Hormones: The Controller of Your Weight, Fat and Muscle

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Your hormones control your health and fitness. But you can keep them working for you, not against you.

You are a puppet.  Maybe even a marionette.  You have been controlled for your whole life and you probably didn’t even know it.   And no I don’t mean controlled by your job, your depleting bank account or you mom.  Nope.  You have a different master.  One you probably never even knew about.  And this master controls whether or not you shed fat, lose weight or build muscle.   That’s right, your hormones control all things health and fitness. Seriously.  Your hormones control you.  They are the boss, president and ruler of all.

Hormones make you a puppet

That’s how sneaky this master is.

For your whole life, he’s been there, lurking in shadows – dictating your every move.  And silly you, you thought you were deciding everything.

So who is your master? 

YOUR HORMONES. 

Seriously.  Your hormones control you.  They are the boss, president and ruler of all.

You can’t escape them. 

And I realize you’ve made it this far in life without caring about them.   So why should you start caring now?

  • Are you happy? Thank your hormones!
  • Are you depressed? Blame your hormones!
  • Are you energized? Yep, hormones.
  • Tired and exhausted? You know who to blame.
  • Storing or burning fat? Your hormones are deciding.
  • Struggling to build muscle?
  • Low libido?
  • Acne?
  • Belly fat?
  • Cranky?
  • Double chin?

Yep… all results of your hormones.  I told you, they are your master!

So yes, you should care.

Let me introduce you to your master:

Hello hormones!

According to good ol’ high school science class (and a few dozen recent research articles), hormones are chemical messengers.  They flow through our blood to our organs and cells and tell our body how to function.

Yep, that means they tell us what our mood is, how we store fat, our energy levels and how much patience we have to put up with the dumb colleagues at the office.  They do all of that. 

And when they are angry, you turn into a fat storing, raving lunatic.

So to stay in the world of sunshine and unicorns, you want to your hormones happy.   And happy means balanced.

[bctt tweet=”So to stay in the world of sunshine and unicorns, you want to your hormones happy.”]

Hormones can be confusing – which is probably why you didn’t care about them before.

And I am not going to lie and tell you they aren’t confusing. Because they are.  But I am going to give you the down and dirty on hormones to simplify those bad boys.

Hormones don’t exist alone.  They are impacted by everything.  So that means they are always changing.  It’s like trying to decide which Kardashian is the most annoying – it constantly changes, but I personally think its Kourtney.  Your hormones constantly fluctuate based on everything you do!

Your environment and everything you do changes your hormones.   From your morning cardio (you crazy son of a guns who like to wake up at the crack of dawn) to blowing your gasket at work to your shenanegous happy hours with your friends – your environment changes your hormones.   I bet you always thought that those external stimuli changed your mood and your mind set right?  Jokes on you. Those environments just changed your hormones.  And your hormones changed your mood and mindset (and your body, emotions, and personality).

I told you: RULER OF ALL!

So what the hell are these hormones and how do they change you?

HORMONES ARE SIMPLY THE BOSS. 

But because there are so many different kinds of hormones, there are really different levels of bosses.  And on the totem pole of power, you are at the bottom – maybe somewhere in the mailroom or janitorial services (or maybe even an intern in the mail room, that’s how low you are).

The Big Dogs at the top of the power totem pole are your Centralized Hormones.  You know, the ones on the top floor of the ivory tower.  Where you have a full bar in the waiting room, and maybe even a waiting room to get into the waiting room.  Where you have to be screened by 18 different people before you even get to see the assistant? These are the Big Dogs.  

These Centralized Hormones are the Big Dogs because they are the hormones secreted in your brain.  Your brain is a pretty important thing so these hormones clearly have an important purpose. Sometimes being able to think and breathe and move is helpful.  So it’s fair that these guys are at the top.

Underneath these Centralized Big Dogs are the Peripheral Hormones.  They are still your bosses (remember, they are above you, you are still down sorting mail), but these bosses take orders from the Big Dogs.

Peripheral Hormones are the ones secreted anywhere that is not the brain – like your digestive tract, gonads or fat cells.  Because they are under the Big Dogs, they also act as reporters.  They assess what is going on and bring that news back to the Big Dogs.

The Big Dogs then use that info to make decisions and changes.

Everything going well? Awesome, keep those happy moods flowing! Stress and crisis coming up? Send out the raving lunatic hormones! Even more stress? Send out the weight gain and fat storing hormones!

And just like Big Dogs and Bosses all over the world, our Big Dogs and bosses deal with stress and crisis in ebbs and flows.  

Hormones change their behavior based on the environment they are in.  If those Big Dogs in the ivory tower knew that the financial marketplace was about to crash – they would do some restructuring and made some big changes!  The same goes for the hormones. Impending doom looming ahead? Your hormones are ready to protect your body by storing fat for future times of starvation.  Bear attack possible? Your hormones will keep your nervous system heightened and your flight or fight instincts ready.

