Whether you are male or female, testosterone and its side-kick growth hormone are essential for fat loss.
Testosterone has a variety of growth and repair benefits (anabolic) on the body’s organs, red blood cells, skin and muscles. It also helps you get lean and stay lean by helping block cortisol’s message to store abdominal fat. Although generally regarded as ‘the man’s hormone’, it is true that women don’t create a lot of it, but the little that is made can make a big difference to one’s body composition. A woman’s testosterone levels decrease with age and decrease also with extra kilos (this is also the case for men). As testosterone drops, it becomes harder and harder to lose fat. The leaner you get, the leaner you stay and vica versa.
With the onset of menopause, low testosterone can become a big problem for women with too much body fat. When the ovaries shut down, it just leaves the adrenal glands to produce testosterone and progesterone. After years of stress, the adrenals are fatigued and this becomes tough.
Whilst oestrogen/ testosterone balance is largely responsible for overall leanness in females and males of any age, low testosterone specifically causes the so-called ‘sausage-arms’ or ‘bingo-wings’. Perhaps when you wave goodbye, your arm continues to wave for a millisecond too many? Other visual signs of low tesosterone are excess fat under the arm pits and round on to the upper back and also in the chest area, the so-called ‘man-boobs’ in men (as much as it pains me to bring out these colloquialisms, everyone knows what they are!).
Other signs of low testosterone are insomnia, irritability, depression, anxiety, low libido, low concentration and poor memory (to name a few).
Testosterone works together with growth hormone (GH) in getting you lean. Spiking every 4 hours and rising while you sleep, it frees fat from fat cells to be used as fuel and helps muscle cells utilise dietary protein. In other words, the more GH you have, the more fat you burn in preference to sugar and the leaner you will become.
Decreasing testosterone levels is a widespread issue these days due to lack of quality sleep, stress, oestrogen dominance or improper diet and exercise habits (for example – excessive cardio training, low protein intake or a female apprehension for lifting weights through an unfounded fear of ‘getting too bulky’).
Here are my top 10 ways to rev-up your lean hormones (testosterone and GH):
- Sleep deeply and on an empty stomach.
Although everyone is different in terms of how much sleep they need, try to shoot for 7 hours of quality uninterrupted sleep. To enhance the secretion of GH while you sleep, eat your last bite 3 hours before bed.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
Limit or ideally avoid. Yes, excess calories in the form of alcohol lead to excess fat. However, alcohol increases the aromatisation of tesosterone to oestrogen. If you drink to the point of intoxification, tesosterone levels can plummet for over a week.
- Eat every 3-4 hours.
Eating frequently keeps your metabolism racing, however, eating more frequently than this can hinder GH release.
- Don’t fear the fats.
Numerous studies have shown the plethora of benefits of fish oils and other healthy fats. They are also fantastic in enhancing the release of GH and testosterone. Eat adequate amounts of good quality fats: Nuts, coconut oil, organic butters, extra virgin olive oil and olives (just not post-workout) and supplement with a good quality fish oil.
- Add resistance-based exercise in your weekly routine (try to lift/ work against body weight 3 times per week) and push hard enough in sprint-based interval training.
When you ‘feel the burn’, or better yet, feel nauseous during or after a workout, this is the body producing lactic acid. One of the first signals is yawning through lack of carbon dioxide. Hence, I rarely take offence when my clients are yawning during a workout! Lactic acid triggers the release of glucagon, testosterone and GH – An ideal fat-burning environment. So feeling sick once or twice a week from training actually means you are pushing hard enough and will burning more fat.
Fill up on good quality protein.
Try to eat 100g (150g for a male) of protein per meal and 50g (80g for males) per snack. Forget the complicated formulas of how much to eat compared to your lean body mass, unless you are after something very specific (e.g. athletes or body-builders).
- Have more sex.
You may need no persuading on this one, but regular sexual activity boosts testosterone for men and especially women.
- Eat 5 brazil nuts per day or supplement your diet with a multi-vitamin with at least 200mcg. of selenium.
A very important mineral for healthy testosterone production.
- Supplement with Vitamin D.
Although here in the South of France, we do get a lot of sun, we are still not on a low enough latitude to produce the 10,000IUs of vitamin D3 we need, as a result of our exposure (interestingly, only habitants below Lisbon and Atlanta receive enough). A recent study has proven that bioactive testosterone is increased with long-term supplementation of Vitamin D3 (among its myriad other benefits).
- Supplement with Zinc.
One of the most common mineral deficiencies, this aromatase inhibitor prevents androgens (i.e. testosterone and DHEA sulphate) ‘aromatising’ to oestrogens.
Now act on the above and rev-up those lean hormones before the summer!
Vingren, J., Kraemer, W., Ratamess, N., Anderson, J., Volek, J., Maresh, C. Testosterone Physiology In Resistance Exercise and Training: the Up-Stream Regulatory Elements. Sports Medicine. 2010. 40(12), 1037-1053.
Smith, G., Atherton, P., Reeds, D., Mohammed, B., Rankin, D., Rennie, M., Mittendorfer, B. Dietary Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation Increases the Rate of Muscle Protein Synthesis in Older Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial. 2010. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 93(2), 402-412.
Neek, L., Gaeini, A., Choobineh, S. Effect of Zinc and Selenium Supplementation on Serum Testosterone and Plasma Lactate in Cyclist After an Exhaustive Exercise Bout. Biological Trace Element Research. 9 July 2011. Published Ahead of Print.
Pilz, S., Frisch, S., et al. Effect of Vitamin D Supplementation on Testosterone Levels in Men. Hormone and Metabolic Research. March 2011. 43(3), 223-225.