Every now and then hot topics come up in nutrition and health that really seem to spark a ton of interest, in the past it was ketogenic diets and fasting.
This year though there’s another hot topic that seems to be a main interest for everyone under the sun.
Hormones tell the body what to do and are massively important. They’re responsible for are responsible for everything from the regulation of you appetite to the amount of calories your burn and ability to build muscle.
There’s also a good amount of bullshit being put out about hormones too, sometimes the people are misguided and others you can tell it’s a grab for money.
Here’s the thing that most people won’t tell you, we have very little control over our hormones.
You see the things is your hormones are released from glands, and unlike other reaction the body will somewhat pick up where it left off and brings things back to baseline.
The glands that make your hormones don’t work like this unfortunately. They will kind of forget how to do their job, and not pick up the slack if you’ve tanked your hormone production.
It’s much easier to push our hormones into a poor deficient state than it is to bring them back to a normal baseline with strictly nutrition and lifestyle habits.
So you can’t directly control your hormones, but what you can control are the habits that will impact your overall hormonal health.
If you learn how to avoid these negative hormonal states with your nutrition and lifestyle then that ounce of prevention is worth pounds in worthless herbs and supplements.
A lot of what we’re going to cover today will help you develop an “optimal hormone checklist” for avoiding lifestyle preventable hormonal dysfunction.
There’s going to be many forms of hormonal dysfunction you need to see an endocrinologist to correct, so if that’s where you think you are please get in contact with one of them as that will help you far beyond the scope of this blog.
Not a doctor, never pretended to play one on T.V either.
A lot of these habits we’re covering today are exactly what you use to get healthier.
Someone who’s healthy (pending any dysfunction) will naturally have more optimal hormone production, funny how that works, health and hormones go hand in hand.
Ok let’s dive into the habits that will help you get things moving in the right direction:
Sleep deprivation impacts your blood sugar regulation hormone insulin and interferes with normal function of your hunger hormones Leptin and Ghrelin.
Who hasn’t had a couple crappy nights of sleep and found themselves with big blood sugar crashes and intense cravings with feeling less satisfied after meals. That would be the hunger hormones and insulin at play.
Not only that but with sleep deprivation you interfere with the stress hormone cortisol’s normal rhythm, and lead to an overproduction which can impact sex hormones.
Your Action: Get 7-9 hours of sleep per night, trying to get to bed before midnight is a good idea to ensure that you have adequate time in bed and enough deep sleep cycles.
We know from studies that any long term calorie restriction will cause drops in the active and usable thyroid hormone T3 which does slow down fat loss as your thyroid plays a big role in metabolism and calorie burn.
Over time this same form of dieting causes a dysregulation in the hunger hormones as the body’s way of trying to get you to regain fat and bring things back into balance.
Aggressive dieting can also cause more cortisol to be released, and a byproduct to make that extra cortisol the body will use the raw materials that would otherwise become other hormones in essence “robbing” those other hormones.
Your Action: Diet at a pace that’s right for you, it might include some shorter more aggressive dieting periods, but don’t push it too hard for too long with an aggressive deficit.
Make sure you’re not always in a calorie deficit as it’s more likely to contribute the hormone dysfunction discussed above.
While I’ve heard a lot of people (myself included in the past) say carbs aren’t essential what we failed to recognize is there is a big difference between essential, and optimal.
When you eat the right kind and quantity of carbs for yourself as an individual that is optimal, and for some people that may be lower carb but not everyone.
When you hit the gym pretty regularly with some vigor in your workout and heavily restrict carbs you run the risk of excess cortisol production, which can interfere with the thyroid hormones and cause some hormonal precursor “robbing” and negatively impact the metabolism.
Interestingly enough carbs, help to blunt the stress hormone cortisol which is why some who diet aggressively then have a high carb day can flush water they’ve been holding and wake up lighter and leaner looking.
Your Action: Eat enough carbs to support and fuel your activity, recovery and keep you regular on the porcelain throne.
Choose natural whole forms of carbs for the most part and eat them in the right amounts for you as an individual. This doesn’t mean never have some low carb times in a diet, but you don’t need to get too extreme with it either to see results. You can lose fat and still have carbs in your nutrition plan.
Fat and cholesterol make up the raw materials your body turns into many of the different hormones, most notably the stress and sex hormones. This has been especially noted to have an effect on testosterone in men.
In men lower fat intake is correlated with lower circulating testosterone and greater amounts of a hormone that binds testosterone and makes it unusable in men.
Your Action: A good starting place is to have at least 20% of your total calories come from fat. When going lower than 20% of total calories from fat you do run a greater risk of hormonal dysfunction.
Let's be honest, no one ever got less healthy eating more vegetables, so even if not for your hormones eating more vegetables is a great move for your overall health.
Fiber such as that from vegetables binds to excess estrogen to remove it from the body, and can also help with insulin sensitivity.
Certain vitamins and minerals most notably zinc and iodine can have an impact on thyroid and circulating levels of sex hormones in men.
Both of these claims need more studies and evidence to say they for sure have an effect but there is some limited studies that suggest there’s positive effects.
Your Action: Aim for 4-6 servings of vegetables per day from a wide variety of vegetables that are different colors and textures. Try to get out of your normal routine and experiment with a new veggies every few weeks to keep things interesting.
In Part 2 of this blog we’re going to be discussing exercise, taking breaks from diets and much much more to help you optimize your hormones, stay tuned!