Unfortunately, the hormonal fluctuations in times of stress, exhaustion or impending doom cause of us to gain weight and store fat.  Not exactly something we want to celebrate.

So we need to keep all of our hormones happy – but we especially need to keep the bosses in charge of our weight and fat stores happy.  Yes, we all want to be able to show off our hard earned physiques! Don’t let your hormones stop you from rocking it!

So who are the masters we need to keep happy for weight loss?

Let’s go over a few key players:


Grehlin: Controller of Hunger

Ghrelin is like the Fat Bastard.  You know him – the morbidly obese, nearly naked man who screams, “Get in ma belly!”  Yeah, that is ghrelin.  This hormone screams for food! For that delicious pizza topped with pineapple and pepperoni (only me?), crispy, salty French Fries and double chocolate chunk brownies to get in your belly.   Well this Fat Bastard hormone tells you when you want to eat and what precisely you are craving.  Ghrelin very rarely tells you that you are craving raw vegetables and bland chicken. Nope, ghrelin wants the good stuff.  But if you keep listening to ghrelin’s screams you might end up looking like that morbidly obese, illegitimate child in both shape and size. 

So how do you keep this Fat Bastard hormone happy?  Feed it protein and fat. [bctt tweet=”Ghrelin the Fat Bastard hormone happy- Feed it protein and fat to keep it happy. Simple.”] 

Because of the density and lasting impacts of these foods, the ghrelin screams stay suppressed for longer.

But if those screams keep coming, what do you do?  Basically – you just have to ignore them.

How do you learn how to ignore those ghrelin screams?  Well, just like they tell new parents, sometimes you have to let your child cry it out. You just have to take it and let the moment pass. Because eventually it will pass! Your stomach will realize that the vegetables and chicken you put in it are enough to sustain you and you don’t need an overdose of sugar and fat.  And the more you let those screaming moments pass, the more you learn to adapt.  That means that screaming kid stops screaming so often.  And your body learns that you aren’t starving.

So fight those cravings in the short term and in the long term you won’t even notice them!  [bctt tweet=”So fight those cravings in the short term and in the long term you won’t even notice them!”]


Leptin: Controller of Satiety

Leptin is the opposite of ghrelin.

Leptin tells you when you are full.   When you can stop eating. [bctt tweet=”Leptin tells you when you are full. When you can stop eating. “] 

The goal is for our leptin to send smoke signals to our brain at the first signs of satiety.  These signals tell us that we are fully nourished and don’t need any more food.  But we don’t want leptin to take until we hit the “for the love of God, you can’t even button your pants or stand up” stage of eating before those signals are sent. 

Cortisol and insulin a photo of man measuring his stomach

We want to stop at the “oh hey, there is still food on my plate, but I think I’m okay for now” stage.  That’s when we want our brain to know we can stop eating.

So how come most of us can hit up the Chinese Buffet and somehow eat beyond the “for the love of God, quit eating” stage?

Because our leptin is sending very weak signals to the brain!   Those leptin smoke signals are just poofs of dust rather than raging signals saying “STOP!”  So the brain doesn’t see them until its wayyyyy too late (for our waistlines). 

So to get your leptin in control, you need to get those smoke signals stronger.

But dang it, that can be hard.  Leptin is a vicious cycle.  If you are overweight, your leptin signals are automatically weak.  In order to make them stronger, you have to lose weight.   Dang it. Once again, no magical fixes in the world of weight loss.

And losing weight is about nutrition and exercise.  But mostly about doing those together CONSISTENTLY.  As you lose weight, your leptin signals become stronger and your body starts telling your brain to stop eating earlier into the meal.   For those of us with a little extra somethin’ somethin’ to love, I know this isn’t the answer we were hoping for. 

But it’s the honest answer.

Yes, you can eat more protein and fat. And yes you can exercise and improve your sleep.  But you may still feel hungry after eating an adequate amount of food.   But you just have to trust that you are eating enough (if you aren’t sure, talk to us and we can help you know your numbers). 

You have to deal with the sugar cravings of ghrelin and the confusion of when we have had enough to eat from the leptin.  It can be a tough combination.   But eventually (and I promise it will be sooner rather than later), your body will start to learn that the types and amounts of food you are feeding it is plenty for nourishment, energy and storage for future zombie apocalypses.


Insulin: Controller of Fat Storage

If you have read our last posts, you should know that insulin is super important and that we beat the importance of it into your brain.  Because it is super important to know about.

But if you are still saying WTF is insulin, here’s a quick recap:

Insulin works to take the sugar out of your bloodstream and feed it to your cells. Then the cells burn it for energy or store it for later when those dang zombies will apparently attack.  If you have too much sugar in your blood (yes, you carbo lover, I mean you), insulin has to work super hard to move those molecules wherever it can find space – that means your fat cells.  So the more glucose (from the carbs you eat) in your blood, the more insulin will send it to your fat cells to be stored!

Hello weight gain….

