Nutrition 101 Series – # 3

Hormones & Energy Levels

What does hormones and nutrition have to do with each other? Remember, our number one goal is to reach our full potential in life, as well as on the playing field. And our hormones and diet are linked together as one in the same.

In order to live a healthy and productive life we need to have an optimal hormone balance. There is no way around that. To reach our full potential, including in our sports and training performance, we need to have a hormonal system as absolute optimal as possible.  We need to focus on and become in tune with our hormoness, monitor them consistently, and treat them accordingly. In my opinion, everything begins and ends with the hormone system.

hormonesThe body was designed to do many things. Generally, our body does not let us down, but we let it down. Our hormones are our messengers. They are responsible for many of our daily things: hunger,  sleep, mood swings, metabolism, muscle growth and recovery, and preparation for “fight or flight” responses. You will notice I left off an important one- that we all usually associate with hormones (I think we say raging hormones).

Hormones are produced in the brain and they send signals to certain glands to produce various hormones. If your brain is not able to send out the right signals and get the right signals back, then hormones will not be at optimal levels. For example, overeating is often triggered by an imbalance of the hormones leptin and insulin where the brain does not receive the signal that enough food has been consumed.

Needless to say, when our hormonal balance is off, it is not hard for us to be off – both mentally and physically. The primary reasons for a dysfunctional hormonal system are a poor diet, environmental factors, toxicity, and societal pressure. Yep, that pretty much sounds like everything around us. Throw in the whirlwind of puberty, growth spurts, as well as the social pressures associated with school and sports in there, and we can only imagine what’s going on chemically with our kids. That is why it is essential for our youth to eat well, sleep well, and be physically active.

lack of energyUnderstand, the human brain is incredibly complex. One deficiency, or imbalance, can lead to additional issues. A deficiency can create an emotional issue, which in effect can lead to a physical issue. The result can then be an ongoing cycle of conflict within the mind and body that continues and progressively spirals out of control.

When your hormonal balance is deficient, you don’t feel your best. You can become moody, tired or fatigued, uninspired, unmotivated, lethargic, depressed, bored, etc. You get the picture, I’m getting depressed writing it. It’s not good. These phychological issues then coordinate to create physical issues: physically weak, sick, weight gain, weight loss, poor posture, lack or coordination and balance, etc. As for athletes, you do not have energy to put in intense training workouts to build muscle and ramp up testosterone and growth hormone. Even if you do get the intense workouts in, you do not have the testosterone and growth hormone production to recover from arduous workouts. You are not going to be your best dealing with the whirlwind of these emotions and physical issues.

Going to Work!

Weight loss, building muscle, and muscle recovery is all associated with our hormonal balance. I hate to say this but it makes a point. Anabolic steroids (PED’s or whatever they are) are what? Basically they affect our hormones – an increase in testosterone or growth hormone. And they do what? They rebuild muscle tissue increasing lean mass, and reduce fat (see bodybuilders).  Testosterone plays an integral role in cognitive and physical energy production. Growth Hormone helps you grow and repair, and increases your lean body mass. It also keeps the thyroid thriving which controls metabolism.

challengeOne essential factor in optimizing hormones is our ability to handle stress. The ability to handle stress and the ability to experience happiness are one and the same. Studies indicate that people with a naturally high stress threshold, also display an inherent predisposition for happiness. Humans require stress to thrive and reach our full potential; however, too much constant stress causes a continual release of various stress hormones which negatively affect us.

Epinephrine, or adrenaline, gives us the energy to get out of bed in the morning. It gives you an edge every time you take on a challenge. It gives you energy for intense workouts, and for the mental demands of life. It pushes us to be better and excel. However, if we aren’t prepared to deal with it effectively, or cope with it, the cycle of hormonal imbalance will begin to take effect. When you deny stress and run on adrenaline, whether its caffeinated drinks or cramming for a test, you will only get so far. Eventually, you will crash, and when you crash you burn.

being healthyEnergy is also associated with an optimal hormone environment. When talking about performance, or achieving optimal performance, one of the first things I address is how is their energy level.  Knowing from experience, much of your daily performance, regardless what it entails, is a direct result of your energy levels.  I am talking about sustained energy levels throughout the entire day. I am not talking about chugging energy drinks all morning only to hit a wall right after noon. We’ve all experienced at one time when all of a sudden we feel sleepy during the day. It happens. But when it happens consistently and we become “useless”, there is a problem.

I would encourage all people to examine their energy levels, and make that the focus of their diet. Eat for energy! I’m not one to say you can’t try to look good or weigh a certain amount. But if you focus on increasing your energy levels, I promise that you will be more productive, feel alive, and accomplish more. Increased energy will help you achieve whatever goals you have. Energy equates to more effort and production, and production leads to drive.

In addition to paving the way for sustained energy, an optimal hormonal system provides us sustained confidence, and the perseverance to pursue our goals. We, as humans, are designed to want to be challenged and compete. We want to succeed, and it’s in our nature to want to win. Create an optimal hormone environment and you will thrive off challenges, have a positive and willing attitude, and will be determined for success.

“At the end of the day we are our hormones. If our hormones are optimal we will wake up feeling great, ready to take on the world. If they are not optimal, we won’t even want to get out of bed to face the day.”  —Mike Mahler in Living Life Aggressively

 How to Optimize Your Hormones

First off, control what you can control. Simply, live a healthy lifestyle. That means your life consists of healthy habits. Obviously eat a healthy diet (what to eat is coming), get consistent and quality sleep, be mentally and physically active, ancompetingd do things that make you happy. Learn to cope and deal with stress, and find what makes you tick. It’s too easy in this world to get sidetracked and before you know it you find yourself in a continuous rut. The first thing is to be able to look in the mirror and be honest with yourself. Are you feeling your best. Are you performing your best?

If you feel like you or your child may have some deficiencies, I highly recommend getting some blood work done. It is a simple procedure and it will detail areas where you may be deficient, and then you can address those areas through certain foods or even a dietary supplement. I don’t think anyone, even a doctor, is capable of revealing what a blood test would. Feel free to ask and I will recommend a specialist that I am confident in, or see your local doctor.

I can’t stress this enough. Let’s be honest, kids or adolescents are not adults. Most need to be steered. They have enough emotional issues as it is. They cannot afford to have deficiencies in their diet, their sleep, and they have to have direction. They have to have specific goals, or a purpose for what they’re doing. Otherwise they will waste time. That’s why sports are so important in their development. It creates some structure. Structure includes consistently eating well, going to bed and getting up at the same times, and managing their time appropriately. If they do not do these things, they risk falling into a cycle that could lead to their hormonal balance getting out of whack.

Without an optimal hormone environment you will never be genuinely happy or have the fire to take charge of your life and make all your dreams come true. Just like many things in life, you must create an optimal hormone balance that is right for you. This will vary with each person.

We have to act to optimize our hormones, by taking charge of our life. But at the same time, we also have to have optimal hormones in order to take charge of our life, and stay on the path long enough to achieve success. It is a cycle, but do not let it be a negative cycle.

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Nutrition 101 Series

1  What's Out There?
2  Fast Food Industry
3  Hormones & Energy Levels
4  What Not to Eat
5  What to Eat

6  Important Points
7  Optimal Eating Blueprint
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Supplement Series

1  To Take or Not to Take
2  Best Supplements for Athletic Performance
3  My Supplement Recommendations
4  Supplement Products That I Use and Recommend

Nutrient Timing for Optimal Performance
Post-Workout Supplementation