Hormone Series: what they do and how to control them (naturally)

Most of my posts are about bio-mechanics but because of the all the Bio-Genesis news I wanted to share with you what I know about hormones. Most of which happens to come from a course I took called “Bio-Signature” – notice the connection??

While it may not seem logical to talk about hormones on this site it is when you consider the fact that if you can improve your hormonal profile there’s a good chance you can increase your ability to perform.  What I am going to do a little differently here is tell you what I know about improving your hormonal profile legally.

Hormones are very complicated and very powerful.  If you want to get bigger, stronger and faster you need to make sure your hormones are working the way they should be.   Basically you need your anabolic (to build) hormones firing on all cylinders while your catabolic (to tear down) hormones need to be kept at bay.  It is a lot more complicated than that and I am by no means an expert in the area. What follows is a “Layman’s” guide to some of the most common hormones.

The Bio-Signature course was created by strength coach Charles Poliquin.  This course teaches you how to determine hormonal imbalances by looking at the distribution of body fat and then gives you ideas about how to solve these problems using exercise, diet and supplements.  In addition to this course I have studied the subject quite a bit.  The book “Why Zebras don’t have Ulcers” by Rob Sapolsky and “The Ultimate Male Solution” by Brad King are two that I have been reading recently.

**My wife is about to finish her 4 year degree to become a Naturopahtic Doctor.  I know this doesn’t count for towards my educational resume but I have absorbed a lot of info over the last 4 years**

Again I am no expert in this area but as a strength and conditioning coach it is imperative to know about hormones due to their key role in developing muscle mass and improving your ability to recover.

Here are the hormones that I’ll cover (I have already posted articles about testosterone and growth hormone but I am going to re-post them here again so that all this info is in one place)

  1. Testosterone
  2. Estrogen
  3. Growth Hormone
  4. Insulin
  5. Cortisol

TESTOSTERONE

Info: Most people associate the Testosterone hormone only with men. However, women do produce testosterone (produced in the ovaries) and it is vital to achieving optimal health and body composition. Optimal Levels of Testosterone has been shown to increase: muscle mass, ability to burn fat, motivation, memory, libido, bone density and skin tone. Whereas low levels of testosterone have been linked with: depression, obesity, osteoporosis, low libido and heart disease. Even with the knowledge of how important testosterone is to optimal health researchers have reported that the average testosterone levels in men continue to decline. Much of the blame has fallen on pesticides and plastic compounds that mimic the estrogen hormone which suppresses testosterone production. The human body can take perfectly good testosterone and convert it to estrogen via a process called aromatase. The body can be side tracked and instructed to produce more cortisol rather than testosterone which are both formed from a common precursor (cholesterol). When this happens it is known as pregnenolone steal.

What to Avoid

  • Stress – increases the likelihood to testosterone being converted to cortisol.  Supplements like ashwagandha, rhodiola, phosphatidylserine and holy basil all help our bodies cope with stress.
  • Poor eating habits – reduce sugary carbs and increase protein intake
  • Alcohol – increases aromatase (the conversion of testosterone to estrogen)
  • Poor Sleep – inhibits testosterone production

What to Do

  • Exercise – increases testosterone production (low duration & high intensity).
  • Indol–3–Carbonal (DIM) – this compound which can be found in broccoli, cauliflower, watercress and other cruciferous vegetables helps breakdown and metabolize estrogen.
  • Resveratrol – this compound inhibits the aromatase process which converts testosterone to estrogen.
  • Zinc – this trace element not only inhibits aromatase but adequates the amounts of zinc allowing your pituitary gland to release luteinizing hormone which stimulates testosterone production. 30-50mg a day and up to 100mg if Testosterone levels are extremely low. Ensure to additionally supplement with copper (2mg per 50mg of zinc) because zinc takes copper out of the body. •
  • Activities that increase testosterone production – Exposure to sun, sex, sleep, competition (winning in particular)
  • Licorice Root – if you experience low energy levels in the morning then this supplement extends the half-life of cortisol which will increase morning energy and keep evening levels lower. Avoid this supplement if you have high blood pressure.
  • Nettle Root (a.k.a stinging nettle) – blocks the conversion of testosterone to estrogen and increase free testosterone. One serving three times per day with meals.
  • Pathethine – this is required by the adrenal glands to produce testosterone. One serving up to three times per day.
  • Tribulus Terrestris – increases luteinizing hormone which will in turn increase testosterone.

Check out this link for two great video’s on testosterone.