Growth Hormone, a picture of a man posing


Growth Hormone: The Controller of Muscle Growth

I know, growth hormone sounds like a sweaty locker room, filled with grunting and chest bumping.  And yes, it is the big dog in muscle growth.  But it has an incredible role in fat and weight loss.  And you have to have to it.

No, I am not telling you to start supplementing HGH.  Your body naturally produces growth hormone (GH).  Guess what it does for you? Shockingly, it does exactly what is says – promotes growth.  If you want strong bones or stronger muscles, you better produce some GH.   But GH is way more than just bulking you into the Hulk.  GH is also awesome for weight loss.  GH actually can stop your fat cells from taking in more glucose stores and tell the cell to throw out whatever it is already stored.  That means shrinking the cells and keeping them small. 

So now, GH isn’t just for meatheads, bodybuilders or Lance Armstrong.  It’s important for anyone with some poundage to shed.  But it doesn’t mean you have to start shootin’ up with some supplemental intake. No, you can naturally increase your GH through two things: fix your sleep hygiene and keep your insulin levels low.

[bctt tweet=”you can naturally increase your GH through two things: fix your sleep hygiene and keep your insulin  levels low.”]

It’s amazing how these dang hormone bosses are intricately bound to each other!

Sure there are other ways to increase your GH, but you have to ask A-Rod about those.


Estrogen: The Controller of Fat

Now men, estrogen is not a female only hormone! You have estrogen too, just in smaller doses.  If you have too much, then you probably carry more fat in your belly than I am sure you want to be carrying (having that keg rather than that 6-pack).

Sure, estrogen comes from the ovaries (and a small amount from the testes). But it also comes from your fat cells, which is why men can have high levels too! And estrogen and fat go hand in hand, skipping down the beach watching the sunset on a warm summer night.  The more estrogen you have, the more fat you have.  And vice versa.  [bctt tweet=”The more estrogen you have, the more fat you have. And vice versa.”]

The tricky thing is that you need some estrogen.  It actually helps to keep you insulin sensitive – you know, keeping your energy stable and your body burning up your fat cells.

But for both sexes, excess estrogen can increase weight gain and prevent weight loss! And sadly, this isn’t always a result of your natural estrogen productions.  You can get synthetic estrogen from your shampoos, lotions, carpet, water bottles, furniture and detergents.  But you can also get it from the food you eat.  Some foods, even produce, are covered with pesticides, herbicides or growth hormones that are laden with estrogen (hence the reason you should buy organic).  But other foods, like soy and legumes, are naturally packed with estrogen.

And to lose weight and that stubborn belly fat, you have to lower your estrogen amounts. That means avoiding taking in extra, unneeded estrogen and lowering the amount you naturally produce.

So buy organic foods, eliminate soy and legumes, and start following your macros. 

Remember, you don’t want to completely eliminate estrogen – it keeps your insulin working for you. But you need to be like Goldilocks and find the estrogen level that’s juuuuusssttt right!


Cortisol: The Stress Controller

Want to know what happens if you run across a bear in the woods?  Or you boss calls you up in front of the entire office to give a presentation you forgot about? Or it’s measurement day at the gym and you have been on an all Oreo, pizza and burger diet?  You body gets a wee bit stressed.  And when you are stressed, you release the hormone cortisol.  And when that stress continues, you release even more cortisol.  And when you live in 24/7 stress or crisis, your cortisol levels skyrocket!

Stress Hormone a photo showing a girl pulling her hair

This is your stress hormone.  The more you stress, the more you have.  And what happens when you have high cortisol?  You crave carbs. No Bueno. 

The sweet or the savory? It doesn’t matter. You just want more. And you eat more.   And to make it worse, cortisol starts breaking down your muscles for energy.  What is even worser?  Cortisol tells your body to store that extra fat in your mid section!  And even worser-er?  Cortisol increases your chances for depression (which means more overeating, more carbs, and more fat storage).  Cortisol hits a quadruple whammy for the win.  Which is actually a lose for us. A big ol’ L on the record books.

How to keep your cortisol boss in check?  Stress less.  Right, easier said than done.  But really, you need to learn new techniques to control your stress.  You also need to improve your sleep and follow your macros.


All of these dang bosses are interlocked and always seem to require more sleep, less stress and improved diet to keep them balanced. But really, those are HUGELY IMPORTANT for keeping your hormone masters happy!

Now there are about a dozen other hormones that impact your fat stores and weight.  But if you start by balances these bosses at the top of the totem pole of power first, your other hormones should fall into the pecking order.  And you, down in the mail room, get to feel the weight loss results.

BUT…

Sometimes, even with an incredible diet and perfect sleep hygiene, your hormones might not completely balance themselves to give you maximum weight loss.  Sometimes in order to really get your hormones balanced, you need a little supplementation.

Remember, not all supplements are bad.  You just need to know which ones your body really needs.  Is your estrogen too high? Then you may need supplements to help lower it.  Is your insulin unbalanced? Supplements may be able to help.

Once you know your areas of deficiency, you can supplement those hormones to balance, stabilize and correct them.  Then you can see the weight loss results.

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