Hormones Are Tricky Devils

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If you’re working out hard, eating right, and STILL not losing any freaking fat, this post is for you.

Have you heard that hormones can affect your fat loss?

It’s true!

The first thing you need to know is what hormones are.  Here’s the definition: “A hormone is a chemical released by a cell or a gland in one part of the body that sends out messages that affect cells in other parts of the organism. Only a small amount of hormone is required to alter cell metabolism. In essence, it is a chemical messenger that transports a signal from one cell to another.

This means that a hormone just a little bit out of whack can derail all of your fat loss efforts!

It also means that slight adjustments of your hormones can have a profound POSITIVE effect on your body.

A really cool thing about hormones is that you can actually use the shape of your body to figure out which hormones are out of balance.

Once you know what the hormonal culprits are, I can help you figure out a plan to get back on track.

Love handles?  Insulin is messing with you.

Arm fat?  Testosterone is low.

Belly fat?  Too much cortisol.

Thigh and butt fat?  Estrogen levels are high.

Before I dig deep and expose these hormones for you, I want you to understand something important:  If you’re not exercising right and you eat like crap, don’t blame hormones.  These are the “final piece” of the fat loss puzzle.  Eat right and do metabolism boosting workouts before you start blaming hormones.

Rant over.  Now some specifics…

Hormone: Testosterone.

Too much? Almost never an issue.

Too little? Increased body fat, decreased lean muscle.

All right, pretty much everyone needs more testosterone.  (Don’t worry ladies, you won’t grow a mustache unless you take steroids!!)

To let you know how to increase testosterone, I want you to know how college kids “fake out” hormone tests to get prescription steroids.  See, if you get low test results, the doc can prescribe steroids and you don’t have to worry about legal issues.

So when a football player wants to artificially lower his testosterone levels, he will do four things: cut out protein, cut out fat, cut out sleep, start doing aerobics.

To NATURALLY increase your testosterone, just do the opposite: eat lots of protein, eat lots of fat, get more sleep, stop the aerobics and start lifting weights!

Hormone: Thyroid

Too much? Hard to put on muscle, weakness, fatigue

Too little? Fatigue, slow metabolism, increased body fat

If you want to fix your thyroid hormones, you first have to fix another hormone: Leptin.

Leptin’s primary purpose is to restore fat reserves when you eat.  This is to help prevent starvation during times of famine.  After checking fat reserves, leptin decides how much energy your body needs and where to send it.

When leptin drops, your brain gets a signal that it’s time to eat (this signal comes from the hormone ghrelin).  As you eat, leptin levels rise and your brain gets the signal to stop.

Not eating enough (or, more precisely, not getting enough NUTRITION from the food you eat) gets leptin to signal the thyroid to slow your metabolism in order to conserve energy.

Step one of optimizing your thyroid hormones: Eat enough food.  Starving yourself will just shut down your metabolism and make you gain fat.

Now, if leptin levels are too high, you can decrease leptin sensitivity and “fullness” signals won’t reach your brain and tell you to stop eating.  Overweight people actually have very high leptin levels, the problem is their hormonal receivers don’t recognize it any more.  (Like The Boy Who Cried Wolf, the receptors just stop listening)

All of this extra eating without feeling full leads to too many calories being consumed and then stored as fat.

It is really hard to overeat on “clean foods” so most extra calories come from junk foods: pop, candy, cookies, muffins, anything made with sugar, wheat, or soy.

Step Two of optimizing thyroid function is to only eat good foods (my rule is “only foods a caveman would have eaten)

Hormone: Insulin

Too much? Increased body fat, increased body weight, increased blood pressure, insulin resistance

Too little? Type-1 diabetes

Insulin is a Big Deal.  Look at health reporting in any major news network and you’ll hear about insulin again and again.

I’ve written about insulin before: Understanding Insulin

While insulin is necessary to keep you alive, insulin surges have a devastating impact on your body, including making fat loss almost impossible.

The number one way to get insulin under control is to CUT DOWN ON CARBOHYDRATES.

Your goal isn’t to get insulin down to zero, you need it to move nutrients around in your body.  Instead, you want to prevent the insulin surges that come with a rush from sugars or dairy proteins.

Just start replacing carb calories in your diet with vegetables, proteins, and fats, and you’ll get your insulin levels where they need to be for a great looking, healthy body.

