What most people fail to realize about their health, is how influential certain key hormones are in weight loss. The five critical weight loss hormones are: cortisol, insulin, thyroid, testosterone in men, and progesterone in women. From excessive stress to overeating, these chemicals can have a large effect on metabolism, counteracting dedicated dieting and fitness efforts. Imbalance of hormones can impact each person differently, but it will likely throw off even the most proven weight loss methods.
Cortisol is the body’s reaction to stress. From mental stress and emotional stress to physical stress and environmental stress cortisol is produced as a result. Generally released during the “fight or flight” response system, an extended period of cortisol will start to negatively impact metabolism. Sometimes high intensity workouts will contribute to an already stressed body, creating unhealthy levels of cortisol. A week of chronic stress is not the best time to use this type of training and lowered intensity can assist the body to recover from elevated cortisol levels. During these periods, recovery-focused activities can help to lower stress while staying active, returning cortisol to healthy levels. It’s also recommended to use medication, guided breathing or simply catching up on sleep to lower Cortisol.
Insulin is the pancreas’ response to increased glucose levels in the blood, allowing the body to process energy or store it for later use. Normally, small insulin levels are beneficial as it allows the body to regulate fat effectively, but when this hormone is continuously released over long periods of time, a resistance forms and the body begins to react differently. This built up immunity to insulin leads to decreased metabolism yielding higher fat retention and increased inflammation. The best way to curb insulin resistance is to eat balanced meals, never over eat and maintain a proper exercise balance with some high intensity training. Since HIIT carries the risk of elevating cortisol, it should be limit to only a few sessions per week coupled with lower intensity recovery-focused exercise. This combination will allow for a healthy amount of both cortisol and insulin.
Thyroid hormone, from the throat’s thyroid gland is the hormone most responsible for affecting metabolism rates in the body. The initial hormone created is thyroxine4 and is metabolically inactive; to regulate metabolism it must be converted into thyroxine3. Too often, people are mislabeled as possessing a hypothyroid when in reality, they have a perfectly functioning thyroid, but their thyroxine4 is not converted to thyroxine3 at normal rates. This results in doctors assigning drugs to fix the problem, when there are other factors to consider before resorting to prescriptions. The first step to counteracting lowered levels of thyroxine3 is through cardiovascular exercise which has a positive effect on thyroid hormones. It has been shown that increased cardiovascular intensity can return thyroid hormones to a healthy state over time.
Testosterone is the main sex hormone in men while Progesterone is the main sex hormone in women. Lowered testosterone in men results in a loss of energy, inability to gain or maintain muscle mass and finally, loss in libido. For women, loss of progesterone causes unhealthy estrogen to progesterone ratios creating irregular menstrual cycles, pre-menopausal symptoms and fat retention around the hips and triceps. Stress, nutrient loss and pesticides are leading contributors to unhealthy levels of both sex hormones. To safeguard against these factors, sessions of high intensity training can boost testosterone in men while cardio and resistance training help better regulate progesterone levels in women.
To craft an exercise regimen specific to each person and their lifestyle, its best to seek a professional experienced in these key hormones. Keep in mind that too much high intensity training without proper guidance can increase cortisol and actively work against weight loss. Only a fitness professional knows how to properly implement recovery and exercise to achieve hormonal balance. To learn more about hormones and weight loss come speak to our My Health Studio experts or read more on the subject through this recent NASM article.