6 Hormones That Affect Weight

A look at the 6 hormones that can cause weight gain, plus tips for hormonal balance!

6 Hormones That Affect Weight
Photo by i yunmai / Unsplash
8 min. read 2/11/2022, 4:46 PM

Sometimes you can be doing everything right but nothing seems to be quite working. Your results have completely stalled or worst-case scenario, you're actually gaining weight! Although there are many reasons you're no longer building muscle or losing weight, there might be more at play... your hormones.

Hormones play an important role in maintaining many important processes within the body, such as metabolism and reproduction. Having an imbalance in hormones, either too much or too little, can affect your health in various ways, some can actually affect your fitness goals.

There are six hormones that can impact your fitness life, so we're going to give you the details on all of them! So, you can learn more about them and how to keep these hormones balanced so that they don't get in the way of your fitness goals...

Can hormone imbalance cause weight gain?

Yes! You can be following a balanced diet, have a great workout plan, and be doing everything you should be doing... but if your hormones are imbalanced they can be causing weight gain as opposed to burning fat.

Sudden weight gain is actually the most common sign of hormonal imbalance because of the significant impact your hormones have on your metabolism. So, when these tiny messengers in your body are not balanced, they start working in ways they shouldn't be!

Other symptoms of hormonal imbalance are fatigue, headaches, mood swings, acne, foggy memory, trouble sleeping, and an irregular menstrual cycle. A hormonal imbalance can be serious and be due to a related health issue, so if you feel you may have one, consider visiting your healthcare professional for more information.

6 fat-making hormones

When it comes to hormones and weight gain, there are six that you should look out for... we've put together information about their roles in the body, plus a few ways you can try to balance these hormones out so that they stop impacting your fitness goals!


Adiponectin is produced in the fatty tissue adipose. Its role is to regulate glucose levels and breaks down fatty acid - so essentially it helps burn fat. This is a fat-burning hormone that you want more of, not less. Studies show that decreased levels of this hormone play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes and obesity.[1]

If you're struggling with weight loss and fat loss then most likely adiponectin is the culprit. Two reasons why your body may not be producing this hormone enough are: consuming too many calories and/or eating a diet high in fats (specifically unhealthy fats like trans-fat). This is why eating a balanced, healthy diet is so important! Overeating and eating unhealthy fats causes insulin resistance which lowers the body's ability to synthesize and produce adiponectin. This also messes with how your muscle's ability to use carbohydrates as energy, which they need to function properly!

To boost the adiponectin level focus on eating within your calorie limit and eating healthy fats - limit trans-fats! Another thing that may help is drinking green tea! Drinking a cup of green tea daily can help boost your metabolism, balance your blood sugar level, and help with reducing body fat.

Adiponectin is the one hormone you definitely want your body to make more of... But let's talk about the ones we want to lower.


Leptin is produced by your fat cells and is often referred to as the satiety hormone. Its main purpose is to regulate fat storage and the number of calories consumed and burned. When you have enough fat stored, the fat cells use leptin to signal to your brain that you're full. This prevents you from eating more so you can burn calories at a normal rate. So, high levels of leptin tell your brain that enough fat is stored, low levels mean fat stores are low and it will signal to your brain that you need to eat. However, too much leptin is not always good...

Most people assume that those who are overweight or obese must have higher leptin levels which result in eating less and losing weight. Well, that's not really the case, and that's thanks to leptin resistance. Leptin resistance is when the signaling is impaired, this may be a result of high insulin levels. This means that they have enough energy stored in their fat cells, but their brain is not receiving the signal. So in their mind, they're still starving which drives them to eat more.

To decrease body fat and leptin levels limit inflammatory foods, like sugary foods and drinks, and trans-fat. Exercising can help with leptin sensitivity, so try to exercise regularly. Lastly, get enough sleep! Not getting enough sleep can drop your leptin levels and increase appetite.


This hormone has very little to do with what you eat and has almost everything to do with how stressed you are. When you get really stressed this hormone spikes and causes your body to store more fat. That's why it's known as the stress hormone.

But how does stress lead to weight gain? Well, chronic stress leads to high circulating cortisol levels which can turn off certain hormones that control appetite and weight gain. Symptoms of high levels of cortisol are fatigue and blood sugar imbalance. This can lead to unhealthy food cravings and overeating, which will mess with your dieting efforts.

It gets worse...

Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands. Secreted cortisol can slow down the production of the hormone testosterone and over an extended period, it can lead to something called adrenal fatigue. The adrenal fatigue and testosterone loss create a catabolic state in the body. Your body starts to wear down on bone and muscle mass... and it starts storing fat. Your body starts to store fat because the reduction of lean body tissues slows down the body's metabolism which leads to elevated insulin and insulin resistance. Now you can understand why keeping your stress levels balanced is extremely important, especially if you don't want to gain weight or belly fat!

Life is stressful for almost everyone. BUT what you can do is just take a few deep breaths when you are stressed and have a moment of reflection. Also, make sure to practice self-care regularly. Taking care of this will not only help you to lower cortisol levels, but it is also a good way to let yourself glow!


Insulin is the energy storage hormone, or as I like to call it, the fat-storage hormone. That's because it helps your cells use the macronutrients from the foods you eat as energy, but then it stores whatever is leftover (mostly fats) as storage. It tells your fat cells to store fat and then prevents that fat from being broken down!

Insulin is secreted in small amounts throughout the day and in larger amounts after eating a meal - to control the level of glucose in your blood. Overeating foods high in fats, sugars, and refined carbs will drive insulin resistance and skyrocket your insulin levels. That is something you definitely want to avoid!

The best way to avoid this hormone is by cutting out as much sugar as possible. A few hidden sugars to avoid are juice, granola, coconut water, iced tea, and even some protein bars.

Another reason Insulin levels rise is snacking. Eating constantly throughout the day will cause your body to constantly be releasing insulin. An easy solution for this is to stick to the normal 2-3 meals/day.


This hormone is produced by your stomach cells... Can you guess what its nickname is? The hunger hormone! When your stomach is empty ghrelin is released and sends a signal to your brain telling you to eat. Ghrelin levels are typically the highest before a meal and the lowest after a meal.

But what else can trigger ghrelin levels to rise?? Being on a diet! When you reduce your calorie intake your body's natural response is to protect it from starvation. So, the level of ghrelin rises and triggers an increase in appetite. Not only that, but your leptin levels decrease! This makes it hard to lose weight, but especially maintain the weight off.

The best way to control your hunger hormone levels is by eating foods rich in protein and avoiding sugar. Protein is known to keep you full longer so your hunger hormone levels are low.


Estrogen is a female sex hormone that is mainly produced in the ovaries. Estrogen does NOT equal fat gain, but too much estrogen from your diet DOES make your body gain fat, especially around the hips

So, what foods have estrogen in them?

Well, the simple answer is GMO. Many GMO foods have been treated with products that are very estrogenic. So the fix for this one is to make sure you’re eating organic foods like cruciferous vegetables and high fiber foods. Doing this will keep your estrogen levels normal and keep your body from holding on to extra fat.

Make an effort to keep your hormones balanced

If you struggle with weight loss then it's most likely because your system of hormones is not working properly. Try the tips we mentioned above to see if it helps you start driving results again! However, if you're not seeing the results you want in a few months, consider speaking to a healthcare professional so they can determine a hormonal imbalance and further help you.