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With that said, I have to be clear that Ghrelin still has its value and should not be completely villainized. (A hormone rarely acts by itself or exerts a single effect in the body.)
Ghrelin doesn’t just signal hunger, but it also stimulates the secretion of growth hormone in the pituitary gland. Growth hormone has many beneficial effects. Growth hormone does the following (from Wikipedia):
- Increases calcium retention, and strengthens and increases the mineralization of bone
- Increases muscle mass
- Promotes lipolysis, or fat burning
- Increases protein synthesis
- Stimulates the growth of all internal organs (except for the brain)
- Plays a role in fuel regulation
- Reduces liver uptake of glucose
- Promotes gluconeogenesis in the liver (conversion of stored glycogen to blood glucose, especially during fasting)
- Stimulates the immune system
Also, ghrelin is essential for cognitive adaptation to environments — in other words, it helps enhance your awareness and acuity to things around you. And ghrelin is important to the learning process.
We should appreciate ghrelin’s stimulation of growth hormone during hunger, which is valuable if the goal is to burn fat, build lean muscle, heal tissues, increase or maintain bone strength, and strengthen the immune system.
Before each meal you normally eat, ghrelin is released, which triggers the associated hunger. So, to eliminate hunger during fasting, you’d have to skip the normally scheduled meal for a period of time so the body learns to suppress ghrelin (feeding schedule adaptation).
But since ghrelin still offers benefits, it might be a good idea to actually encourage the production of ghrelin by using a random Intermittent Fasting schedule. Instead of skipping the same meals all the time, once in while skip meals that you normally eat. This way, in hunger, ghrelin may have a chance to stimulate the production of growth hormones. (I imagine our primal ancestors had little choices of when they ate — which helped them develope positive adaptations we now understand as health benefits.)
Personally, I usually skip breakfast and lunch and don’t eat until about 4 or 5PM. Although I keep mostly with this fasting schedule for ease and familiarity, occasionally I’ll eat breakfast and lunch and skip dinner. This may enhance the growth hormone pulse released at night, when most cell reparation happens. In the morning I might do a quick workout to stimulate even more growth hormone.
The idea is to develop a regular intermittent fasting schedule that makes life easier, but now and then surprise the body by changing this fasting schedule to take advantage of ghrelin and the resulting growth hormone.
It’s OK — and perhaps good — to be hungry once in a while.