Hobbit, I’m eating all the fat why am I still hungry? This issue isn’t unusual. It has to do with a hormonal imbalance that is exacerbated by insulin resistance in about 20% of the population. That hormone is ghrelin, a very important gut hormone that is rarely talked about – mostly because there’s still a lot we don’t know about it. People all over social media tell you “fat is satiating” and “eat more fat, it will make you full,” What if it doesn’t? What are they missing? We talked about asking “why” in a recent post here on SCMH. This is one of those cases where you should ask “why.” Sometimes the first advice you get online isn’t the best.
Now, if you are one of the people that are eating 3x a day, hitting your macros exactly, and still want to chew your arm off, slathered in butter, with a side of bacon… this video is for you. If you want to read about it, keep going below the video link.
I saw a thread in a group (not our groups) the other day. A woman posted that she was eating 3 full meals a day on keto, hitting her macros, and was still stupid hungry. I’m sure you can anticipate the responses…
“EAT MORE FAT! You’re not eating enough fat!”
No. NO. You can’t just do that. You have no idea what she’s actually eating, how much, and what health issues she might have. Sorry folk, EAT MORE FAT isn’t always the answer! Yes, keto is low carb\high fat, but that refers to the ratios and balance of the macros: the fat macro is the highest percentage, carbs the lowest. This doesn’t mean that fat is free and you can eat all that you want. We know this. We’ve talked about this. I’ve posted about it. Calories matter. Fat levels matter. Yes, fat is a throttle, but just like driving down the freeway in your car, if you floor it, it’s not going to end well. And, if you have something wrong with your car, it really isn’t going to end well. Guess what, some people have something broken in them. Flooring the fat isn’t going to help, it’s going to hurt.
There was a great book published in 2011, The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living by Drs Phinney and Volek. long to be considered the “LC\Keto Bible.” Yeh, it is that good. Here’s the thing about it, there’s been more research done – a lot more – since it came out. This book is still accurate, I’m not saying it isn’t, but it is more generalized and doesn’t touch on the fact that you are unique, just like everyone else. That means that what works for someone who got their guide from the book, might not work for you because you are different. Some people read the book, then researched more on the subject. Some people just read this book. Some people skimmed the book or didn’t really comprehend everything. Those people are the ones giving out advice that might not be the best for you. Skimming this book and coming away with “eat all the fat, fat solves everything” is like skimming the religious Bible and coming away with “apples are evil, two loaves of bread will feed the world, and zombies are real.” No.
So why can’t I eat all the fat if I’m still hungry? Please Hobbit, explain.
I thought you’d never ask :). While the human body really is a life-support system for the brain, it is also a massive hormone factory. In the simplest definition, hormones are messengers in the body. They communicate with different parts of the body to tell it what to do. We know about the hormone insulin. It is the messenger for the metabolism. It starts ramping up when it is feeding time. As it circulates around the body, it’s knocking on the doors of organ and muscle cells, kinda like this:
“Hey cell, it’s me, Insulin.”
“Hey Insulin, what’s shakin’?”
“Dude, I’ve got some energy for you!”
“It’s about time, damnit! I’m running low. Where the hell have you been?”
The cell opens, energy in the form of glucose or ketones enter the cell, that insulin hormone goes away, tells the liver it made the delivery, the liver says “ok, then we can stop production for now,” and all is good.
In someone that is insulin resistant, the conversation is different:
“Hey cell, it’s me, Insulin.”
“Hey Insulin, how can I be sure it is you’?”
“Dude, I’ve got some energy for you, open up”
“I’m not sure I trust you. Do you have ID? Can you come back later?”
“Dude, you need this stuff. Open the hell up!”
“I’m not really comfortable with this. I’ll just take a little and make sure it is safe.”
“WTF. Seriously? What the hell am I supposed to do with the rest of this stuff?”
“Sorry Insulin, not my monkey, not my circus. Go figure it out yourself.”
