In the last blog post, we touched on the basics of bodybuilding, as well as the importance of functional training and adopting a healthy lifestyle. In the second part of the blog post, we will be delving into detail on the major hormones involved. The list is not exhaustive. I will try to be as concise as I can while emphasizing the key points of each element.
Leptin– Leptin is the satiety hormone produce by fat cells to inform our hypothalamus, brain center for homeostasis, that we have eaten enough food. As low leptin levels signal a “starvation alarm” to the brain to trigger fat storage and consumption of more food, this is a hormone which needs to be properly regulated. Overweight and obese individuals typically experience “leptin resistance”, meaning that the intake of food does not induce a proportional rise in leptin levels.
Ways to avoid leptin resistance: avoid stress and overeating, physical activity, eating nutritious meals with appropriate portions
Insulin– Insulin is a peptide hormone which is secreted into the bloodstream when we consume glucose (usually caused by the breakdown of food containing carbohydrates). It functions to regulate carbohydrate and fat metabolism. When blood sugar level is elevated, insulin is released to stimulate skeletal muscle and fat cell storage and absorption of glucose. This is a hormone which we do not want to have fluctuating levels in our bloodstream.
Ways to control insulin- eating regular meals, watching portion sizes, staying away from processed food and refined carbs, and exercising regularly
Thyroid hormone– Thyroid hormones (predominantly T3 and T4) increases our basal metabolic rate (the rate we burn calories) and plays an essential role in thermoregulation (regulation of body temperature). While thyroid hormones are paramount to muscle gain, excessive levels can lead to weight loss, hand tremor, sleep problems, and anxiety. The synthesis of thyroid hormones is highly associated with adequate levels of iodine. Therefore, it is crucial to intake sufficient and controlled levels of iodine in your diet.
Ways to control thyroid hormone: eat plenty of vegetables, get plenty of restful sleep, maintain a healthy mindset and good mood, meditation, and yoga
Growth hormone– Produced by the pituitary glands, the growth hormone does exactly what its name suggests: to stimulate and facilitate growth. The growth hormone also increases the rate of lipolysis and utilization of free fatty acids as a source of energy. Growth hormone has an inverse relation to our body fat and insulin levels. This highlights the importance of maintaining a healthy body weight and avoiding sugary foods. Growth hormone is released in significant amounts at night, so make sure to get enough good sleep every day.
Ways to boost growth hormone: get plenty of good sleep, lose belly fat and reduce sugar intake
Cortisol– Cortisol is our stress hormone which signals to break down body tissue, including muscles. Essentially, this is the hormone we want to avoid an increase in, as it inhibits the body’s ability to burn fat and build muscles. Excessive cortisol also compromises our immunity, causes hypertension, and accelerates the aging process.
Ways to suppress cortisol: Eat a nutritious breakfast, eating high-quality protein, keeping insulin levels under control, having a positive attitude and stress relieving strategies, surrounding yourself with positive energy (optimistic family, friends, and colleague), getting enough quality sleep, and taking necessary supplements.
Testosterone– Testosterone is a steroid hormone which helps build muscle mass and keeps body fat levels low. This is also the reason why women have a higher body fat percentage- women have much lower levels of testosterone and higher levels of estrogen. Testosterone plays a key role in helping grow skeletal muscle.
Ways to increase testosterone: lifting heavy, performing low rep compound exercises, HIIT training, minimize stress and cortisol levels, and getting enough quality sleep
The hormones and the human endocrine system may seem complicated, but the take-home message is to adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle, taking all the biological, psychological, and social factors into account. Admittedly, this is easier said than done and that information in the blog post is intentionally kept generalized and un-personalized. To maximize results, feel free to reach out to me and our team of trainers, nutritionist, and professionals for a program catering to your unique fitness and health needs!
About the author:
Kevin Cheng is a personal trainer at Function Health Club and the fitness instructor for the Monday evening HIIT class. He is a BSc. Kinesiology graduate from McGill University, registered BCAK kinesiologist, certified ACSM personal trainer, and published researcher. Kevin specializes in strength & conditioning, functional training, and active rehabilitation.