Have you ever done everything you were supposed to with putting your best foot forward in your efforts to lose fat, build muscle and be healthier but for the most part felt like a frustrated hamster on a wheel running your heart out but going nowhere?
Jump ahead; Links to section contents:
- Losing Body Fat; The Struggle is Real
- Hormones, Their Function & Why They Matter
- What Is The HPA (Axis)?
- These 5 Hormones Matter!
- Best Ways To Train in The Gym
- Compliment And Complete Your Efforts in Gym
I recently had a discussion with a new client whom for HIPPA reasons and to respectfully keep anonymous, will refer to as “Mike”. Like so many men before him, I had a lot of empathy for this man and his frustrations for not being able to achieve too many results from his workouts and efforts in the kitchen.
After being predominantly sedentary for several years and then starting on his own for the first 3 months in the gym and cleaning up his eating habits, Mike did feel a little bit better initially from his changes in lifestyle. But working out after the age of 40 and being three months in with limited results and then even despite hiring a personal trainer and having a few consultations with a registered dietitian within the following 4 months after, his results had been mediocre at best since starting his health and fitness mission 7 months prior.
Like many others, Mike had received a lot of opinions and well meaning suggestions from those around him wanting to help - much of which were conflicting pieces of advice often adding to the frustrating confusion as to why his results being seen had been limited.
Do these following instructions or suggestions sound familiar?
- Cut out processed foods high in sugar.
- Go to the gym and weight train 3-5x a week.
- Drink lots of water.
- Meal prep, eat plenty of protein and vegetables.
- Do a lot of cardio.
- Follow a Keto diet. Do a dash diet. Eat a paleo diet. You should follow a low fat diet. Intermittent fasting is the secret to weight loss. And, on and on...
- Use an effective fat "burner"
Okay… Check, check and check again, all those boxes down the line as being done is what Mike - our subject of this story, had been doing for 7 months. And, some of these are very good suggestions and should be implemented by everyone, but not all is suitable for each person. After a little initial success at first, the positive momentum and results soon slowed down to a snail speed pace.
Like many others, Mike’s motivation and joy from achieving any winning results instead started to convert into mustering up willpower to keep going. And since the results came to a halt, even more effort and willpower were called upon. Despite giving more and even hiring a personal trainer at the 3 month mark, there was still a lack of any noticeable improvements made for the next few months after.
Mike struggled to understand why, despite all his efforts and discipline, he was not getting the return on his investment. There is a limit as to how far anyone can go on willpower alone...
Mike’s story is all too often what happens with others - including also personal trainers struggling to figure out their client’s jigsaw of a puzzle as to why they lack results from their efforts in the gym and kitchen.
One of golden secrets that the best experts in the field of health & fitness gracing the earth with awesome physiques all know, but is often not discussed as openly in public as it should be is this (drum roll)... That having optimized hormones is absolutely critical to looking and feeling our best!
Now, we could write a novel here on all the different hormones, their functions and all the intricate details as it pertains to gender, age, lifestyle and other circumstances. But, we are here to simplify things in order to understand hormones in such a way where we can address things as they pertain to us, our struggles, goals and more.
Here is the bottom line this: You can have the best workout and diet program in town, but if your hormones are way out of balance you will forever struggle with a lack of reward for your efforts put forth.
It's not always so much that struggling regular folks or obese people eat that much different than metabolically fit people - and of course in some cases they DO but, it is just that their bodies simply do everything wrong metabolically.
So for example, if a guy like myself who is lean and muscular with excellent body composition sat down at the dinner table with a very large, obese person and we both ate the same exact meal, our bodies would partition the calories and nutrients vastly different. This would especially be exacerbated if I did this after a workout. Mostly, this happens because my body is going to first replace and fill up glycogen stores within muscles and liver while my body is much more sensitive to the positive effects of insulin doing this.
The obese person I’m eating this same meal with however, is most likely not going to have a body capable of cooperating in such a favorable manner like mine. Due to excessive body fat disrupting insulin’s attempt to drive glucose into where it should go, assumed elevations in estrogen and therefore lower testosterone as a result, among a host of other pieces to a broken system such as high cortisol, etc. - this person even if they are making lifestyle and nutrition changes for the better, will always have an uphill battle in comparison to someone in a healthier, more muscular and fit body.
New Year Started Off & Going Strong
It was 4 months ago nearing the end of 2018 that Mike came to suspect that his hormones may need adjustments. Aside from having a list of all the common symptoms of low testosterone and possibly more, he decided to investigate to find answers.
Fortunately, Mike found YOUTH-Rx. After discussing symptoms, challenges, concerns and more in addition to doing some lab work, it was soon concluded that Mike did indeed have low testosterone. Not only this, but the little amount his body was producing was converting into estrogen at a much higher rate than normal, leaving too many variables working against Mike.
Furthermore, his IGF-1 levels indicative of his body’s growth hormone production, was also very low - most likely also contributing to the lack of results Mike was seeing from his efforts too. There were a few other areas that were discovered as well such as low DHEA, high cortisol and more. All of which have been addressed since.
