While nutrition and fitness definitely go hand in hand for shaping your best body, Marissa, our lead nutritionist at NV bridal states that Nutrition is probably the single most important factor in weight loss management and health maintenance. 

The reason for this is that calories in a diet, specifically those coming from carbs, fat and protein, have the ability to manipulate and affect our hormones, which are chemical messengers in the body that tell our systems like our metabolism and muscles in our skeletal system what to do. 

For the purpose of length and efficiency, today I will be talking only about 5 of the main hormones that affect weight gain/weight loss and body composition. These hormones can all be manipulated with diet and your overall nutritional status.

THE 5 HORMONES:

1. CORTISOL

2. THYROID HORMONES

3. ESTROGEN

4. TESTOSTERONE

5. INSULIN

To begin, hormones are chemical messengers that travel through your bloodstream to your tissues or organs. Even a slight hormonal imbalance may have a significant effect on your metabolism, which controls the rate your body transforms the food and drink we eat into usable energy. 

1. CORTISOL

Cortisol is a stress hormone that is produced by our adrenal glands (aka the fight or flight glands). 

From a weight and body composition perspective, cortisol is a catabolic hormone (meaning to break down – as opposed to build-up, which is what anabolic hormones do, such as testosterone). 

Cortisol increases blood sugar when levels fall too low and/or during stressful situations so we have adequate sugar in our blood to use as energy in a stressful event.

Elevated cortisol levels also disrupt our body’s ability to covert our T4 thyroid hormone into the active T3 hormone, — and many of us know thyroid hormones are responsible for controlling our metabolic rate. 

It is important to know that elevated cortisol and elevated stress can come in the form of dietary stress, under-eating, over-exercising, emotional stress and environmental stress. 

To help with cortisol balance for optimal weight loss and body composition, keep carb sources in your diet to complex carbs, such as sweet potato, broccoli, berries and leafy green vegetables to manage blood sugar, and keep stress levels low with low resistance exercise, meditation, yoga, and long walks. 

2. THYROID HORMONES (specifically T4 AND T3)

When you don’t have enough of these important hormones, your metabolism slows down, resulting in weight gain and trouble losing weight.

Thyroid hormones are affected by nutrient deficiencies such as iodine, selenium and zinc, as well as elevated stress levels and adrenal burnout. 

To support your thyroid, reduce stressors in your life and make sure you’re getting adequate nutrients needed to support proper thyroid function such as iodine (sea vegetables like kelp, spiruline and chlorella), selenium (brazil nuts) and zinc (pumpkin seeds and oysters).

3) ESTROGEN

Estrogen is an anabolic sex hormone that influences gene expression, cell growth and is responsible for the development and regulation of the female reproductive system and secondary female sexual characteristics. 

Unfortunately, the more abdominal fat we have, the more estrogen we produce as fat cells produce estrogen, and then this becomes a viscous cycle as fat cells produce estrogen and estrogen influences fat retention. 

Elevated estrogen levels can be due to elevated fat, as well as xenoestrogens in the environment in the form of pesticides, herbicides, BPA in plastics, hormones in meat, dioxins in dairy products, BC pill, and hormone disruptors in personal care products like paragons and phalates. 

Elevated estrogen levels have been shown to stimulate estrogen dependant conditions like breast cancers, ovarian cancers and endometriosis. 

Helpful tools to lower estrogen is to exercise to reduce fat mass, consume organic meat and avoid dairy, clean up your personal care products, and include tons of estrogen detoxifying ingredients like cruciferous vegetables such as kale, broccoli, brussels and cauliflower. 

4. TESTOSTERONE

Testosterone is an anabolic, sex hormone and plays a role primarily in the development of male reproductive tissues as well as secondary sexual characteristics such as increased muscle mass and the growth of body hair. 

Testosterone is also, of course, important for women looking to build lean muscle mass.

Unfortunately, elevated cortisol/stress levels cause testosterone to decrease which can often be due to overtraining, under-sleeping, poor nutrition and also an increase in age. 

Additionally, something called the Aromatase enzyme converts testosterone to estrogen, further depleting free testosterone levels and increasing estrogen levels. In this case

Aromatase inhibitors stop the production of estrogen in postmenopausal women. Aromatase inhibitors work by blocking the enzyme aromatase, which turns the hormone androgen into small amounts of estrogen in the body.

Maca: Maca is a cruciferous plant that originates in Peru. Proponents say it has a host of benefits, including enhancing fertility and blocking estrogen in men. Although mama does contain many vitamins and nutrients, there’s little scientific evidence that it plays a role in regulating hormones.

Grape seed extract: This extract has been shown to act as an aromatase inhibitor or estrogen blocker, in postmenopausal women at high risk for breast cancer. Men may experience similar benefits when taking it as a supplement.

5. INSULIN 

Insulin lowers the sugar in your blood and provides your cells with immediate energy while the remaining sugar is stored in the form of glycogen in our liver and muscles and excess energy is converted and stored as fat for later energy use. This also makes it an anabolic hormone, which means to build/grow. 

Eating too much sugar or carbohydrates (especially in the absence of protein, fat and fibre) can increase your levels of insulin too high, for too long, which may lead to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and perpetuates inflammatory conditions. 

Manage your insulin levels by ensuring you’re not consuming more than you need per day. It is best to consume carbs around your workouts to help improve insulin sensitivity and always try to pair your carb sources with fibre, fat, protein or all three to help blunt the impact of insulin and better manage blood sugar which will help with hunger and weight loss. 

if you guys are looking for more specific information on how you can manipulate your hormones to achieve your ideal body composition, I highly suggest the NV Bridal Societe meal plans created by Marissa, which aim to improve hormonal balance for optimal weight loss.