Hormones 101: What You Need to Know

Every part of your body plays a specific role, completing a specific job. Direction comes from your endocrine system where glands produce hormones to tell each of these body parts what to do, when to do it, and for how long.

Even though hormones are vital parts of human health, they’re often misunderstood – if understood at all.

Here, we’re talking all about hormones including what they are, what they do, and why they matter. 

What are Hormones?

Hormones are chemical messages secreted into the bloodstream. They mingle with different cells in your body and contribute to its overall function.

What Do Hormones Do?

Overall, hormones do their work slowly and in cycles. Your hormones affect bodily processes such as:

  • Growth and development
  • Your metabolism
  • Sexual function and reproduction
  • Mood
  • Weight

When your hormones are functioning properly and their levels are balanced, things tend to operate smoothly. That is until things get out of whack.

Hormones that are out of balance can cause various problems like diabetes, weight gain or loss, infertility, and weak bones. To understand your fitness better, hormones can also shape your experience with fat loss.

Hormones Affecting Weight Loss

There are a few key hormones to understand that can affect your weight. Knowing what they do and how to get them under control can help you get through common weight loss struggles.

Ghrelin

Produced in the stomach, ghrelin is the hormone that tells you you’re hungry. Cutting calories may help with weight loss, but it also causes increased ghrelin.

To decrease your ghrelin levels, you need to exercise. Working out lowers the production of ghrelin and your body will tell you that you’re hungry less often.

Leptin

Leptin is released exclusively from fat cells and it urges your body to eat less and burn more. The more body fat you have, the more leptin is released. When too much leptin is being pumped into your blood, your body starts to become immune to its signals.

The goal then is to maximize your leptin sensitivity by getting enough sleep and enriching your diet with antioxidants. Ultimately, losing weight will decrease your leptin production and getting everything back into a balance.

Adiponectin

Adiponectin is released to enhance your muscles’ ability to use carbs and break down fat. It boosts your metabolism and curbs your appetite.

This hormone is produced more when your body is leaner, so the goal is to be as lean as possible. To do this, make sure you move your body every day and replace carbs with monounsaturated fats like olives and avocados.

Glucagon

Essentially the opposite of insulin, glucagon is responsible for breaking down your body’s stored carbs and fats to use them for energy. That means you want to maximize the secretion of glucagon when attempting to lose weight.

To do so, eat protein-rich, low-cab meals.

CCK

Cholecystokinin or CCK is released in your intestines after eating protein or fat. It signals the feeling of being full and slows the rate of digestion. To take advantage of CCK, make sure to eat protein and fat with every meal.

Epinephrine (aka Adrenaline)

Epinephrine is the fight or flight hormone. It burns fat and releases energy while also helping with appetite suppression. The best way to crank up the release of epinephrine in your body is by interval training.

Hormones for Muscle Building 

The three main muscle-building hormones are testosterone, human growth hormone, and insulin. These are all anabolic hormones meaning they help build muscles.

Testosterone

Testosterone prompts the release of the Insulin Growth Factor (IGF) in the liver. Therefore, it’s directly linked to the synthesis of protein in the body. To increase testosterone production, you should:

  • Do heavy resistance training at 80 – 90% of your max effort
  • Keep your workouts short with short rest period in between sets
  • Do compound exercises 

Human Growth Hormone

Produced in high amounts as a child (think growing pains), it’s the key hormone responsible for the growth of your muscles and bones. Your body releases the most HGH during sleep (which is why teenagers seem to sleep forever), so it’s imperative you get ample amounts of sleep when you want to build muscle.

Insulin

Insulin helps you recover from exercise, build muscle, and maintains your blood sugar. Consuming high levels of carbs causes excess insulin production which inhibits the breakdown of fats.

So, to achieve fat loss, aim for carbohydrates with a low glycemic index like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

All in all, hormones account for a huge part of what happens in our bodies. But, there are ways to get in control of your hormones to help them work toward your fitness goals. By understanding key hormones, you’re on the right track toward a more balanced you.

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