At this time almost 4 months in, we are happy to report that Mike has really made some positive leaps forward with his progress. Now, Mike is enjoying the following added benefits and changes that he wasn’t seeing before:
- More energy and strength each day
- Less body fat
- Better mood and cognitive abilities
- Enhanced sexual health (desire for it, erection strength, etc.)
- Much faster and stronger recoveries from workouts
- Improved self confidence
- Healthier blood glucose and A1-C levels
And, Mike is not the only one reaping some benefits here either! His girlfriend is reportedly happier with him now and he is making his personal trainer at the gym look really good given all the noticeable physical changes that have been taking place recently. Triple win!!!
Talk of hormones and endocrinology is often like trying to understand a confusing jigsaw puzzle that one is trying to put together displayed in a foreign language and pictures..
Hormones mattered to Mike because even despite all his efforts and good adjustments he made to his lifestyle prior to implementing an HRT program, he still wasn’t seeing many results. Mike’s hormones and endocrine system simply wasn’t connecting nor communicating on his behalf internally.
Some were not being produced enough while others were a bit too present, all of which had accumulated through the years into facing a very steep internal mountain that Mike was not capable of climbing on his own. But with a “lifting” hand, he has been able to rise above and simultaneously correct many areas of his body, health and well-being.
In simple language, we can think of hormones being important because they are critical message carriers that deliver instructions from one area of the body to other specific and special places elsewhere in the body, to then carry out important actions within for us to stay alive and well.
Speaking in broad terms, there is typically a stimulation of sorts that initiates production, transportation and then action of our hormones. This is what then is a lock and key type of communication and relationship going on from here once a hormone reaches a receptor site.
Let’s just take testosterone as an example here using a healthy (often younger) male that has an optimal, well performing endocrine system:
- When natural endogenously made testosterone levels start to get a little low, there is a feedback loop to the brain (hypothalamus > pituitary gland) that then...
- Sends signals (LH & FSH) down to the testicles (leydig cells) that then...
- Trigger more production of testosterone (and other things) to be produced and released.These are then...
- Carried out to the body by albumin and sex hormone binding globulins (SHBG) to be received throughout the body where needed - this is like the “lock and key” mentioned a moment ago at this point…
This above is referred to as the HPT Axis, which stands for hypothalamus-pituitary-testicular axis. It is very much how our thyroid hormones and others are also regulated with their axis systems as well; it is the body’s way of maintaining homeostasis and balance from within!
You can think of this like how our thermostat on the wall inside our home works with the furnace which heats our house. When the temperature (like our testosterone) of the home (like our body) gets too low, thermostat (like hypothalamus-pituitary glands) senses this and communicates to the furnace (like our testicles) to heat things up.
When the temperature rises to a healthy/set number, then the thermostat senses this and communicates to the furnace to shut off for a bit. And, everything continues to work in harmony keeping everything living comfortably within the home.
However, if and when the furnace gets old or if the batteries in the thermostat go dead and it can’t communicate, then problems occur! Or maybe, the old home has 6 very drafty and cold windows where 40% of the heat being produced is going right out of those windows? Either way you look at it, there are some things that need to be fixed or straight up replaced!
We can think of and relate this to our bodies and our endocrine systems, unfortunately due to reasons tied to hereditary, injuries, aging and largely seen environmental contributors we are seeing more than ever today. Many are struggling with hormone imbalances that have reached a point where it is extremely difficult and sometimes impossible to fix on their own with lifestyle modifications alone.
In our subject Mike and analogy being used here, his furnace was really old beyond the point of repair and simply needed to be updated or, enhanced.. He also had a few new windows installed and we think his house is much more comfortable inside now and the future is looking pretty bright on the outside!
These 5 Hormones Matter!
#1 Hormone: Testosterone
For men, this is critically important to have optimized. Testosterone is the master hormone that makes men feel like men. It is what helps to maintain and build muscle, help to regulate glucose levels, lends to sexual health, cognitive function and energy. All of which has mostly contributed to our subject Mike at the beginning of this article to feeling so much better and alive now.
#2 Hormone: Growth Hormone
Growth hormone (GH) stimulates growth, cell reproduction, and cell regeneration in humans and other animals. In addition, GH helps to regulate muscle to fat ratio, muscle and bone growth, sugar and fat metabolism, body fluids, and some experts even believe heart function.
GH works by stimulating the liver and other tissues to make insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), which is essentially the “end-product” that gives us many of the known benefits mentioned. You can get a little more of a thorough understanding of GH and its role with fat loss and more by clicking HERE.
#3 Hormone: Estrogen
Most think of estrogen as a female only hormone but it is also present and very necessary in men as well – only in much lower amounts. Most know that at healthy levels, estrogen helps regulate female reproductive cycles as well as helping contribute to female characteristics such as carrying more body fat and breasts. For both men and women, estrogen is important for its roles in both bone density and heart health, to name a few.
However, when estrogen is too low or in more common cases with men today being too high, undesired consequences can start to take place. Estrogen dominance is associated with irregular menstrual cycles in women, gynecomastia (aka “bitch tits”) and lower testosterone in men and, is of often associated with obesity in both genders as well.
