When you're not a medical professional and think of hormones in conversation, most people first think of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and occasionally thyroid – those typically associated with puberty, common illnesses, menopause, and hypothyroidism. However, there are many other hormones that play key roles in the body's daily metabolic functions.
While the players listed above are clearly critical to your health, there are plenty of other hormones that can unbalance your physical goals – whether you're looking to lose weight, improve your muscle quality, or improve your stamina and endurance.
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If I were to mention every single hormone this article would quickly turn into a novel, so I'm going to focus on three hormones that can easily affect your progression.
Know your enemies
Yes, insulin is a hormone, a very powerful and important hormone. If not well regulated, it can wreak havoc on your system. Insulin secretion is regulated by food. Foods with higher amounts of simple sugars have a stronger stimulatory effect on insulin secretion, while foods that contain more complex carbohydrates and are higher in protein have lower insulin secretion.
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Why is that important? Insulin promotes the storage of glucose as glycogen, increases the synthesis or production of triglycerides and at the same time inhibits the conversion of fatty acids into keto acids and prevents the formation of glucose from amino acids. In other words, the job of insulin is to store fuel – whether it's sugar in glycogen or fats in adipose tissue.
If you haven't discovered the key to inner peace and tranquility, at some point in your life you will have dealt with elevated cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is released as part of your fight or flight response during times of stress or compulsion. Cortisol spikes can be triggered by a job, relationship, stressful situation, or simply a lack of sleep. Not only is it a highly inflammatory hormone, but cortisol also aims to increase blood sugar levels during fasting by using muscle-derived amino acids to create glucose. In other words, it uses muscle for fuel. This can significantly affect your metabolic activity as your metabolic rate is dependent on muscle mass.
Know your allies
The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Glucagon is the antagonist of insulin. If the job of insulin is to store energy, then glucagon's job is to use our own energy stores as the main source of fuel. This means that when you eat high-protein, lower-sugar meals that promote the release of glucagon, you are more likely to use both fat and stored glycogen as your primary energy source, promoting a healthy weight and maintaining the amino acids and proteins that give you allow you to maintain your metabolism and your energy levels.
10 ways to achieve hormonal balance and promote good health
- Minimize all insulin stimulating foods, including white sugar, processed flour, and excess alcohol.
- Increase your consumption of glucagon-stimulating foods, including proteins like 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 is advisable to supplement with a distilled fish oil daily. You will love what it does for your hair too!
- Drink enough. Drinking 2 liters of water a day is critical to energy, vitality and general health. No excuses for that. Just make it a habit.
- Drink green tea. Not only does green tea boost your metabolism, but it also secretes an amino acid called L-theanine, which tends to be calming.
- 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 that poor quality sleep is linked to an increase in cravings and hunger, leading to weight gain.
- Hug someone you love – whether it's your child, husband, boyfriend, or parent. Hugging naturally lowers your cortisol response.
- Meditate, pray or keep a journal. While this sounds "out there" to some of you, I assure you that it works.
- Take time for yourself. Whatever you enjoy doing – going for a walk, painting, hanging out with friends – try to set aside at least 15 to 30 minutes a day.