Weight loss is a common goal for many individuals, including those who enter our seasonal transformation challenges.
And, you might be surprised to learn that a significant number of individuals who embark on a weight loss journey actually do lose a fair amount of weight.
However, the reason that most diets “fail” is that a majority of individuals who do lose weight quite frequently regain the weight they lost as well as pack on a few additional pounds.
If this has happened to you in the past, and you’re tired of the up and down, zig-zagging numbers on the scale, then you’re in luck!
We’ve got the information you need for how to avoid rebound weight gain.
So, let’s get started!
It All Starts in the Gut
The human gut microbiome is an entity into itself.
Composed of a vast, intricate network of beneficial bacteria, the gut impacts everything from mood to cognitive function to hunger cues to metabolism, which means it has a profound impact on weight loss (and weight gain).
The bacteria in our gut are responsible for fermenting (“digesting”) the indigestible part of plant foods (i.e. fiber), which serves as food for the gut microbes.
From this fermentation, vitally important compounds called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), including butyrate, are produced which modulate immune function, enhance insulin signaling, and reduce appetite.
The gut also affects metabolism of macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fats).
In particular, the bacteria in the gut can suppress the enzyme lipoprotein lipase activity in fat cells which breaks down fatty acids in fat cells so that they can be oxidized (“burned”) for energy.
Lipase activity is high during periods of calorie restriction (as you might expect), since the body isn’t getting enough energy from food to meet its needs, it must turn to its energy reserves (body fat) to make up the difference.
Certain hormones, however, can suppress lipase activity, namely insulin which facilitates nutrient uptake into both muscle and fat cells.
The balance of bacteria in your gut has a huge impact on how these hunger, satiety, and metabolizing hormones work.
Concerning weight loss and rebound weight gain, we’re concerned with two classes of gut bacteria:
- High gene count (HGC), and
- Low gene count (LGC).
The high gene count bacteria includes:
- Anaerotruncus colihominis
- Akkermansia sp.
- Bifidobacterium spp.
- Butyrivibrio crossotus
- Faecalibacterium sp.
A gut microbiome rich in high gene count bacteria favors the production of butyrate, which promotes the growth of good gut bacteria, exert anti-inflammatory effects, and regulate immune function.
Research also indicates that high gene count gut microbiomes are also associated with lower body weight, better glucose and fat metabolism, greater gut barrier function, and lower rates of obesity and metabolic disorders.[1,2,3]
Low gene count gut bacteria include:
- Ruminococcus gnavus
Gut microbiome dominated by low gene count bacteria are known to be pro-inflammatory, and they are also associated with:
- Impaired fat metabolism
- Insulin resistance
- Higher body fat
- Leptin resistance
- Greater tendency to gain weight over time
Your Hormones Are Involved, Too
Leptin is a hormone released from fat cells that signals the hypothalamus in the brain to tell you when you’ve had enough food to eat. It plays a key role in regulating and modifying energy intake over the long-term (not just from one meal to the next).
Low leptin levels tell the brain that you need to eat, while high leptin levels signal to the brain that the body’s energy needs are satisfied.
However, in certain cases (extreme/prolonged dieting and/or obesity), leptin signaling can become impaired.
You may have experienced this for yourself if you’ve ever undertaken a very long period of calorie restriction. This chronic state of underfeeding can lead to chronically low levels of leptin, which means you feel hungry all the time, and it also takes you longer to feel full after eating.
Things get even more complicated as the human body adapts to this reduced energy intake by suppressing thyroid function, which lowers metabolic rate. This is expected to a certain degree as you lose mass when you diet, which means it takes less overall energy to maintain your size since you’re not carrying around as much weight as when you started the diet.
Still, this means that in order to maintain a deficit (and keep losing weight), you’ll have to continue to reduce calorie intake and/or increase physical activity levels (more cardio).
As the diet ends, leptin levels are very low as is body fat. This is the perfect storm for bingeing, and a pitfall many individuals fall into when they come off of a diet.
Their bodies are screaming for nutrition, but due to the low levels of leptin, it takes longer for them to realize they’ve had enough to eat, which can lead to overeating. More carbohydrates are also added back into the diet, prompting a greater release of insulin, which lowers fat burning (temporarily) and promotes energy storage.