The cell opens, but only takes a little energy in the form of glucose. The insulin hormone is still there… and so is the leftover glucose. The liver thinks that means it needs to keep up production and pushes more glucose out there. Insulin says “crap, where am I going to put all this stuff? The cells won’t take any more :(. Oh, I know, those fat cells love this stuff, they NEVER say no.” And yup, off it goes to be stored as fat. So, when you are insulin resistant, not only are you storing fat, you aren’t getting enough energy either, which is one of the reasons when you are obese, you lack the energy to do anything.
So, this fat thing is about insulin? No. I used insulin as the example because it is the one hormone that most people have heard about and know it has a relationship with their eating and health. We are going to talk about a hormone that not many talk about – ghrelin. Ghrelin is a hormone we are just starting to learn about. It is a gut hormone. Yeh, it lives down there :). Ghrelin’s known function is to tell HGH – Human Growth Hormone – to start ramping up production. HGH tells muscles and cells that it is time to repair, rebuild, and replicate. HGH does something else, it shoots up to the brain and says “I need POWAH! GIVE ME FOOD!” Right, it stimulates appetite and makes you have the feeling of hunger. Here’s the kicker, ghrelin gets its primary signal from… wait for it….
Saturated fats. So when it detects fatty acids, it starts ramping up so it can tell HGH that it has some building blocks heading its way. The problem is, if you are insulin resistant, there’s a good chance that you are also over-producing ghrelin because it gets ITS signals from insulin levels over time in the blood. Over-producing ghrelin not only gives HGH the false impression that it needs to stimulate more cell growth, it is also going to tell the brain that it is FREAKING STARVING. HGH goes back to leptin – the hormone that tells us we can stop eating – and tells it to STFU, then tells ghrelin BRING IT ON!
So here you have the perfect storm for obesity – insulin storing fat, dietary fat making you want to eat more, HGH making increasing the size or making more fat cells to store energy, and partially informed people telling you to eat more of the thing that is causing some of your problems. So, what is the answer? Well, the simple answer is by reducing our insulin resistance, we can help balance out our hormonal imbalance. Simple, but is it easy? It can be. The best way to start to reduce your insulin resistance is a two-prong attack: ketones and muscles. Right, we aren’t done yet.
Ketones – as we know know, I hope – is the body’s alternate source of fuel in the absence of sufficient glucose. The liver , using a complex metabolic process will break down fatty acids (either from what you eat or from what you have stored in your butt, belly, and jowls) to make ketones. This process in itself is a bit more energy-intensive than converting carbs to glucose, so we get a small calorie burn bump from the process. What we really get is a way to burn off our body fat. The beauty of ketones are, if the body doesn’t need them, it gets rid of them. It pees them out, and it is going to try to only make what it needs, no more. This is good, this is bad. The good is: burning body fat makes us look and feel better. The bad is: if we aren’t using them or producing them, we aren’t burning fat (which is why ketone supplements don’t help you like they say the will). This means we need to find a way to burn more energy (ketones) so that we can mobilize more body fat. How? Building muscles. Each pound of muscle in your body burns 6kcal an hour. The more muscles you have, the more energy you burn just existing, that isn’t even taking into consideration USING those muscles, which also burns energy. If we are burning more energy in the form of ketones, then we need to make more ketones. Right, from our body fat. If we are using more energy consistently, cells start to heal and our insulin resistance declines – up to 11% for every lb of added muscle mass. How do we make muscles? Not cardio. Move heavy things. Not a lot, you don’t have to hit the gym for hours a day, every day. 20 minutes of body weight exercise every other day will get the job done. Honest, I’m proof.
So Hobbit, what is the TL:DR version of this? If you are still hungry after eating a normal keto diet, eating more fat might not be your solution. Move heavy things. Eat intelligently. Forgive yourself. Love yourself. Ok, so those last two ones aren’t above, but they are still important. 🙂