Hormones are a bit like your body’s board of directors. You know they exist and you know they do an important job. You’re just not quite sure what that job is.
The truth is that behind closed doors they’re running the show. They choose when you get tired or hungry, whether you build muscle or store fat – and they can even make you happy or sad.
The trouble is, left to their own devices these guys can cause you a lot of trouble – think the global financial crisis, except the bankers are your hormones and the markets are your body. (We don’t know what quantitative easing is in this analogy; maybe your spleen.)
Basically, you need to learn to control your hormones, And here’s how…
01 Have better sex
Key hormone: Testosterone
Testosterone is the hormone of manliness. It builds muscle, makes you ambitious and decisive and instills an instinctive distrust of the music of Michael Bublé. It also dictates libido.
The good news is that you can increase your testosterone naturally by lifting weights three or four times a week. Pick big exercises like squats and bench press and keep your rest periods between sets under 60 seconds.
02 Sleep better
Key Hormones: Cortisol, Melatonin
Cortisol (the “stress” hormone) should be high in the morning and low at night. When you’re under chronic stress this can flip on itself, meaning you’re wired when you should be nodding off and sluggish when you wake up.
To control your cortisol, you need to become better at stress management. Make a to-do list for the next day. And do something to relieve stress daily. Smokers find cigarettes a stress relief as it’s often the only time of day they take deep breaths. You can get those benefits (while swerving the whole cancer thing) by practising deep abdominal breathing. Lie on your back with your hand on your stomach. Inhale deeply, filling your stomach with air. Breathe out, fully emptying your lungs. Repeat for 20 cycles.
If that doesn’t work, try herbal teas. Granted, it’s not the manliest of beverages, but you won't care when your fitful sleep patterns become blissful, bosom-like bed-hugs. Tulsi tea at night and licorice tea in the morning can help reset your wonky sleep patterns.
03 Don’t get fat
Key hormone: Insulin
Insulin is like your least reliable mate. Sometimes it’s awesome, sometimes it pukes on your carpet. When it’s being awesome, insulin takes nutrients from your blood stream and shuttles them into your muscles. This helps them grow and recover from exercise.
But insulin can also cause those nutrients to be stored as fat.
Clearly you want to get insulin on your side, and you do that by increasing insulin sensitivity in your muscle cells. How? By lifting weights (surprise, surprise). Exercise increases insulin sensitivity for up to a few days at a time.
We also recommend saving carbohydrates for your post-exercise meal. This gives you the best chance of getting those nutrients into your guns instead of your gut. Basically – earn your carbs!
04 Live forever
Key hormone: IGF-1
OK, maybe not forever, but more and more research suggests IGF-1 is important for extending life expectancy. IGF-1 is high when cell division is high. Cancer cells are like bad copies that grow and spread so we’d ideally like to keep IGF-1 down.
And the easiest way to do that is through calorie restriction. The only problem is that you don’t want to be on a diet for life. Eating rabbit food forever may make you the world’s oldest man but you’ll also be the worst to be stuck at a party with. Instead, try leaving breakfast until three o’clock twice a week (also known as intermittent fasting).
Words by Zack Cahill, FHM Personal Trainer (@zackcahill)