Thyroid function is still suppressed in the early days after a diet, so metabolism will be lower.
We also can’t forget about the role the gut microbiome plays in weight loss and fat metabolism. Diet has a profound impact on the composition and concentration of the gut bacteria.
For instance, diets high in fiber-rich foods are known to lead to greater high gene count bacteria (the type associated with lower body mass and improved metabolic health).
And this really comes as no surprise, as diet has been and always will be, the key to successful, sustainable weight loss.
Let’s now look at what nutrients need to be prioritized to foster the optimal gut microbiome for weight loss, thus avoiding rebound weight gain.
What to Eat to Avoid Rebound Weight Gain
As we mentioned above, fiber plays a key role in gut health (and therefore, weight loss/maintenance) as it provides the “food” the gut bacteria need to survive and thrive.
As the gut bacteria ferments dietary fiber, it generates compounds called short-chain fatty acids, including:
These compounds support the gut and modulate certain genes that help defend against certain diseases.
The most important of the three SCFAs is butyrate, which supplies ~90% of the energetic requirements of the cells lining the colon. Butyrate also possesses anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, and antioxidant activities that support health and wellness.
Foods known to promote the production of butyrate include those rich in resistant starch and soluble fiber, which includes:
- Sweet potatoes
Polyphenols are bioactive compounds naturally occurring fruits, vegetables, and certain whole grains.
It’s known that polyphenols confer a number of beneficial effects on the body. Namely, they offer neuro-protection defending brain cells against oxidative stress and inflammatory injury.
Metabolites of polyphenols also can act as neurotransmitters crossing the blood-brain barrier and modulate the cerebrovascular system.
Recent studies are finding that a polyphenols-gut microbiome axis exists.
More specifically, the gut microbiota is necessary to breakdown polyphenols to obtain the active metabolites.
Furthermore, polyphenol metabolites produced by the gut bacteria can modulate microbiome composition and brain biochemistry (which impacts mood and stress response).
Polyphenol intake is also known to be associated with improved leptin signaling.
Foods high in polyphenols include:
- Citrus fruits
- Green tea
- Black rice
- Cocoa powder
- Dark Chocolate
- Olive Oil
Basically, we again return to the fact that maintaining a healthy body composition and losing weight boils down to eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins.
While diet lays the foundation for successful weight loss, having the right supplements can also accelerate the process and make it easier to adhere to.
1UP Gut Health Plus is a once-a-day dietary supplement formulated to support digestion, nutrient absorption and immune function while reducing gas and bloating. Each serving of Gut Health Plus contains a comprehensive digestive enzymes complex alongside a 13-strain probiotics complex. We’ve also included prebiotics to nourish beneficial bacteria in the gut.
- Sokol, H., et al. (2008). Faecalibacterium prausnitzii is an anti-inflammatory commensal bacterium identified by gut microbiota analysis of Crohn disease patients. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 105(43), 16731-16736.
- Everard, A., et al. (2013). Cross-talk between Akkermansia muciniphila and intestinal epithelium controls diet-induced obesity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110(22), 9066-9071.
- Delzenne, Nathalie M., et al. (2011). Targeting gut microbiota in obesity: effects of prebiotics and probiotics. Nature Reviews Endocrinology, 7(11), 639-646.
- Le Chatelier, E., Nielsen, T., et al. (2013). Richness of human gut microbiome correlates with metabolic markers. Nature, 500, 541-246.
- Faggioni, R., et al. (2000). Reduced leptin levels in starvation increase susceptibility to endotoxic shock. American Journal of Pathology, 156(5), 1781-1787.
- Filosa S, Di Meo F, Crispi S. Polyphenols-gut microbiota interplay and brain neuromodulation. Neural Regen Res. 2018;13(12):2055-2059. doi:10.4103/1673-5374.241429
- Ibars, M., et al. (2018). Seasonal consumption of polyphenol-rich fruits affects the hypothalamic leptin signaling system in a photoperiod-dependent mode. Science Reports, 8(1), 13572.