.
An interesting fact: even when you feed mice with high amounts of fat and sugar, obesity is not guaranteed. Add stress and BOOM, immediately induce obesity.
A final note on stress-based weight gain: very low-calorie diets increase cortisol and perceived psychological stress. Some researchers believe this is one of the reasons why low-calorie diets fail.
The formula for disaster
If you read carefully so far you have noticed something very interesting: a diet full of fat with the same number of calories as a diet with fats and sugars has different effects on metabolism. The metabolism adapts to extra fats by reducing hunger and this in just a few weeks. After adapting, you naturally eat less.
The combination of fats and sugars has the opposite effect, leading to unstable hunger continuously. Ironically, the change that takes place in the brain is almost the same as the change that occurs when the body goes through hunger.
These foods not only have a high calorie content but also change the way you perceive hunger and satiety. Causes hyperphagia (the medical term for continuous eating). When you add chronic stress, you get the perfect formula for gaining weight!
The solution? Obviously, don't follow the fattening formula! It does not count calories, but avoid foods that combine large amounts of fat with large amounts of simple carbohydrates and the metabolism (implicitly hunger) will regulate itself.