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10 Hormones that Can Make or Break Your Fitness Goals

10 Hormones that Can Make or Break Your Fitness Goals

Hormones and weight loss: 3 words that may make you scratch your head in confusion. But, if you're on a health journey, it's vital to understand how they work together. 

Some of us know this already; sometimes, no matter how hard you diet or how much you push yourself at the gym there are not enough dance classes, jogs, and Crossfit challenges that will sway the scale either way. Meanwhile, some other people manage to eat pizza regularly and still appear to be super fit.

What gives? Well, it could be hormones.

Hormones can make or break your fitness goals.

Without getting too scientific, we’ve put together the top ten hormones involved in weight gain and weight loss and ranked them by breaking vs. making order. You’ll be surprised by some of these, but look at your patterns to see if any of these may be the culprit behind your stubborn belly.

Hormone Weight Loss Breaker No 1: Insulin

Hormone weight loss? More like hormone weight gain. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas in charge of transporting glucose into the cells to be used as energy, promotes fat storage (for energy purposes), and prevents fat breakdown.

Insulin carries unique receptors that create openings in cells to let sugar in when you ingest sugar, starch, carbohydrates, processed food, and other forms of glucose, insulin spikes to take it to the cells.

How it breaks your fitness goals:

Eating too many of these foods keeps the insulin levels so high that cells become insensitive to those receptors -aka insulin resistance- making glucose stay in the blood, eventually turning into fat and weight gain.

What to do?

If you want to avoid hormones and weight loss issues when it comes to insulin:

Hormone Weight Loss Breaker No 2: Cortisol

Infamously known as the “stress hormone,” cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands to deal with stressors and help you activate your body for them; from a tiger in the jungle to your boss’ latest email. This process involves increasing blood sugar levels, accelerating the metabolism, burning fat, and using protein or carbs for increased energy. It may even override the immune system.

How it breaks your fitness goals:

You could think this hormone weight loss exchange was in your favor, but it just makes you hungrier (oh hi, afternoon snacks!) and more prone to eat sugar or fries.

What to do?

  • Focus on getting a balanced diet
  • Get enough rest and Relax!
  • Practice breathing exercises and meditation
  • Exercise, dance, laugh - release stress!
  • Look for healthy snack alternatives: a smoothie popsicle, power balls, green tea latte, or even our tart-sweet Red Juice

Note that cortisol and sleep are also connected, and you may want to check in with that.

Hormone Weight Loss Breaker No 3: Melatonin

The sleep hormone is one you would hardly suspect would get in the way of your fitness goals, yet here we are. Rest and recovery are necessary for your body to repair and build muscle, sleep deprivation reduces the production of the growth hormone, and incredibly animal studies show that prolonged melatonin consumption fights obesity and diabetes.

How it breaks your fitness goals:

When your melatonin levels are off, usually due to lack of sleep or stress, your hormone weight loss connection is broken. The fat burning promoted by good sleep is reduced or halted, muscle recovery pathways are interrupted and instead of building muscle you lose it, and finally, you get tired, cranky and snacky.

What to do?

Balance your hormones and weight loss journey with good sleep!

  • Use your bed only for sleep and sex
  • Go to bed at the same time every day
  • Try to get up at the same time, even weekends!
  • Sleep in a dark room
  • Switch your phone to Night Mode at the end of the day
  • Avoid blue lights two hours before sleep
  • Manage your stress levels

Hormone Weight Loss Breaker No 4: Leptin

Leptin the “satiated hormone” is released by fat cells in the adipose tissue. It communicates with your brain to help regulate appetite and food intake over a long time. It doesn’t work from meal to meal, instead, telling your body there’s enough fat storage so you don’t need to eat so much in general.

How it breaks your fitness goals:

The more sugar we consume, the more leptin resistant we become. The hypothalamus is waiting for that signal to make you feel satiated and when it doesn’t get it - you eat more!

What to do?

Hormone Weight Loss Breaker No 5: Ghrelin

Mostly produced by the Stomach, Ghrelin tells the hypothalamus it’s time to eat, peaking when the stomach is empty and dropping when you’ve eaten. It also promotes fat storage, affects the sleep-wake cycle, carbohydrate metabolism, taste sensation, and the release of the growth hormone.

How it breaks your fitness goals:

Ghrelin rises after dieting which explains a little of the yo-yo effect in weight loss. Hormones and weight loss are intrinsically connected, and this is particularly true for ghrelin. For overweight people, this hormone only slightly decreases after eating, making it hard to fill full and encouraging overeating.

