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Friday
Jun162017

One Hormone Everyone Should be Tracking for Optimal Fat Loss 

When we say we feel “hormonal,” we’re usually referring to feeling upset, stressed, or tense. It’s less common to consider our hormonal make up when we’re frustrated about a weight loss or fitness plateau. 

When we hit these plateaus, it’s common to fall into the trap of randomly trying a new diet, exercise or supplement to get the scale moving in our favor. 

Fact: Hormones do impact fat loss, as well as how you feel and function every day. 

If you’re struggling to lose fat or build muscle, you might be fighting an uphill battle with your own physiology. That’s why you’ll hear top fitness professionals recommend lab assessments and testing. Until your internal fitness is set to achieve optimal external results — all the diets, exercises and supplements in the world may not be as effective.

While we could put together an entire series on hormones alone — if you want to look and feel your best — there are a few heavy hitters to keep a pulse on. One of the consistent top contenders for most influential spot surprisingly applies to both men and women: Testosterone. Often thought of as a male hormone (because men have a higher quantity than women), this mighty compound can influence weight and vitality for both genders. Let’s dig in to learn more. 

Signs of testosterone imbalance 

The indication of imbalance for men is when testosterone is below optimal range, and for women when it’s above. The other end of the spectrum (too high for men and too low for women) can also cause concern. 

Lower than optimal testosterone levels (T-levels) in men can be related to: decreased libido, decreased morning erections, strength plateaus, reduced endurance, mood imbalances or apathy, excess body fat, and even a decline in bone health. What’s tricky, is that suboptimal T-levels can manifest themselves differently from person to person. One man might struggle with sexual function — while maintaining a healthy progression in his strength training program — another might be battling daily apathy without other noticeable changes. In addition, the same medical reference range is used to evaluate men whether they’re 20 or 80. Thus, a man may have less than ideal levels for his own personal functioning, yet have levels that are medically “in range.” It’s also important to note: the age-related decline in male testosterone levels (andropause) may not be due to just age.1 Nutrition, lifestyle, and exercise all have a role in influencing and maintaining healthy T-levels as men age.  

For women, testosterone levels that run higher than optimal, are often implicated in cases of PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). In many cases of PCOS (which impacts an estimated one in ten women), high androgens or male hormones were found to be involved in 75% of cases.2 Even in the absence of a PCOS diagnosis, higher than optimal T-levels in women can correlate with abnormal menstruation patterns, blood sugar issues, lower energy levels, acne, facial hair, fertility challenges, and trouble losing body fat. Due to its far-reaching impact, working to reduce high testosterone in women is often the first step to take when sex hormone levels are out of whack. 

Please note: While testosterone certainly doesn’t function on its own in the body, it’s one of the most important biomarkers for both men and women to track and optimize. 

Supporting healthy T-levels

Since hormone levels are often downstream from other controllable areas like nutrient sufficiency, stress, and sleep — your food, lifestyle, and exercise choices can make a significant impact. In fact, solid habits in these areas cannot be bypassed to achieve results in the long term. Also, make sure to involve your physician every step of the way, as medical intervention may be necessary. 

Test, implement changes, re-test

Knowledge is power, and our most repeated mantra at Life Time is: “Test. Don’t Guess.” Completing thorough blood work on an annual basis — to check hormone balance, blood sugar regulation, nutrient sufficiency, and oxygen deliverability — is one of the key factors in staying ahead of the game. Good health runs through your veins, and changes on the inside can occur years before noticing the physical symptoms. The earlier you track your blood work trends, the sooner you can pivot on your approach. In addition to your annual lab work, it’s always a good idea to dive deeper with smaller tests — as guideposts and check ins — every four to six months. Want to get a head start on optimizing your T-levels? Below you’ll find specific things to stop and start doing.

Stop doing these things:

Come clean with household products

  • Stop ignoring belly fat. The abdomen is often the body’s center of hormone disruption. Excess belly fat often contributes to system-wide metabolic issues because of dangerous levels of visceral fat around internal organs.
  • Stop stressing the liver. This organ is heavily involved in hormone balance and can be negatively impacted with excessive alcohol and added sugar intake. Make sure to limit processed foods that often harbor shockingly high sugar levels from several sources found in the ingredient list.
  • Stop preventable exposure to environmental toxins such as those found in many household cleaning products, toiletries, and plastics. Also, make sure to avoid microwaving food in plastic, and aim to use glass food and beverage containers instead. We’re surrounded by estrogen-like compounds in our environment that can throw off our internal chemistry and T-levels. Once reserved only for environmentalists, the movement to “cleaner” beauty products and cleaning agents is growing quickly, making it easier to access better alternatives.
  • Stop cutting yourself short on sleep. Getting seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each evening has become a revolutionary thing to do. The earlier portion of the evening (before midnight) is instrumental in providing the type of sleep our metabolisms need to effectively manage hormones. Log off social media, record the show to watch later, and hit the sack early.

Start doing these things:

Bacon and Brussels Sprouts

  • Start increasing fiber and vegetables. Aim for 30 or more grams of fiber per day, and channel the nutritional magic of cruciferous vegetables, which contain diindolylmethane (DIM), a compound known to help support a healthier balance of estrogens in women, and limit the activity of an enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen in men. Include 2-3 cups of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, or brussels sprouts daily and consider a quality DIM supplement when appropriate.  
  • Start ramping up key nutrients such as zinc, vitamin K, and magnesium.3,4,5 Zinc deficiency is strongly correlated with low T-levels in men. Top sources of zinc include oysters and animal proteins. Also, make sure to choose a multivitamin that will provide 30 mg of zinc per day. Green leafy vegetables provide Vitamin K — important in optimizing testosterone levels — and magnesium, which may make testosterone more biologically active in the male body. Our soil quality — in combination with increased needs from stress and exercise — necessitate evening supplementation of magnesium in most people. It can also support restful sleep.  
  • Start aggressively controlling your blood sugar and stress.6 Blood glucose and stress hormones (cortisol) have a tight knit relationship. Imbalances in either one exacerbates issues with the other. Since our bodies are innately wired for survival, our bodies prioritize blood sugar and cortisol pathways to protect us — often at the expense of other hormones. Make sure to manage these areas so they don’t manage you.  
  • Start a quarterly D.TOXSM. Paradoxically, clients often report that there’s nothing more liberating as making a two to four-week commitment to a structured program. The commitment eliminates grey areas and temptations, while catalyzing several of the healthy behaviors mentioned above. Unlike gimmicky cleanses and fasts, a heightened focus on a real food can be just what your metabolism needs.

There you have it: testosterone ensures the delicate hormonal symphony in both men and women, and is a key player in an effective response to exercise and nutrition. While tracking T-levels alone would provide limited data in the best next steps for you to take, it should be assessed and reassessed at regular intervals as part of your total program solution. You deserve the best version of you from the inside out. The Life Time philosophy recommends lab testing to keep a consistent, objective pulse on several aspects of metabolism throughout your healthy way of life journey. 

If you’re interested in learning more about your metabolism and which lab offerings would be best for you, reach out to us any time at WeightLoss@lifetimefitness.com

Samantha McKinney, RDN, LD, Program Manager 


References:

  1. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/247013.php
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19249030
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8875519
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16844298
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20352370
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4485250/

 

 

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader. 

 

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