Are Hormones really to blame?
Throughout their entire lives, women always seem to be battling their hormones. Our bodies produce many hormones for various purposes. Men have hormones too... so why do they give so many women such a difficult time? Are hormones really the reason we can’t control our weight or the shape of our bodies? Are they to blame when we want to overdose on carbs at certain times, or for why we can become so damned moody sometimes?
Well, the good news is you can actually have some input whatever your age. You can make hormones work for you and reap all the benefits. You can feel sexier, sleep better, change your body shape and feel on top of the world. There are some hormones you can actually influence... so how do we get these powerful hormones to work for us?
We all have the fountain of youth inbuilt, but most don't know how to activate it...
A very interesting hormone, which some call the fountain of youth, is Human Growth Hormone (HGH or GH), also known as Somatotropin. I know what you’re thinking – that it sounds like something athletes are banned from taking... and you’re right! There is an artificial GH, but the one I’m talking about is produced naturally by your body.
So can we stimulate and manage our hormones, specifically GH? The answer is yes. You see, GH can be naturally stimulated through weight training, aerobic exercise and proper nutrition. The right kind of exercise is therefore the key to slowing the ageing process. In this case, strength training is your best friend.
You read right! GH can be stimulated by exercise and the number one choice is strength training! You need to lift some weight, so please don’t take this lightly (excuse the pun). The bad news is if you do nothing to stimulate this hormone, it will decrease every year at quite a rapid rate. According to the ‘Life Extension Foundation’, GH decreases by 50 per cent every seven years after the age of 25.
Lifting weights helps stimulate the pituitary gland to release GH, which promotes muscle growth (lean body tissue). This, in turn, helps the body to metabolise fat. The more lean muscle you have on your body, the more body fat you will burn, even when you’re not training (I like that part!). When you lift weights for multiple sets, the burn you feel in your muscles is the build-up of lactic acid. This then signals your body to produce significant levels of growth hormone, which is needed to repair and renew the muscles that have been placed under stress.
The most effective exercises for producing GH are compound exercises, as they are an additional challenge for your body. Big- value exercises like squats work best and the more challenging the lift, the more the body will respond by producing more growth hormone. Other compound exercises include weighted lunges, chin-ups, dumbbell rows and chest press just to name a few. In addition, these exercises will also give you a great full-body workout.
Can a lack of nutrition cause hormone imbalance?
It is widely thought that lack of nutrition can cause a hormone imbalance. This can result in you craving empty carbs. Many of my female clients have reported that their craving for carbs disappeared after they followed a healthy eating plan including good fats and protein with every meal. This is good news and means that if we are eating nutritiously we can control these cravings.
Another hormone we can have some influence over is serotonin; a ‘feelgood’ hormone released in the brain and often responsible for your mood.
How can we keep up supplies of this feel good hormone?
When serotonin levels are low, your body sends a signal to the brain wanting a ‘pick- me-up’, which can lead you to believe you need something sweet. As soon as you eat (and sometimes you may reach for empty carbs as a quick fix) your serotonin levels are restored along with your energy. However, in the long run carbohydrates alone won’t help with the ongoing production of serotonin. A more balanced approach with a meal containing protein (such as eggs, fish or chicken) and one carb (such as brown rice), will have a much more positive effect on your serotonin levels. Exercise reduces stress levels and is a natural stimulator of this feel good hormone. That’s one of the reasons we feel so good after a workout... even 20 minutes a day will make a difference!
Any type of stress, depression or boredom may also be the result of low serotonin levels and could cause you to crave for carbs. Your body is feeling down and this hormone can trick you into believing that a quick carb fix will do the trick. This usually makes you want to reach for something sweet, but you can just as easily reach for a healthy snack instead!
Cortisol, also known as the ‘flight or fight’ hormone, surges when you are in a super stressful situation. This hormone, while necessary for our survival, can be quite destructive long-term. One of the best ways to manage this hormone is with - you guessed it - exercise!
Is sleep really that important?
Melatonin is the sleep-promoting hormone, which your brain’s pineal gland starts to secrete around sunset and needs total darkness to work. Melatonin also acts as a free-radical antioxidant and counteracts stress, as well as governing our sleep patterns.
Melatonin has been shown to increase GH levels quite dramatically. Low melatonin levels have been linked to diabetes, obesity and cancer. To make sure you’re getting the full benefits from your beauty sleep, make sure you sleep in a dark room without lighting from computers, clock radios and other devices.
To put it all in a high-protein, good-fats nutshell: look after your amazing body by performing the right kind of exercise, nourish it with high-protein clean eating, maintain good sleeping patterns, stay hydrated, and you will reap all the rewards of your wonderful hormones working for you!
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“GH (growth hormone) can be naturally stimulated through weight training, aerobic exercise and proper nutrition.”
Consuming approximately 20g of protein immediately after a workout will also help with your GH production. You could eat a high-protein meal straight afterwards, but one of the quickest ways your system can absorb this is by drinking a protein shake. Dehydration will inhibit GH production, so after all your hard work, make sure you drink enough water, especially while you’re training.
Sleep is another important factor in producing GH. Try to get at least seven or eight hours each night. GH levels are elevated while you’re sleeping and this will also speed up muscle gain and fat loss.
By now you probably won’t be surprised to learn that what you eat plays a huge role in producing GH. Essential amino acids, which are found in animal protein, assist in GH secretion and are also necessary for supporting lean muscle growth and recovery. On the other hand, too many carbs have the opposite effect, as insulin (which kicks in after eating high-carbohydrate food) inhibits GH production. Eating a high-protein, low- carb meal before bed can have a very positive effect in producing GH. I always have a whey protein shake (sometimes with two raw, organic egg yolks mixed in) or cottage cheese with flaxseed oil and cucumber, but definitely no carbs directly before bed.
Essential fatty acids (good fats) will also ramp up hormone production and leave you feeling satiated (full). Make flaxseed oil, whole eggs, nuts, oil from certain fish and avocado part of your diet.
I'll be back soon with another helpful health insight, in the meantime look after your beautiful self.