What to do?

  • Eat complete protein with every main meal to fill fuller longer
  • Get enough sleep, as it can make ghrelin levels rise
  • Train to increase muscle mass to keep this hormone stable

Hormone Weight Loss Breaker No 6: Estrogen

Estrogen is present in both men and women, but it is higher in women. When estrogen levels drop in women, usually after menopause, their bodies hold onto fat. Mainly produced by the ovaries, when estrogen levels fall it forces the body to produce it from other sources, like fat cells.

How it breaks your fitness goals:

Any imbalance in estrogen levels can lead to weight gain, high levels could lead to insulin resistance, while low levels resort to fat cells for estrogen production and increase the need for fatty and sugary foods.

What to do?

One of the best ways to support hormone weight loss leveraging estrogen is to detox your system, as xenoestrogens come from chemicals that resemble estrogen in the body, creating an imbalance

  • Reduce meat consumption
  • Switch to glass containers for food and drinks
  • Eat more cruciferous greens
  • Avoid excess soy products

Learn more about the female hormones weight loss connection and talk to your doctor.

Hormone Weight Loss Breaker No 7: Testosterone

Just like estrogen, it is considered the male sex hormone, but it is present in both men and women. Low testosterone levels promote fat storage, inflammation, while high levels may lead to insulin resistance and visceral fat.

How it breaks your fitness goals:

When you eat a diet high in refined carbs and soy, you could shift the testosterone balance in your body. Testosterone can be leveraged for energy and fat burning, especially in men when balanced.

What to do?

  • Eat protein
  • Go for nutrient-rich sources of carbohydrates
  • Choose whole-foods closer to their source (i.e., baked potatoes instead of fries)
  • Exercise and aim to build muscle

Hormone Weight Loss Breaker No 8: Thyroid Hormones

Imbalance in the thyroid and weight gain are common issues in the US. When you’re trying to find hormone weight loss balance, this is one of the first set of hormones to check. The thyroid regulates the metabolism and when its levels are too low it can lead to very slow metabolism and weight gain. When it is in overproduction, it can lead to anxiety, hyper-appetite, rapid weight loss, and more.

How it breaks your fitness goals:

You can find it hard to put on weight or gain muscle if you have hyperthyroidism or struggle to lose weight at all if you have hypothyroidism.

What to do?

  • Check your thyroid levels and talk to a physician if you suspect hormones and weight loss imbalance
  • Eat some seaweed and iodine-rich foods
  • Know the thyroid stimulating foods
  • Exercise regularly to boost your metabolism

Hormone Weight Loss Breaker No 9: Neuropeptide Y

A hormone produced by the brain and central nervous system, it is involved in appetite regulation and blood pressure. When elevated, it can stimulate food intake, preferring carbs, and lead the body to build up fat cells, increasing waist circumference. Low levels may lead to poor negative emotion processing, fatigue, and even depression.

How it breaks your fitness goals:

Stress and food deprivation both lead to an increase in NPY levels. Since it has a natural presence for carbs, you may find yourself overeating empty carbs after dieting or when very stressed.

What to do?

  • Get probiotic support to keep your gut carb-craving-free
  • Eat complete protein; low protein intake increases NPY levels
  • Try healthy protein pasta alternatives
  • Fast, but do not go into prolonged food deprivation
  • Relax - stress is a major NPY booster

  • Hormone Weight Loss Breaker No 10: Serotonin

    Our favorite hormone! One of the “happiness” hormones it reduces depression, regulates anxiety, helps heal wounds, maintains bone health, and even helps to keep your motor skills sharp. There is a depression and weight gain connection: serotonin.

    How it breaks your fitness goals:

    Serotonin is a natural appetite suppressant, it curbs food cravings and keeps you motivated to do more with your life. When there are serotonin imbalances, you may struggle to make it to the gym or to eat nutrient-rich foods because it is made out of carbs and sugar.

    What to do?

    • Exercise! Happy people don’t just shoot their husbands, and it’s not just endorphins - it’s balanced serotonin.
    • Use probiotics, since serotonin is made in the gut.
    • Get B12, B6, and folate.
    • Eat eggs, spinach, seeds, nuts, and even salmon.

    Bottom Line:

    The hormone weight loss bridge is built with regular exercise, sleep, muscle mass maintenance, proper nutrition full of greens (hello Green Juice), healthy fats, and good carbs. When you eat right and treat yourself well, your hormones naturally go where they need to go. Talk to a doctor if you’re doing everything right and still suspect hormonal imbalance.
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