The Role of Insulin, Glucagon, and Cortisol for Weight Loss and Weight Control.

Let's start with the hormone you've probably heard the most about: Cortisol. 

Your adrenals sit directly on top of your kidneys and are very important glands in your weight loss journey (see diagram below) .  Your adrenal glands are responsible for producing a hormone called cortisol, which can contribute to your weight loss or weight gain.  It is best that you understand the role that the hormone cortisol can play in your weight loss.

Learning about the different hormones and what their roles are may help you in your understanding of your own weight loss journey.  Your understanding can serve to promote your own effectiveness to your weight loss goals.  It can be the first step towards permanent and lasting change. 

Here are the hormones most closely associated with effective weight loss and their role in helping you to lose and/or maintain weight loss.  These are just very simple, and brief explanations to give you some idea of the role of each:


  • is a hormone from the adrenals and helps effectively utilize fuel.  If there is an excess of cortisol from too much stress, that causes us to block fat utilization.  Cortisol is absolutely necessary for life, but too much of it can hinder fat loss causing a continuous drain on proteins.  This is what can make cortisol a catabolic hormone.


  • is a the first fuel source preferred by the body.  Blood glucose usually lowers between meals and during/after exercise.
  • When the liver fills up with glucose (in the form of glycogen) and high levels accumulate the overspill ends up as fat.   The liver plays a central role in maintaining blood glucose levels.  Everything we ingest through breathing or through the skin will eventually find a pathway through to the liver to be filtered.  The liver is the body's primary detoxifier.  Your overall health depends on the function of the liver including proper metabolism and hormonal function.  It is also responsible for converting fats, proteins, and carbohydrates to energy and nutrients.  Maintaining a healthy liver means maintaining hormonal balance.  The liver is necessary for survival.


  • is a storage hormone which is released from the pancreas in response to an increase in blood sugar levels.  As long as insulin is being released even in minute amounts in response to sugar ingestion, fat loss is prohibited and fat storage is encouraged.   
  • The main role of insulin is to keep blood sugar levels in an acceptable range for the body (homeostasis).  The greatest increase in blood sugar levels (which in turn corresponds to the greatest increase of insulin) occur from the ingestion of carbohydrates, especially simple carbohydrates.  On the contrary, when blood glucose levels drop, so does insulin.


  • mirrors the effects on blood glucose by raising blood sugar levels should they get too low.  If insulin is too high this means that the glucagon cannot be released.  On the contrary, if insulin is too low (caused by not eating - which results in low blood sugar), this also prohibits the release of glucagon. 
  • The role of glucagon is to mobilize glucose, protein and fat in the body.  Think of glucagon as the key that goes into the fat cell, unlocks the fat and sends it to the muscle site to be burned by the muscle. 
  • This is why glucagon is important to you for fat loss because fat is the fuel source that you want to tap into to be burned by the body. 
  • When insulin levels are too high (eating a carbohydrate without a protein source to slow down the absorption into the bloodstream too quickly) OR too low glucagon production (not eating at all) is virtually non-existent.

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