It’s virtually impossible to train seriously and not affect your hormone levels or endocrine system. But when we speak about Hormones we are not just talking about Testosterone and Human Growth Hormone (HGH); Nor are we speaking about just ramping up testosterone or HGH levels. Unfortunately, with today’s society, uneducated professional athletes and people just looking for “a quick fix”; Hormones have a very negative Connotation, and rightfully so. That being said, there are MANY misconceptions about them and what they can affect, and a lack of awareness behind the problems that come from Hormones. The key concept to understand with Hormones is BALANCE!
It is balance, that makes the big difference when assessing and analyzing hormone levels and optimization. Hormones are VERY influential, naturally occurring chemicals in our bodies, that trigger our bodies to complete millions and millions of bodily reactions every second. Mr. Anthony Hackney, a professor of Exercise physiology at The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill says, “A little bit of Knowledge is dangerous” when discussing a hormone.
It’s important, he says, to understand the balance of hormones and not even the hormones that you are thinking. Two of the most notorious hormones when it comes to athletics and anti-aging are Testosterone and Human Growth Hormone; however, these two are important, they are not by any means the most important or abundant hormones in our bodies. There are a multitude of other hormones that are just as important for people and especially athletes to fully understand including:
Testosterone (Total and Free), Insulin-Like Growth Factor, Estrogen, Insulin, Cortisol, Cholesterol (and Yes! Cholesterol is a Hormone), Follicle Stimulating Hormone, luteinizing hormone, progesterone, and many others! And these are just some of the male and female hormones!
These are chemicals that effect every reaction that goes on inside our bodies’
“Hormones” is also an umbrella term used to describe a multitude of them that affect our bodies’ function. Other hormones including our Adrenal hormones, and thyroid also are very influential to not only our male and female hormones but also in regards to how our bodies function. As noted above, ALL of them interact with each other. For example, our Thyroid hormones affect how our male or female hormones are produced and balanced and vice-versa. This is why they need to be balanced AND optimized to age appropriate proportions!
Hormones effect everything from energy production to our metabolism, they effect our immune system and our bodies capability to heal and recover, they effect our mood and neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, they effect our Gut, and absorption and utilization of trace minerals, element, anti-oxidants. Hormones affect how our bodies produce, minimize, and handle inflammation, the root cause of ALL disease! They also affect the healing cascade and so many other areas.
Many modern day health conditions are often explained and improved by assessing and optimizing our bodies’ hormonal levels. For the purpose of this article, we will discuss the more influential hormones for athletes, Cortisol, Testosterone, and Insulin Like Growth Factor.
Cortisol is released from the adrenal gland and is a catabolic hormone that breaks down cells. In an average person, cortisol breaks down about 1 percent of muscle proteins daily. With training, cortisol breaks down 3-5 percent of muscle proteins in the body every day. Athletes can cause the release of too much cortisol and essentially break down too many proteins whereas the body cannot properly repair itself.
Too much training can also decrease the levels of testosterone in the body. Testosterone, found in both men and women, increases muscle mass and decreases recovery time. But while intense workouts can increase testosterone levels, too much long, less intensive training can drive them down (Ie: the endurance athlete)
Overtraining is the most likely thing to throw off an athlete’s hormonal balance, which leads to all the symptoms associated with over-training: sleeplessness, extreme muscle soreness, elevated resting heart rate, or overall fatigue. Generally, if you experience those symptoms, you should dial it back. But knowing exactly how much training is too much can be challenging, especially if you do not feel these symptoms… Which is why periodic assessment is one of the best things anyone can do for himself or herself! (Be sure to read our Article: Really Understanding Your Blood Tests!)
One of the most commonly overlooked hormones involved in exercise are the insulin-like growth factors and insulin. Insulin-like growth factors are stimulated by growth hormones and bind to cells to regulate cell growth and processes. Insulin oversees the cells’ uptake of glucose and storage of glycogen, necessary to ensure we have the right energy pathways available for our training.
In the regular course of things—if you’re eating well, sleeping, and exercising—these hormones work to self-regulate and maintain a balance.
Our environment and daily stressors significantly alter our bodies’ natural production and hormonal balance, especially those of us, exercising more intensely and consistently.
Human Growth Hormone (HGH) triggers the adaptive response in your muscles. Growth hormone is an anabolic hormone that promotes all cell growth. It targets the muscles and cells that are being stressed by exercise and makes them receptive to adaptation. Our muscles actually adapt during recovery, naturally but with Time this response becomes less and less effective!
We naturally secrete growth hormone during the delta wave part of sleep, but as we get older we have less and less time in that deep sleep. During exercise, we also secrete growth hormone, but in smaller quantities, especially after 30 years old.
Other things that can impact the hormone balance include life stress, which causes a release of cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine. A lack of sleep can stall your secretion of growth hormone, as can alcohol. One beer can decrease the amount of growth hormone secreted by 25 percent. Age, also decreases the amount of growth hormone and slows down the entire endocrine system. That’s why older athletes often experience the two-day lag effect of soreness from a workout—which can also happen to young female athletes, who have less growth hormone and testosterone.
Not eating enough calories, a particular problem for female athletes, can cause a disruption in regards to hormonal balance. The right mix of protein (6 grams) to carbohydrates (30 grams) in the recovery window after a workout helps delay cortisol secretion and getting enough iron is essential to red blood cell production. Any sickness or trauma will also force your body to prioritize hormone regulation to those things first.
Hormones, unfortunately, leave a sour taste in our mouths especially with all the negative media on them and the use of “performance-enhancing drugs” or “Anabolic Steroids” However, they are not only very important, naturally occurring substance, they affect ALL aspects of our health, wellness, and longevity. Unfortunately, conventional medicine neglects to acknowledge the true importance of them and their true effects on our body. It is very important for athletes especially, to know and understand where their hormone levels are and if they are out of balance. Not only is all of these factors important for healing, preparation, and performance, but for long-term health and well-being!
Hormones do not have to be something that is talked about “behind closed doors”. Natural and safe balancing and modalities are techniques that functional and Integrative medicine practices have been utilizing for a long time to help improve the health and well being of their patients. With that being said, because of the intricacies of them, it takes a Functional medicine provider that is fluent in managing them to really appreciate the difference that hormonal optimization and balance can make in our lives!
We at R3 Healthl, specialize in helping athletes understands their bodies, and helping educate them on what they can do to not only help them recover and perform better, but to ensure optimal health, wellness, and longevity. R3 Healthl specializes in creating custom individualized wellness programs, which help anyone achieve their goals. We specialize in therapies that are natural based and Regenerative in Nature, preventing the need for invasive conventional medicine therapies.
Take Action! See RenewU Medical to get a true understanding about your health & wellness, and lets work together to help you achieve your goals, ensuring optimal health, wellness, and functional longevity