How to Fix Hormones Causing Belly Fat with Strength Training
The body’s chemical messengers are called hormones which are produced by the endocrine glands (comprising of six major glands, namely the adrenal glands, thyroid, pituitary, pineal, thymus, and pancreas). Hormones are defined as being a regulatory substance which is transported via tissue fluids, such as blood, to stimulate specific cells or tissues into action. Most importantly, hormones are responsible for regulating the following;
- Sleeping patterns
- Metabolic processes
- Sexual & reproductive health
- Muscle growth and development
In a nut shell, hormones are in control of every weight loss aspect whether you are a man or a woman! Hormones determine where you store fat on your body as well as your cravings and appetite for food. Fortunately most hormonal imbalances can be reset through specific types of training and eliminating common dietary triggers.
If you suspect that you have a severe hormonal imbalance, seek the guidance of a qualified health practitioner as this could be sabotaging your weight loss attempts.
Lean Body Mass (LBM) is one of the main factors which determine the body’s metabolic rate. Strength training utilizes resistance to progressively overload muscles, thereby prompting the body to adapt and release recovery hormones which build strength, anaerobic endurance, and muscle size. Stressing a large muscle mass through multi-joint movements such as those found in CrossFit, with a medium to high load at medium to high intensity, produces the greatest hormonal responses. Strength training above all other training has shown to dramatically affect acute hormonal responses in the body after training.
- Human Growth Hormone (HGH or GH) and testosterone are the two primary (and anabolic) hormones stimulated by this kind of training. HGH and testosterone are also lipolytic, meaning that they mobilize body fat for use as fuel - leading to an overall reduction in body-fat especially oestrogen-related body fat storage. NB: Women will not lose their femininity with this kind of training! Insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) and Mechano Growth Factor (MGF or IGF-IEa) are also produced.
- Most beneficial for? (Absolutely everybody!) Individuals, especially women, who store the majority of their body fat in the hips, thighs and chest. Many men have high estrogen levels and as such have corresponding body fat storage patterns (did you say moobs?).
Listen up ‘spot reducers’! Compound training engages several different muscles to work all at once (e.g. squats, lunges) as opposed to isolated training which, as the name gives away, isolates one muscle group at a time. Performed in a circuit fashion, dynamic training also builds anaerobic endurance without progressively overloading your muscles.
- Mainly stimulates your body’s production of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) which dramatically decreases insulin sensitivity and, as mentioned above, mobilizes body fat for fuel.
- Most beneficial for? People who store the majority of their body fat in their love handles and lower back, suggesting that they are resistant to the hormone insulin (insulin resistance).
Lactic Acid Training
Lactic acid is a muscle by-product formed when the oxygen to fuel the metabolic processes is depleted. Muscles use glucose instead of oxygen to fuel contractions, and eventually breaks down into lactic acid. Performing repetitions to failure is often accompanied by a burning sensation which is the lactic acid in the muscles preventing further contractions and cell damage.
- Mainly stimulates your body’s production of Human Growth Hormone which offsets/counterbalances the hormone cortisol and plays the ever important role of increasing your Lean Body Mass.
- Most beneficial for? People who store fat predominantly in their abdominal region due to excessive production of cortisol from the adrenal glands. The primary function of cortisol is to increase the amino acid supply to the liver but it is undesirably produced under stressful conditions which promotes fat storage. Steady state cardio is also known to stimulate cortisol because it simulates the body being under physical stress – opt for high intensity TABATA style cardio which stimulates the production of adrenalin, a muscle building and fat burning hormone.
To make the most of your training combined with this knowledge as a guideline, it is, as always, advisable to remove processed foods completely from your diet because if you cannot understand the writing on the ingredients label, how is your body meant to?! Processed carbohydrates and hormone mimicking ingredients found in boxed, tinned and packaged food/drinks is almost always the culprit with people struggling to lose regional and general body fat.
Do not eat simply to lose weight – think of your meals rather as high quality fuel to aid your fat burning machine. Considering that the production of hormones require ‘good’ fats and cholesterol, be sure to include food nutritionally abundant in these building blocks and get plenty of sleep and sex to keep your hormones working to their full fat burning potential.
If you are new to the world of healthy eating, my top tip for success is meal management - if you only eat home prepared meals, you remain accountable to portion sizes. Eating every 3 hours will also keep blood sugar levels stable and keep hunger cravings at bay. In combination with this, you should log a food diary for a few weeks at least on one of numerous free smart phone apps to stay motivated.
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