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/testosterone-replacement

ESTROGEN

Info: Estrogen is namely a female hormone however it is important that men have a certain amount in their body. The problem arises when estrogen levels get too high. Excess exposure to the Estrogen hormone has been linked as a risk factor for several types of cancer including: breast, ovary, prostate and thyroid. The term ‘estrogen dominance’ has been used to describe the condition that occurs when our bodies either produce too much estrogen or acquire too much from our environment and diet. Every day we are exposed to Xenoestrogens which are chemicals that mimic Estrogen and can be found in pesticides, herbicides, plastics and cosmetics.

Our bodies can also take the testosterone hormone, which helps us build muscle and burn fat, and convert it into estrogen through a process called aromatase.

What to Avoid

  • Xenoestrogens – chemicals that mimic estrogen found in pesticides, herbicides, plastics, birth control pills and cosmetics.
  • Non-Organic Meats – often pumped with hormones that have been used to make the animals bigger and fatter.
  • Non-Organic Fruits and Vegetables – sprayed with pesticides that mimic estrogen.
  • Soy Products – known as phytoestrogens which are plants that mimic estrogen.
  • Alcohol – increases estrogen production.

What to Do

  • Indol–3–Carbonal (DIM) – this compound can be found in broccoli, cauliflower, watercress and other cruciferous vegetables. It helps breakdown and metabolize estrogen. 200-400mg per day with meals.
  • Calcium D-Glucarate – increases the livers ability to detoxify and metabolize estrogen via glucorination. 500 mg 3xper day with meals.
  • Resveratrol – this compound which is present in many red wines (merlot, pinot noir and most Spanish Reds) inhibits the aromatase process which converts testosterone to estrogen.
  • Fiber – aids in the elimination of estrogen.
  • Sulforaphane – compound found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli.
  • Melatonin – can help lower estrone (bad form of estrogen) and also helps with sleep. 1-3mg per day before bed.
  • Nettle Root (a.k.a stinging nettle) – frees testosterone and blocks its conversion to estrogen. 400mg three times per day.

 GROWTH HORMONE

Info: As the name suggests this hormone is responsible for tissue and cell repair as well as regeneration which in turns makes it a vital component to building muscle and bone density.  The Growth Hormone has been receiving more and more attention due to its anti-aging properties resulting from its regenerative properties.  This has led many people to seek out expensive medical professionals that are able administer artificial forms of growth hormone.  With what we know about growth hormone there are ways you can optimize your body’s natural ability to produce the optimal amounts of this “rejuvenating” hormone. Due to the fact that this hormone is responsible for regeneration, it means levels naturally decline as we age. Our bodies produce growth hormone primarily in response to sleep and exercise.

Low Growth Hormone can lead to:

  • Premature cardiovascular disease
  • Loss of bone density
  • Increased Abdominal Fat
  • Depression
  • Decreased Muscle Mass
  • Thinning and sagging of skin
  • Poor Immune Function

What to Avoid

  • Poor Sleeping Habits
  • Lack of Exercise

What to Do

  • Exercise – intense workouts with heavy loads produce high amounts of growth hormone
  • ZMA – this supplement is a combination of zinc, magnesium and B6 which helps improve the quality of your sleep which will then increase the amount of growth hormone that you can produce during this critical time.
  • Improve sleep – some tips to improve your sleep are to sleep in complete darkness, stop watching TV 1 to 2 hours prior to bed, sleep in a cool area and be sure to get between 7-9 hours each night.
  • Exercise with relatively high loads (the research is split on this issue)
  • Avoid spikes in blood sugar which will cause insulin to be secreted driving down the Growth Hormone.

INSULIN 

Info: Insulin is made in the pancreas and it is primarily controlled by the foods that we eat, in particular carbohydrates, especially ones with lots of sugar. The more sugar we consume the more insulin our pancreas produces. Insulin’s job is to store glucose, which is the digested version of the carbohydrates that we consume, into either our liver, muscle or fat cells. it into fat. This last point demonstrates the importance of nutrient timing. If you consume carbohydrates following exercise insulin will store glucose into your muscles because you have made room for them by expending the energy (stored glycogen) during your workout. If you consume too many carbohydrates during periods of low activity, which for most of us is all day, insulin will have to convert the excess into fat. This can lead to insulin resistance which means that you must produce more insulin to deal with the sugars that are consumed compared to someone who is insulin sensitive Due to new research (Tatar et al. 2004) .insulin is now becoming known as the “aging hormone” in the sense that the more we produce the faster we age. To make matter worse too much insulin can suppress the hormone ‘leptin’ which tells us when we have had enough to eat which leads to over eating.

Insulin also has an inverse relationship with growth hormone which is a very anabolic hormone that helps promote fat loss.

