Every few years there’s a subject or two that seems to really gain a lot of traction in the nutrition and fitness industry.
These past two to three years hormones have become a hot topic of discussion, especially when it comes to your inability to lose weight.
Hormones are chemical messengers that control most of your bodily functions ranging from regulation of your appetite all the way down to metabolism function and reproduction.
To say your hormones are important would be an understatement!
Unfortunately there’s a lot of people in the fitness industry calling themselves “hormone experts” taking advantage of the hormone craze and spreading poor quality information.
Here’s the thing that very people want to hear or talk about when it comes to hormones, you don’t have a ton of direct control over your hormones.
You can influence them with nutrition, lifestyle and exercise but contrary to what a lot of other people would make you think you can’t control your hormones with a specific diet or food.
What you can control though, are the habits that will positively influence your health and overall hormonal profile.
A lot of what we’re going to discuss today is going to leave you saying “Those all sound like your typical healthy habits.”
Someone who’s healthy (pending any specific health issues) will naturally have a more optimal hormone production.
Funny how that works, the same habits used to get healthy also promote an optimal hormonal profile too.
Some forms of hormonal dysfunction will be so severe it will require you to see an endocrinologist to correct.
If you think that might be you please get in contact with an endocrinologist, all the blogs in the world aren’t going to help you correct your hormones without help from a professional..
Ok let’s dive into the healthy hormone habits, why they’re important and the action steps you can take to start seeing the benefits of these.
Sleep deprivation has the ability to negatively impact a ton of you hormones. Inadequate sleep even in short bouts will make you more insulin resistant.
This insulin resistance negatively impacts your nutrient partitioning, and blood sugar regulation.
Inadequate sleep also interferes with normal functioning of your hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin. This can make managing hunger and appetite far more difficult.
After a couple poor nights of sleep you’ve likely found yourself with big energy and blood sugar crashes, accompanied by intense cravings and some impulsive food choices.
With chronic sleep deprivation you’ll have an upregulation of the stress hormones which which can make you more impulsive around food and steal the precursors for 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.
2. Don’t Diet Too Aggressively
Any long term calorie deficit for weight loss will cause drops in the active and usable thyroid hormone T3. With more aggressive dieting there will be bigger drops in the thyroid hormone T3.
With less available T3, thyroid function which is responsible for metabolism and calorie burn slows down.
Over time hunger hormones become dysregulated making you feel hungrier and less satisfied with the same amount of food.
This is the body’s way to try to get you to regain the body fat you’ve lost from dieting, and on a long enough timeline with aggressive dieting the sex hormones testosterone and estrogen will plummet as well.
Your Action: For most of you using a more moderate approach to weight loss will serve you better from a sustainable results, and hormonal perspective.
If you’re going to diet more aggressively make sure it’s only for short periods of time (4-6 weeks) and take breaks to bring your calorie intake backup to a maintenance.
You can increase calories with either a higher carb and calorie day once or twice during the week, or take full diet breaks where you increase calories for 1-2 weeks straight after a period of 8-12 weeks dieting.
Make sure you’re not always in a calorie deficit as it’s more likely to contribute the hormone dysfunction discussed above.
And as we’ve mentioned before, for most people, a simple approach to making consistent strategic changes to nutrition over time, without overwhelming strict and restrictive diets, generates the best results (that stick).
3. Eat Enough Carbs
You’ll hear a lot of people in the nutrition realm talk about how carbs aren’t essential, which is actually true.
However there’s a big difference between essential and optimal when it comes to nutrition.
When you eat the right kind and quantity of carbs for yourself as an individual that is going to be an optimal approach for you.
With the keto diet being so popular these days there’s a movement to make carbs out to be the bad guy, but that just isn’t the case.
Especially if you’re hitting the gym frequently, are stressed on a frequent basis or suffer from constipation.
When you hit the gym regularly with some Vigor Ground in your workouts and heavily restrict carbs you run the risk of having poor quality workouts where you run out of steam.
Because your body is looking to free up some form of the fast-acting fuel it will pump out more of the stress hormones.
An overproduction of the stress hormones can interfere with thyroid hormone conversion and rob you of the raw materials that would become sex hormones.
Because you have a limited supply of the raw materials to make hormones when the demand for stress hormones is much higher, the body prioritizes their production over other hormones.
Interestingly enough, carbs and spikes in insulin help to blunt the stress hormone cortisol.
If you ever diet aggressively on lower calories and carbs, then have a high carb day…chances are good you’ll drop some water weight and look leaner because of a drop-in stress hormones from the carbs.
Your Action: Eat enough carbs, and the right type of carbs to support and fuel your activity in the gym, recovery and make your approach to nutrition enjoyable and sustainable.
This doesn’t mean never have some low carb periods in a diet, but you don’t need to go full keto if you don’t want to. Carbs in the right amounts and kinds, support hormonal production and function.
4. Eat Enough Fat
Fat and cholesterol are the raw materials your body turns into lots of different hormones.
Cholesterol and dietary fat play an especially important role in the production of both sex hormones and stress hormones.
An extremely low-fat diet has shown to have an especially negative effect on testosterone in men, and cause disruptions in a woman’s monthly cycle.
Not to mention, extremely low-fat diets aren’t very enjoyable which should always be a consideration inside your nutrition plan.
Your Action: A good starting place is to have a minimum 20% of your total calories each day coming from fat, preferably more though.
When going lower than 20% of total calories from fat you do run a greater risk of hormonal dysfunction because you’re restricting the raw materials that your body uses to make hormones.
If you’re someone who uses more of a habit-based approach in your nutrition shoot for getting at least 1-2 thumbs worth of fats and oils at every meal.
5. Eat Lots Of Fibrous Vegetables
Fiber like that from vegetables binds to excess estrogen to remove it from the body, and can also help with insulin sensitivity.
When consuming more fiber it also promotes the production of the hormones that make you feel full and satisfied which helps with weight maintenance and not overeating.
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 new veggies every few weeks to keep things interesting.
When you read through these healthy hormone tips you’ll see that none of these are a magic bullet and they look similar to what someone would recommend to get healthy.
That’s exactly the point!
When you sleep enough and eating a healthy well balanced diet you’ll be well on your way to having a healthier hormonal profile.
The key, just like anything in your nutrition and fitness, is consistency.
Make these habits a part of your daily routine and not only will you get healthier but over time your hormonal profile will be much more likely to improve as well.
If you’re looking to improve your health and fitness and look, feel and perform better and you’ve been struggling to make changes with diets, overwhelming meal plans and advice that just doesn’t feel right for you, schedule a no strings attached free strategy session with our Precision Nutrition certified coaches, who can help you make and see a plan that is customized to you and fits your lifestyle and goes at your own pace. Click the link below to schedule your strategy session.