Fellas, you can read a bit more on "man boobs" and estrogen by clicking HERE.
#4 Hormone: Insulin
In most cases, this hormone can be controlled to a large extent by one’s diet and lifestyle. Insulin can be good when controlled and released in healthy amounts and at the right times - like after a tough workout. It can be bad if all this happens too frequently and in high amounts over a long period of time (type 2 diabetes) or if not enough is produced in the first place from our pancreas (type 1).
Many of the typical foods that humans in industrialized areas of the world are consuming, are hyper loaded with refined carbohydrates and sugar and therefor triggering huge surges of insulin on repeated basis.
This, is largely contributing not only our growing waistlines seen on the outside, but also to the damage inside as it negatively relates to diabetes, heart health, inflammation, hormones and in simple terms; our overall health and how we feel each day. You can get an easy understanding of insulin and its relationship to glucose and more by clicking HERE.
#5 Hormone: What is Cortisol?
Primarily known as the stress hormone, cortisol is really a good hormone that is intended to work in vital survival situations. If we were walking in the woods and suddenly started getting chased by a big bad bear wanting to chew our face off, cortisol would kick in and allow us to run like hell faster than we ever thought possible.
Cortisol becomes a bad thing when levels are consistently elevated. This can come from over training in the gym, being overworked and sleeping too little or, from personal stresses from bad relationships in life.
If cortisol is constantly and chronically elevated over time, this is going to lead to negative effects on hormones like testosterone, our metabolic rate and heart health while also encouraging the body to hold onto and store more fat. Practicing meditation is very useful and has been used by many with great success in contributing positively here.
You can read more on the importance of these hormones by clicking HERE.
Results from Your Efforts, Attitude and Approach
A certain percentage of your journey to achieve a better physique and status of health will be under your control. These are things such as: attitude, effort, approach and consistency.
Another percentage will be OUT of your control: These are things like the genetic hand you were dealt, your environment (which you can sometimes control to an extent), physical (and endocrine) limitations and/or an aged body that can’t naturally do what it used to 20 or 30 years ago.
The extent to which you ENJOY your journey to acquire a better body, mind and state of health will mostly be based on what you choose to focus on and when capable, improve.
As it pertains to sculpting your best physique and developing a strong body, it is of utmost importance that you learn and implement proper form and movement when you’re training in the gym. This includes proper planes and ranges of motion in addition to time under tension as it relates to tempo.
You don’t have to always squat till you throw up or walk like a zombie for days after because your legs are so sore. These things will most likely work against you eventually due to acquiring an injury, triggering a negative hormonal response or both.
A few important things and examples to learn good technique with and strive for in the gym include the following:
- Performing rows by always leading with elbows and engaging lats - not your biceps.
- Execute stiff leg dead lifts with your hamstrings - not a swinging lumbar.
- Grind out some curls with biceps - not with a hinging shoulder (front delts).
- Perform lunges with your legs - firing glutes at the bottom and finishing with your quads into the top and with your head on top of your shoulders - and shoulders on top of your hips. Lunges (or squats) should NOT have your chest dropping faster and lower than your hips. Nor should they be done like the humpty dance looking “crazy wack funky - people will say ya look like M.C. Hammer on crack, Humpty!” Sorry, but I’ve always loved that song :)
Learning how small changes in positioning or a plane of motion can affect muscles being recruited and worked, can go a long way. Knowing the difference between working the targeted muscle(s) while maintaining a steady time under tension for 30-40 seconds versus just moving weight makes a huge difference from a body building and sculpting standpoint.
With just a few but important bullet points here, it is always highly recommended and smart to seek out and hire if necessary, a professional personal trainer to assist you. Doing this can help you avoid common mistakes and injuries while saving you tons of time in your quest to accomplish your goals.
Even if you don't have the ability to hire a trainer or get to a big gym, you can always get some good home workouts in as well. Clicking HERE will give a few ideas to help if needing to workout at home or in a hotel.
Compliment And Complete Your Efforts in Gym
- Working out in the gym should help you gain strength in most cases, no doubt. But how much?
- Do cardio? Absolutely, it works our most important heart muscle.
- And aside from getting strong, what about the body composition changes such as less body fat and more appealing physique - I assume this is a benefit desired by most as well, yes??
And of course, correcting any hormone imbalances or disrupted endocrine systems is also extremely key to success. Intelligently and correctly addressing all four of these - weight training, hormone optimization, nutrition and cardio, is critical to seeing our BEST results.
Only giving attention to 2 or 3 is like trying to drive a car with only 3 good tires with one being flat. If you’re feeling like a hamster on a wheel going nowhere, now is the time to investigate, learn and address why that is. Learn today what can make a stronger, healthier and more fit person tomorrow - you will be thankful on so many levels in time that you did!
If you suspect a lack of healthy hormone balance may be a culprit in holding you back from looking and feeling your best or if you are a new visitor and interested in knowing more, fill out our health history form at the link below and let one of our experienced consultants know a good time to discuss the process and more.
Roger & the YOUTH-Rx Team