Before we dig into “Eight Easy But Essential Hormone Hacks,” I need to warn you: this post gets deep. So I put together a Free eBook on how you can take action.
Less body fat.
More energy, strength, and power.
More sexy time.
A positive attitude and more motivation to kick life in the face.
All of this could be yours by making a few small changes.
Sounds too good to be true, like those empty promises at a supplement store. But they’re actually the benefits of optimizing your hormones.
When you hear hormones we probably share the same flashback:
Seventh-grade health class. There’s an embarrassed teacher talking about sex, a few pimply faced boys giggling in the back, and a few ” girls saying “Yew…gross!.” Out of embarrassment or pure boredom, most of us ignored these lessons and opted to draw our best SuperBad (click the link if you’re confused) veiny triumphant penises on each other’s notebooks.
Growth, development, sex, muscles, and much more is controlled by these mysterious chemical messengers. Problem is, your hormones are a constant assault. Pocessed foods, your high-stress lifestyle, household cleaners, and even training can zap your precious hormones right from your gonads.
Luckily, hormones have come to the forefront of the fitness industry from guys like John Romaniello and Chad Howse. But many dudes are left asking:
“Do I have low T? How can I improve it?”
“How can I manage my insulin sensitivity to build more muscle and lose fat?”
“Growth hormone can get you lean? You mean that stuff that helped Barry Bonds double in size and crush homers?”
As you can see, there’s a shit ton of confusion. I’m here to clear it up. You’ll get a brief overview of your major hormones, followed by clear action steps to get your hormones back on track to build a high-performance body and mind.
What Are Hormones?
Hormones are chemical messengers secreted via glands in your body to your bloodstream, a system known as the endocrine system.
From there, they’re transported to tissues throughout your body to carry out bodily functions. Once a hormone finds a specific site, it must find a receptor. Basically, each hormone is a key and must find the correct “lock” to gain access to that particular cell, we call it the lock-and-key method.
If the hormone and receptor don’t match, then there is no interaction. That means it’s best that we have both enough free-circulating hormones and open receptor sites to carry out hormonal functions.
The Major Hormones
Altogether there are 43 hormones in the human body. But, since you and I both have the attention span of a dog in a butcher shop, I’m going to cover the big seven for body composition: Testosterone, insulin, growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), cortisol, thyroid, and estrogen.
Our response to each hormone is unique, meaning what works for your friend Shawn might not work for you.
With that in mind, I’ll give a basic overview of each hormone and how to improve it so you’ll get stronger, leaner, and more athletic.
The popular guy on the block, testosterone is a steroid hormone with anabolic effects for both men and women. It’s considered the king of all hormones, kind of like squats being the king of lifts. Special cells convert cholesterol (eat your steak) into testosterone after receiving a signal from your hypothalamus and pituitary glands.
Within an individualized circadian rhythm, testosterone jumps in the morning (hence…. you know) after a good nights sleep, and tapers off during the day. Testosterone regulates muscular development, libido, energy, immune function, and even bone health.
Obviously, if you’re looking to build muscle, stay lean, and look like an athlete having a healthy testosterone is important.
Within an individualized circadian rhythm, testosterone jumps in the morning (hence, the difficulties of peeing with a boner) after a good nights sleep, and tapers off during the day.
Testosterone regulates muscular development, libido, energy, immune function, and even bone health.
Low testosterone can zap your libido, pile on body fat, and make it impossible to add lean muscle.
Growth hormone (GH) helps bones, tissues, and muscles grow, while also being a potent fat burner. Also known as somatotropin, is an anabolic hormone made and secreted by the pituitary gland. Contrary to testosterone, which is high in the morning, growth hormone spikes within the first few hours of sleep, with smaller spikes every 4-5 hours.
GH works to affect many metabolic functions from glycogen production and protein synthesis to fatty acid metabolism. Further, growth hormone stimulates the next hormone on the list, 1GF-1.
Low growth hormone can stunt growth, lead to faster aging while optimized growth hormone levels will help you burn body fat and build muscle.
Primarily produced in your liver, IGF-1 is stimulated by (GH) and is an anabolic hormone that plays a role in stimulating hypertrophy. IGF-1 release is dictated by GH, so low GH levels will make it difficult to add lean muscle mass.
Insulin is released by the pancreas in response to increases in blood sugar levels. If you crush a Big-Gulp Coke you’ll have a huge surge of insulin whereas a protein shake will be a bit less.
As the government recommended high carbohydrate diets to the country for a few decades, we found pounding high sugar foods burns out the insulin response, leading to insulin resistance, diabetes and making building muscle and burning body fat exponentially harder.
As the government recommended high carbohydrate diets to the country for a few decades, we found it made is fatter, uglier, and dying earlier from preventable diseases.
It turns out pounding high sugar foods burns out your insulin response. This leads to insulin resistance, diabetes and making building muscle and burning body fat exponentially harder.
Insulin helps shuttle nutrients like fatty acids, glucose, and amino acids into cells. When this ability is stunted and low insulin sensitivity takes over, we get serious health issues like diabetes and ultimately, death. With optimized insulin sensitivity, you’ll build muscle and burn body fat much easier.
Cortisol is a steroid hormone but unlike testosterone, it’s catabolic rather than anabolic. Still, despite being demonized, cortisol is a vital hormone. Cortisol is produced in the adrenal glands in response to low blood sugar and stress and stimulates the release of blood sugar while suppressing the immune system. In our over-stimulated world low-cortisol is rarely an issue: high stress and cortisol is.
