By Christine Hronec, a three-time champion fitness competitor and nutrition expert
What are hormones? Hormones are chemical messengers, and they play a very crucial role in healthy bodily function. They control your appetite, they help your weight, they stabilize your mood. Hormones are so much more than just what a lot of people think about when it comes to the conventional just sex hormones, which is estrogen and testosterone. Hormones also include things like cortisol, leptin, insulin, thyroid hormones, serotonin.
1. Get enough protein Make sure you are getting enough protein with every meal. The reason you want to be consuming enough protein with every meal is because protein is the only food that you consume that contains nitrogen, and nitrogen is very important for the body because it contains essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are something that your body cannot make on its own. So, it needs to get them from real whole foods. If you’re not eating enough and you’re not getting enough protein with every meal, your body’s going to be missing out on them, which makes it challenging for your body to do the functions it needs to when it’s not getting the tools that it needs. The other thing that protein does help naturally balance your hormones is, it helps to reduce the amount of the ghrelin hormone, and this ghrelin hormone is also known as the hunger hormone. Another thing that protein does is that it increases the hormones that make you feel full. The general rule of thumb is that you probably want to have around 20 to 30 grams of protein per meal. That breaks down to about 4 to 6 ounces of lean protein source like some chicken, fish, or any other protein source of your choice.
2. Avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates Consumption of these foods is going to raise your blood sugar, which is in turn going to raise your insulin levels. Because insulin is the messenger hormone whose job is to lower your blood sugar and shuttle their glucose into your cells, and the more and more refined carbs you have, it gives your body really extreme blood sugar spikes. This is known to cause insulin resistance and it makes it very challenging for your body to manage its hormones naturally. Going low to moderately low in carbs is going to be a good idea here, focusing on carbs from complex sources that are higher in greens. That is going to absorb into your system at a slower rate compared to simple carbs like sugar, and this is going to make a really big difference. What do I consider moderate carb? I consider moderate carb to be probably between about 100 and 30 grams of carbs to about 200, that’s for women. For men, I’d probably say moderate carbs, probably 150 to about 250 or so. So, that was the ranges that you would probably want to consider for low to moderately low carb ranges.
3. Learn to manage stressStress can impact your cortisol, as well as your adrenaline hormones. When you are extremely stressed, we’re talking about a fight or flight type of situation that’s going to cause your body to respond with adrenaline, and when your body is under chronic long-term stress due to lifestyle factors, that’s going to impact your cortisol hormones. The way you want to handle this is to engage in activities that are going to help lower these hormones. And this is definitely something that it feels like you can’t control at times, but you have to realize that it’s something that you can’t. There is power in meditation, there is power in prayer. There is also power in things like yoga, massage, and listening to soothing music.
4. Avoid overeating and under eating. The cycle of overeating and undereating is actually a very damaging thing to your hormones, and overeating can obviously be bad for your Insulin levels, and it can cause fat gain very rapidly, if you are not mindful. However, chronically under-eating can mess up your metabolism, which is going to mess up your Leptin levels. If your leptin hormone levels drop too low, it’s going to cause your body to hold on to stored body fat. So, you don’t want to be at one extreme or another.
5. Drink green tea. This is something that I have sworn by for years and years and years, and specifically, green tea is by far one of the healthiest beverages around outside of water, of course. The key antioxidant that we are interested in green tea is known as EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), and this compound has a very powerful property. The study suggests that this will actually help improve your insulin sensitivity, which means that your body responds more naturally in a healthy way to spikes in blood sugar. Your body can more naturally adapt and handle it by releasing insulin hormone to do that. It has also been found that people who have consumed green tea, have lower fasting insulin levels. So, it’s going to help you keep your Insulin levels low. Other studies have also shown that people who consume up to three (3) cups of green tea a day can burn 90 calories in addition to just resting from that alone. So, this has been linked to increased insulin sensitivity in tons of studies. It is something just a natural “go to” if you’re trying to lose weight. You don’t want to add any cream or sugar to this, obviously, but drinking green tea because of the EGCG in the green tea. So, be careful if you start getting into all kinds of blends and hybrid teas. Make sure it is pure green tea, so that way we know that it has the EGCG in it.
6. Consume Omega 3 Fatty AcidsThey are a superfood – anything that contains omega 3 fatty acids is so absolutely good for you. They have anti-inflammatory properties. It helps to reduce Insulin resistance related to obesity, PCOS, as well as just station or diabetes. If you are not already including omega 3 fatty acids in your meal plan based off of just protein sources like salmon, you definitely want to include supplementation.
7. Adaptogenic HerbsAdaptogenic Herbs include things like ashwagandha, holy basil along with a variety of other herbs. What these things do is they’re going to naturally help balance and reset your hormones.