What to Avoid

  • Eating High Glycemic Carbs (the kind with lots of sugar)
  • Consuming carbohydrates during periods of low activity
  • Stress
  • Not eating enough protein, fat or fiber
  • Inactivity

What to Do

  • Omega 3’s – improves insulin sensitivity which increases, up-regulate fat burning, stimulates the secretion of leptin as well as increases the storage of glucose in our liver rather than as fat. The dose will range based on the individual but you can consume upwards of 8-10 grams per day. If you are on a blood thinning medication consult your doctor. Omega 3’s help our cells become more insulin sensitive which allows our bodies to produce less insulin.
  • Eat protein with every meal – produces the hormone glucagon which combats the effects of insulin.
  • Boost your fiber intake – helps reduce the levels of post meal glucose and insulin levels and it also helps by providing a sense of fullness. Consume a grainless form such as pectin, flaxseed or pysllium husks; it is best to rotate your fiber sources.
  • Multi Vitamin – as you start to lose fat, toxins are released and a broad spectrum multi-vitamin will help detoxify these released toxins. Be sure your multi-vitamin contains the following: zinc, calcium, potassium, B6, vitamin C.
  • Magnesium – increases the number and sensitivity of insulin receptors (Waterfall et al. 2000). Magnesium is necessary for the production, function and transport of insulin. It is also necessary for insulin to open the cell membranes for glucose. 6-8mg per kg – the more you train the more you should aim for the high end of this scale. Topical forms of magnesium have a better absorption rate.
  • Fenugreek – helps lower blood sugar levels by slowing the digestion and absorption of glucose. One serving before meals 3x per day.
  • Cinnamon – This very common spice has insulin like activity which helps lower blood glucose level. 1 teaspoon per day works well.
  • R-Lipoic Acid – acts as an insulin mimicker and increases glucose metabolism – this allows your body not to store as much fat. One 100mg cap with meals 3x per day.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – two tablespoons of has been shown to cut down blood sugar surge by 50% with people that are insulin resistant.
  • Coconut Oil – can be used as an energy source for those that are on a low carb diet. This medium chain fatty acid can enter the cell without the assistance of insulin. It can also help reduce sugar cravings. 1 tablespoon 2-4 times per day.
  • Resveratrol – activates a protein (S1RT1) that increases insulin sensitivity. 500mg once or twice a day on an empty stomach.

CORTISOL

Info: When we encounter a stressful situation our body increases the amount of cortisol that is produced by our adrenal glands. The release of cortisol in response to stress is an automatic mechanism that we as humans have used for thousands and thousands of years in order to survive. However, it was originally intended for stressful situations liked being chased by a wild animal back in our caveman days. This stress response causes our bodies to store fat (especially in the abdominal area) and break down muscle. This happens because we as humans are hard wired for survival so that fat we store will serve as an energy supply in case we are without food for an extended period of time. The muscle that we broke down will be used for energy because it is not considered vital nor is it a priority at this point in time. The problem today lies in the fact that our body responds to physical stress, liked being chased by a wild animal, the same way it does to emotional stress such as; relationship stress, work stress, financial stress and anxiety to name a few. While it is nearly impossible to remove all forms of physical and emotional stress from our lives there are steps we can take to help combat this problem and deal with these issues.

What to Avoid

  • Rule out food sensitivities
  • Working out too much – this is a form of physical stress.
  • Avoidable stresses – this one is vague but there are situations that we can all identify in our lives that we can do without.

What to Do

  • Lifestyle Practices – meditation, laugh, spending time with friends and family, not taking on more than you can handle, plan your day, making time for yourself……..
  • B-Vitamins – these get depleted when under stress – the more stress you have the more you need. One serving with meals 2x per day or more if you are overly stressed.
  • Phosphatidyl-Serine – is a natural and integral part of every cell membrane that declines with age and stress. This supplement helps stunt the release of cortisol and serves to protect our brains from the negative effects of cortisol which include memory loss and poor concentration. 400-800mg in the evening to help suppress cortisol. Taken post workout can also reduce stress and allow your body to start repairing itself as soon as possible.
  • Pathethine –is a stable form of vitamin B5 which helps our bodies adapt to stress as well as support our adrenal glands which can become over worked due to excessive stress.
  • Ashwagandha – is a herb known as an adaptogen which helps our bodies deal with stress as well as boost our thyroid
  • Rhodiola – is another adaptogen which also increases serotonin (the happy neurotransmitter)
  • Siberian Ginseng – encourages the production of DHEA vs. cortisol from cholesterol. One serving 1-2 times per day.
  • Magnesium – increase DHEA that will help keep cortisol in check as well as increase serationin. This is a “must have” supplement. Magnesium is necessary for insulin to open cell membranes for glucose. 6-8mg per kg – the more you train the more you should aim for the high end of this scale. Topical forms of magnesium have a better absorption rate.

Stay strong and stay legal,

Graeme Lehman

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