Hormone: Estrogen

Too much? Increased body fat, increased body weight

Too little? Joint pain, health issues, slowed muscle building

When talking about estrogen, there is no simple 101 course.  Overly simplistic doctors just provide hormone pills that cause as much (or more) harm as good.

But for fat loss, there are 3 keys to taking control of estrogen.  They are:

1) Blood sugar management

2) Adrenal glands

3) The gastrointestinal system (including gallbladder and liver)

For blood sugar management, just follow the guidelines in the insulin section above.

The adrenal glands get messed up from constant stress – I think we all have that!  Simple things you can do to reduce adrenal fatigue are: get more sleep, take less stimulants, take time to relax, exercise (but not aerobics!!), and to eat fewer carbohydrates.

If your adrenal glands are overactive, you might have these symptoms:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Allergies
  • Excessive sweat
  • Gastric ulcers
  • Fatigue after meals
  • Sweets Cravings
  • Excessive urination

If your adrenals are underactive, you might notice these:

  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Dizziness when standing quickly
  • Blurred vision
  • Shakiness or lightheadedness between meals
  • Eating relieves tiredness
  • Salt cravings

Symptoms aside, getting a Salivary Adrenal Test is the best way to pinpoint what you need to fix.  (I could give blanket supplement recommendations, but you don’t mess around with adrenals.  Get the test done and I’ll help you :) )

And the third key for taking control of your estrogen levels is managing gastrointestinal health.

High fiber isn’t the cure-all here.  In fact, high fiber diets based on bran and grains may make your digestive system WORSE.  Ugh.

The best way to fix your bod is to eat organic vegetables and wild, grassfed meats.  The chemical changes that take place in chemically fertilized plants and corn- or grain-fed animals absolutely DESTROYS your gut health.

Take home message for estrogen: Cut out carbs, get adrenal levels tested, eat wild foods.

Hormone: Cortisol

Too much? Slowed metabolism, increased body fat, decrease in lean muscle

Too little? Almost never an issue

Mastering your cortisol is about mastering your stress.

Not just lifestyle stress, but also dietary and exercise stress. Don’t worry, you’re not the only one stressed out. Check out the Top Ten most prescribed drugs from 2008:

1. Lipitor – Cholesterol lowering medication. Cholesterol is often increased during times of stress.
2. Acetaminophen – Pain medication. Stress causes inflammation, which drives pain.
3. Acetaminophen – Pain medication.
4. Levothyroxine – Thyroid medication. Stress responses directly causes defects in thyroid hormone physiology.
5. Amoxicillin – Antiboitic. Stress negatively impacts our immune system, making us more prone to infection.
6. Lisinopril – High blood pressure medication. Stress is well known for causing or contributing to high blood pressure.
7. Nexium – GERD medication. Stress is a well known contributor to symptoms of “heartburn”, or gastroesophageal reflux.
8. Synthroid – Thyroid medication. Stress responses negatively impacts defects in thyroid hormone physiology.
9. Lexapro – Depression and anxiety. Stress obviously contributes to both depression and anxiety.
10. Singular – Asthma medication. Stress can induce asthma and makes the condition worse if someone already has it.


Ok, after that top ten list, here are Luke’s Top Three Ways To Reduce Cortisol:

1.  Cut out carbohydrates!  (notice a trend yet?)

2.  Get more sleep!

3. Stop doing aerobics, they are totally overstressing your body!  (use metabolic resistance training instead!)

All right!  This post was a lot more technical than usual, but I’ll be back with some crazy new exercises – and a BIG announcement! – in a few days.

Talk to you soon :)

~ Luke Wold

2 Responses to “Hormones Are Tricky Devils”

  1. Wold Fitness Notebook » Blog Archive » The Story Of Omega-3s Says:

    […] Well, they are essential to your hormonal functioning, which you need to get in balance if you want to be healthy and lose weight.  (Check out this post for more on hormones and fat storage: Hormones Are Tricky Devils) […]

  2. Wold Fitness Notebook » Blog Archive » Stress, Your Diet, And Weight Loss Says:

    […] stressed your body will release various chemicals and hormones including adrenaline and cortisol that prepare you for a fight-or-flight response.  These biochemical signalers increase your heart […]