Unless you’re a medical professional, when hormones are brought up in conversation, most people initially think of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and occasionally thyroid — those typically associated with puberty, common medical conditions, menopause and hypothyroidism. However, there are many other hormones that play a key role in the day-to-day metabolic functions of the body.
While the players listed above are clearly crucial to your health, there are many other hormones that, when out of balance, can make it far more difficult to achieve your physical goals — whether you want to lose weight, improve your muscle quality or increase your stamina and endurance.
Obviously, if I were to mention every single hormone, this article would quickly turn into a novel, so I am going to focus on three hormones that can easily interfere with your progress.
Know Your Enemies
Yes, insulin is a hormone, a very potent and important hormone. If not well-regulated, it can have devastating effects on your system. Insulin secretion is regulated by food. Foods with higher amounts of simple sugars have a greater stimulating effect on insulin secretion, while foods that contain more complex carbohydrates and are richer in protein have lower levels of insulin secretion.
Why is this important? Insulin promotes the storage of glucose as glycogen, increasing the synthesis or production of triglycerides while at the same time inhibiting the conversion of fatty acids into keto acids and preventing the formation of glucose from amino acids. In other words, insulin’s role is to store fuel — whether it’s sugars into glycogen or fats into adipose tissue.
Unless you have discovered the key to inner peace and tranquility, at some point in your life, you have dealt with elevated cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone secreted during times of stress or duress as part of your fight-or-flight response. Cortisol spikes can be triggered by a job, relationship, stressful situation or simply from lack of sleep. Not only is it a highly inflammatory hormone, but cortisol also aims at increasing blood glucose levels during fasting states by using muscle-derived amino acids to create glucose. In other words, it consumes muscle for fuel. This can significantly affect your metabolic activity since your metabolic rate is dependent on lean muscle mass.
Know Your Allies
The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Glucagon is the antagonist to insulin. If insulin’s role is to store energy, glucagon’s role is to use our own energy stores as a primary source of fuel. This means that when you eat meals that are higher in protein and have lower amounts of sugar, which promote the release of glucagon, you are more likely to use fat as well as stored glycogen as a primary source of energy, thus promoting a healthy weight and preserving amino acids and protein, which will allow you to maintain your metabolism and energy.
10 Ways to Achieve Hormonal Balance and Promote Good Health
- Minimize all insulin-stimulating foods, including white sugar, processed flour and excess alcohol.
- Increase consumption of glucagon-stimulating foods, including proteins such as chicken, fish, turkey, cottage cheese, yogurt, lean red beef, eggs, hemp and protein powder (pea, rice or whey).
- Support your hormonal health with essential fatty acids. In addition to cold-water fish, nuts and seeds, it’s advisable to supplement with a distilled fish-oil supplement daily. You will love what it does for your hair, too!
- Stay hydrated. Drinking 2 liters of water per day is critical for energy, vitality and overall health. No excuses on this one. Just make it a habit.
- Drink green tea. In addition to boosting metabolism, green tea secretes an amino acid called L-theanine, which tends to have a calming effect.
- Exercise, there is no way around it. Exercise is by far one of the most effective ways to lower your cortisol response.
- Sleep well. A good night’s sleep can do wonders for proper cortisol secretion and weight loss. In fact, research has shown poor sleep quality to be associated with an increase in cravings and hunger, thereby leading to weight gain.
- Hug someone you love — whether it’s your child, hubby, friend or parent. Hugging naturally lowers your cortisol response.
- Meditate, pray or journal. While this may sound “out there” for some of you, I assure you, it works.
- Take time for you. Whatever it is that you love to do — walk, paint, spend time with friends — try to take at least 15 to 30 minutes per day for yourself.