By Matt O'Neill, MSc(Nut&Diet), APD
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There's a lot more to building metabolic fitness than simply cutting calories and exercising. Focussing your efforts on achieving an optimal hormonal balance can result in breakthrough results and easier weight management. Here is a checklist of ten hormones and how to reset them:
Insulin helps glucose get into body cells, but high levels reduce fat burning. Reset insulin by eating regular nutrient-rich meals, not blowing out on carbohydrate, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy body weight.
Cortisol is the `stress' hormone that's released in response to physical or mental stress. It can trigger food cravings and promote abdominal body fat. Reset cortisol by managing stress, avoiding overtraining and getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night.
Ghrelin is an appetite stimulating hormone which can drive intense food cravings. Reset ghrelin by avoiding severe calorie restriction or waiting until you are absolutely ravenous to eat. Also, get adequate sleep and limit alcohol, both of which can disrupt ghrelin levels.
Leptin is an appetite suppressing hormone that rises when you've have had enough to eat. Reset leptin by getting enough sleep and not drastically restricting calorie intake.
5. Thyroid hormones (thyroxine and triiodothyronine)
Thyroid hormones (thyroxine and triiodothyronine) regulate your metabolic rate. Reset these by eating nutrient-rich foods, especially those high in iodine, including; eggs, milk, salmon and spinach. When using salt, choose iodised salt. Avoid rapid weight loss as this will depress thyroid function.
Serotonin is your feel-good neurotransmitter. In serotonin-sensitive people, low levels can generate carbohydrate cravings. Reset and boost your levels of serotonin with a regular daily eating pattern. Include protein-rich foods such as lean meat, fish chicken, dairy and legumes to help produce serotonin.
Dopamine is your prime `reward' neurotransmitter, which is related to pleasure-seeking addictions. Reset dopamine by avoiding high-fat, sugary treats as rewards and instead generate natural highs from exercise, time with friends or time out for yourself.
Melatonin assists in regulating your sleep-wake cycle (circadian
rhythm) by causing drowsiness and lowering body temperature. Reset melatonin by spending time in a darkened, screen-free room before falling asleep to promote the production of melatonin. If you can, also avoid shiftwork or major disruptions to your circadian rhythm.
Testosterone is the principle male sex hormone that has effects on muscle growth and strength. Reset (increase testosterone) with weight loss (in men), adequate sleep and resistance training. Vitamin D from dairy, eggs, and fish as well as zinc from lean red meat, oat bran and cheese can also promote healthy testosterone levels.
Oestrogen's primary role is the sex hormone in females. Oestrogen balance is also important in men. For either sex, an imbalance can interfere with body weight regulation. Often, resetting oestrogen levels requires medical treatment.
Something still not right?
Resetting hormones can take time, so be patient in terms of results. When you get the balance right, your hormones can help you stay in shape automatically.
However, if after using this hormone checklist to review your lifestyle, you feel you are eating nutrient-rich, exercising regularly and managing your mood, BUT something is still not right (you can't seem to shed excess fat, your energy levels are low or you feel unusually tired) please check with your Doctor for a full review of your situation and hormone levels.
It could be the breakthrough you are looking for.
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