How much stamina and strength you have are controlled by four key hormones, research shows. Keeping your hormones in sync will deliver lasting, steady fuel. Learn how to turn up their power.
Your hormones are like a team, working together to give you energy. There are anabolic hormones, including insulin and your thyroid hormones, that help your body create and store the molecules it uses as fuel. And catabolic hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, enable your body to use that fuel. But certain factors, including diet and stress, can upset this precise operation, making your energy levels plummet. Fortunately, by using a few simple strategies, you can sync them again – and become even stronger. Here’s how.
Thyroid Hormones Effected By Xenoestrogens
The thyroid hormones are crucial because they help regulate the body’s metabolism – this includes the body's ability to make, store, and use energy. But their production can be inhibited by products we use every day. Several groundbreaking studies have found that bisphenols and phthalates – two chemicals in in many plastic products, like water bottles and food containers – can throw off thyroid function, which may cause fatigue. These chemicals are collectively known as “xenoestrogens” because they mimic estrogen in the body and they make people more insulin resistant. People with higher levels of xenoestrogens, especially a phthalate known as DEHP, found in plastics used for tablecloths and shower curtains, had lower levels of thyroid hormones, according to the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. BPA substitutes, like BPS and BPF (often used in products marked BPA-free) can also disrupt thyroid hormones, the journal Environmental Pollution reported.
To protect your thyroid hormones, avoid using plastic products whenever possible. Opt for glass, metal, or paper instead. And if you have to use a plastic food or drink container, never heat it – the high temperatures can cause BPA and other chemicals to leach into your food.
If you store body fat on your upper thighs and butt, then estrogen is your dominant hormone. They typically means your body is not detoxifying estrogen as efficiently as it should be, or there’s excess exposure to xenoestrogens, which create a greater estrogen effect on your health. Excess carbohydrate intake also cause more available estrogen to circulate around the body. The more fat cells you have, the more estrogen in the body since fat cells secrete estrogen.
To reduce the amount of estrogen, eat 1 cup of cruciferous veggies daily since these vegetables contain indole-3-carbinol, a phytonutrient that helps to metabolize and clear estrogen from the body. I also recommend taking 300 mg DIM daily to further support estrogen metabolism. I love the Healthy Goods Dim-X product, DIM-I3C by Seeking Health and DIM-X by Uckele Nutrition.
Insulin Spikes Are Inflammatory
Insulin is the hormone that helps your body turn blood sugar (glucose) into energy. After you eat, your blood sugar (glucose) rises and this rise in glucose triggers your pancreas to release insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin removes glucose from the blood and transports it into your muscles, fat cells and liver to use later when the body needs energy. But you need the right amount of insulin. Too much is damaging because it causes chronic inflammation, and may lead to insulin resistance and eventually type 2 diabetes.
Insulin levels can also be controlled by minimizing the foods that raise insulin, such as processed foods and beverages high in carbohydrates, sweets and basically anything that contains sugar. Here's how to do that and get off the bloodsugar rollercoaster.
For optimal insulin and energy levels, exercise is important. First, exercise lowers blood sugar levels, and makes it easier for your muscle cells to use insulin. Physical activity can lower your blood sugar up to 24 hours or more after your workout by making your body more sensitive to insulin. Cycling for 60 minutes improved adults’ insulin sensitivity for two days afterward, a study in the journal Clinical Science found. When you exercise, the muscles draw glucose from the blood to use for energy without needing insulin. That helps keep the hormone in a healthy zone so it functions better when you do use it.
Yes, it’s the stress hormone, but cortisol also regulates alertness. Levels of it surge in the morning to help you wake up, then gradually taper off over the course of the day, briefly spiking whenever you need more focus. But problems like a poor night’s sleep and chronic stress can throw off that natural rhythm. When you don’t get quality z’s your body may try to compensate by increasing its cortisol production throughout the day. By nighttime, your levels may remain up to 45 percent higher than normal, making it harder to doze off and creating a vicious cycle.
Constant stress – the kind you feel when you’re going through a demanding time at work or in life – can also result in higher-than-normal cortisol levels. That means you’ll feel exhausted in the morning and wired at night. If you have belly fat, this stress-coping hormone is to blame. When stress hormones elevate, it causes the blood sugar to fluctuate more quickly and to release insulin more than it should.
To get on track, stick to a regular sleep schedule and minimize stress. A daily 20-minute meditation works wonders for resetting the body’s cortisol response. Also, try taking adaptogens, compounds in plants that help regulate the adrenal system. Adaptogens sense imbalances in hormones and naturally correct them. One adaptogen in particular, ashwagandha root, is used to support a healthy response to stress.
Personally, I prefer the powdered or tinctured form of adaptogens because I find them more potent and effective. However, ashwagandha capsules are also available. Ashwagandha can also be incorporate into recipes, such as Ashwagandha-infused Moon Milk, Ashwagandha Chocolate Chunks and Ashwagandha Hot Chocolate.
Phosphatidylserine before bed is also used to help lower cortisol levels.
Adrenaline is Fight-or-Fight
This is the flight-or-fight hormone, and it’s what makes you heart begin to pound just before a job interview, a first date, or the start of a big race. Adrenaline gives the body immediately energy. It speeds up the heart rate and sparks cortisol production.
But adrenaline can also be triggered by smaller daily stressors, as when you’re running late to work. That’s when it can cause problems. If adrenaline spikes throughout the day, it makes you feel depleted rather than energized. To tone down the adrenaline response, spend at least 10 minutes each day on a calming activity, such as yoga, knitting, or listening to music. Eventually your adrenaline will stop spiking as often or as high, and your energy will stay steady.
Use This Tip to Stabilize Blood Sugar Throughout The Day
When you get up in the morning, you’re going to either gain or lose control of your metabolism as soon as you open your eyes. The single most important thing you can do, before you do anything else, is take a Tablespoon of oil off the spoon as soon as you wake up. The oil forces the sugar level in your blood to rise slowly. If you don’t eat something immediately upon waking, your liver starts releasing sugar, and you don’t want to start the day with a blood sugar spike. It’s difficult to get that balance back to where it should be. The oil sets the tone for the waking hours, and that’s how you start to train a high stress pattern and high insulin pattern. Then eat breakfast within about 30 minutes, and make sure there’s protein in that breakfast. I prefer cod liver oil, fish oil, avocado oil, ghee, or a high quality, organic extra-virgin olive oil.
In Health and Happiness,
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods
1. American Diabetes Association. Blood Sugar and Exercise.