In today’s society the word “hormone” is used in a large capacity. Whether you’re hearing about the newest birth control on a playful t.v. commercial or the new “epidemic” that is the steroid market. All too much the term hormone is used in a manner that creates a negative inclination. In actuality hormones are just chemical reactions in our body which allow us to perform different life functions. In the fitness world controlling hormonal fluctuations and levels are key. We use these hormones to help put on lean muscle mass, stop the storage of fat in the body, and repair cells. The three most commonly referred to and most easily controlled, are testosterone, estrogen, and insulin. So, how can you use these “hormones” to your benefit, and even more so, control them naturally?
Testosterone is the hormone that plays the primary role in the body’s ability to gain lean muscle mass. Testosterone is also most commonly referred to as the most popular anabolic steroid, even though, it is not. Increased testosterone can be responsible for the deepening of your voice, body hair growth, increased libido, increased muscle mass, and the ability to reproduce. For this discussion’s sake, we will stick to the idea that it is responsible for the ability to gain lean muscle mass. Now we all know that we can increase test levels, synthetically, using TRT, or testosterone replacement therapy. But what if we want to increase our already available test levels in our bodies, releasing what we have stored? The best way is exercise. In particular heavy, compound, lifting movements. The “big three” or the bench press, deadlift, and squat are considered the most anabolic exercises. This is due to the fact that they incorporate the most individual muscles, in each individual lift. These movements are considered multi joint movements and require large amounts of energy to perform. Research shows that when these large, heavy movements are performed, test levels are increased. There are other theories such as different foods and herbs that help free up potential testosterone, but I’m skeptical. I feel heavy lifting is the best recipe for increasing the bodies testosterone levels.
Estrogen is the counterpart of testosterone. Estrogen is primarily the hormone women produce allowing them to have children. Men can find themselves with increased estrogen levels, when their test levels increase. The body naturally wants to find an even balance between the two, so when test levels rise, so do estrogen levels. Men don’t want this because it can cause repercussions such as gynoplasty, or enlarged breasts, low libido, loss of energy and muscle mass. So how do we avoid these issues, while simultaneously increasing our test levels? The most important component to keeping your estrogen levels down is controlling your diet. Make sure to eat healthy, clean foods low in saturated fats and rich in lean proteins. Stay away from soy and refined sugars, and be sure to take your multi vitamins. If levels get too high and can’t seem to be controlled with diet, consult your doctor who may be able to prescribe an estrogen and/or progesterone blocker.
Insulin is the primary hormone responsible for the breakdown of food. It’s created in the pancreas and allows for calories to be broken down and converted into energy in the form of glucose. But, all too often, there is a miss communication within our bodies, and sugars are left to float freely through our blood, to eventually be stored as fat. Looking at this aesthetically, this is disadvantageous because we want our bodies burning calories and using them efficiently. We would like to keep insulin levels at an even keel at all times. Increased insulin activity result in increased blood sugar levels, which we do not want. There are two controversial theories to avoid this, used amongst the fitness community. The first is the implementation of apple cider vinegar into your diet. Studies show that the active components in the vinegar can help regulate blood sugar spikes, due to increased insulin levels after a carbohydrate and/or protein heavy meal. This will help keep your body from storing the calories as fat, instead burning them for energy. It is suggested that one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar is ingested with each large meal. The next theory is intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is the practice of restricting calories for 12-20 hours, daily, in order to create more insulin persistence. This is a measure of how likely your body is to react to food, causing increased insulin levels. In other words you can think of it as the fasting time, telling your body, that it will use all calories for energy, and not fat storage.
Whether or not you decide to implement these ideas, is solely up to you. Personally, I am currently experimenting with both the apple cider vinegar and intermittent fasting. While always training hard and keeping a clean diet, both of these ideas seem to be helpful, and no inconvenience. On the contrary, only having to eat 8 hours a day, is nice. I fast 12 hours without any calories, and hours 12 and 14 I allow myself 40 grams of whey protein isolate. This is only due to my belief in the protein ceiling. This refers to the belief that only a certain amount of protein per sitting can be metabolized correctly, synthesized and used optimally. This allows me to reach my macro nutrient goals in a more conducive manor. I hope this helps, and as always, keep working hard.