This leads a negative feedback loop of less muscle, more fat, and you guessed it: more stress. Our efforts will focus on cortisol reduction.
You’ve heard a friend complain about low thyroid and how it prevents them from losing weight.
Well, they might not be bullshitting you: A healthy thyroid optimizes fat loss, protein synthesis, and sensitivity to other hormones.
This paints a clear picture that thyroid function is pretty damn important for health and body composition goals. If your thyroid is too low, you’ll struggle with energy and add body fat. On the contrary, overactive thyroid makes difficult to gain weight.
Estrogen is the primary female sex hormone, which leads most guys to picture increased body fat, man boobs, and probably crying. Or even this clip from The Longest Yard.
While estrogen appears like something most men would rather eradicate, we still need a bit of the stuff to function and naturally reproduce. Just as like women need testosterone, a little estrogen is important for men. Still, the problem for most guys is too much estrogen and it’s best to decrease it.
8 Easy Steps For High-Performance Hormone Optimization
Hormones are the driving force to building a strong, lean, and athletic body. Surprisingly, a few small behaviors are all you need optimizing your hormone profiles. I asked some fellow coaches to chime in and give me their best training tips to optimize your hormones for maximum gains.
P.S. This is all covered in depth in this Free Hormone Hacking eBook.
1. Train Heavy
Train with compound lifts like deadlifts, lunges, and bench presses with heavy weights. Think the classic 5×5. This stimulates an anabolic response in your body to release testosterone, GH, and IGF-1.
2. Train with Intensity
Short rest periods, metabolic stress, and muscular fatigue stimulate the release of GH, IGF-1, testosterone, and improve insulin sensitivity. Combine full-body movements like squats and sprints with low rest to stimulate a cascade of anabolic hormones.
3. Eat Around Your Training
Training is a stressor and the best remedy during training stress is a blend of high-quality protein and carbohydrates post-workout.
This provides the building blocks to rebuild the damage done during training. It takes advantage of heightened insulin sensitivity. This jump-starts the recovery process and helps you build more muscle and less fat.
Raspberry Chocolate Goodness:
-1 Cup Raspberries (frozen)
-2 Scoops Chocolate Whey Protein
-1.5 Cups Raw Spinach
-1 Cup Coconut Milk
– ½ cup water, ½ cup ice.
4. Eat Mostly Natural, Unprocessed Foods
When in doubt, eat foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. Yes, you can cook your food, but eat a blend of fruits, vegetables, and lean meats in various forms. Shop the perimeter of the store, eat grass-fed and organic when you can, and avoid processed junk. I recommend this mouthwatering steak recipe.
Sleep is essential to optimize every physiological process in your body. There’s no badge of honor (believe me, I’ve searched) for skipping sleep to be more productive. Sleep optimizes testosterone and growth hormone levels.
Sleep deprivation? Well, that makes you a cranky asshole while decreasing testosterone and growth hormone while elevating cortisol and estrogen. Further, a lack of sleep leads to poor dietary decisions like crushing pizza when you’re stressed, overuse of stimulants, and a barrage of other lifestyle choices that wreck you gains.
Long-term sleep deprivation is an awesome way to suck at life, so make sleeping 6-8 hours a priority.
6. Avoid too Many Drugs and Alcohol
Booze and drugs can ruin your hormone profiles?
Shocker, I know.
Alcohol is a depressant, triggering a stress response, decreasing insulin sensitivity, testosterone, and growth hormone. Plus alcohol leads to poor dietary decisions and crappy sleep; further exacerbating its ill effects.
I love bourbon, too, but keep your booze intake low.
This hurts me to say, but caffeine consumption triggers a fight or flight response (stress) that elevates cortisol and decreases testosterone. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy bourbon or coffee, just do so in moderation.
7. Stress Management
Being connected 24/7 causes a lot of stress that leads many guys to feel out of control. Like anything else, stress management comes down to balance. Take time to reduce stress and decompress each day.
➢ Plan screen-free days. Go for a hike, hang out and talk to other humans without your phone or TV.
➢ Meditate daily. I use Headspace, and it comes with a Free trial here.
➢ Make a short list and stick to a few essential tasks each day.
8. Eliminate Toxins from Household Items
Most of your household products from your shampoo and deodorant to Teflon pans and food containers have phthalates, PCB’s, and parabens that leach into your body. Confused on why this matters?
Here’s the jist: Most toxins are estrogen mimickers and endocrine distruptors—meaning they negatively affect anabolic hormone levels.
More research is coming out suggesting these toxins may do everything from feminizing males (and vice versa) to causing cancer and brain development issues. Pretty bad stuff!
Make small changes in your purchasing decisions to protect your hormones.
1. Stop eating, drinking, and microwaving out of plastic.
2. Ditch your air fresheners, vinyl shower curtains, and non-stick pans. Opt for fresh air and lunchbot food containers.
3. Switch to Natural skin and hair products. I get most of mine at Thrive Market.
It’s Time to Take Action:
This is a lot of information to take in at once, which is why I created a free eBook for you to print off and keep as a resource to go along with the resources on the bottom of the page.
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Nate Green: Why I Hate Air Fresheners and Rubber Duckies
Jason Ferruggia: Natural Testosterone Boosters