I hate most workout, nutrition, and diet advice.
The advice always seems so particular; based on memorizing some new fact that will make you lose that last five pounds or get the six-pack you’ve always wanted.
Well, the advice always seems to change every week without the people who follow it seeing those promised changes.
Even worse, there’s yet another piece of advice to remember.
What’s missing from all this advice is gaining any leverage over your situation.
Let’s look at getting in shape from a different angle. Instead of looking at getting in shape as kale vs kettlebells, let’s look at it from a birds-eye-view.
Our fundamental goal in getting in shape is changing our body composition. We want to lose body fat and gain or maintain the muscle we already have. We want to make long-lasting changes; not short-lived improvements that cause us to crash right back to where we started or make us worse off than before.
So it makes sense that if we’re designing our exercise and nutrition plan that we should think about what creates the body composition we’re looking for.
Luckily, the research on this subject is clear.
Body composition is the result of hormones more than anything else.
Cutting calories fails to lead to permanent weight loss.
Working out more fails to lead to permanent muscle gains.
Maintaining healthy levels of insulin, cortisol, estrogen, testosterone, and growth hormone are the secret to staying in shape. Without healthy hormone levels any workout and nutrition plan we follow will fail to give us the results we’re looking for.
The good news about hormones:
Optimizing hormones creates better results than maximizing how much you workout or how many salads you eat without the annoying tradeoffs.
You can skip 2-a-day workouts, funneling chia seeds into your kale smoothie, and still get great results.
I used these methods to cut down from 18% to 12% body-fat in 6 weeks without working out harder, longer, or cutting calories.
Improve these five hormones with high-level changes and guarantee to be in better shape
Insulin, Cortisol, Estrogen, Testosterone, and Growth Hormone
Insulin is the primary hormone responsible for fat storage in the body. More insulin, more obesity.
How to decrease insulin:
- Eat less sugar and carbs— sugar produces strong insulin spikes. Replace sugar with healthy fats — replacing carbs with fat reduces insulin— consider fattier alternatives when you have cravings (IE roasted pistachios instead of ice cream)
- Constrain the time period when you eat during the day — start and finish eating within 8 hours or less (IE 10am - 6pm). Fasting longer is better — intermittent fasting significantly decreases obesity (13hrs+/day).
- Eat fewer meals — eating frequently causes insulin resistance and results in higher levels of insulin. Eating meals with protein or carbs will raise insulin.
Cortisol is the hormone that regulates and reacts to stress. High cortisol engages your immune system and tells your body to store fat so that it can be prepared to fight off infection.
How to lower cortisol:
- Avoid foods that cause inflammation and allergies — these reactions are signs that foods trigger your immune system and raise cortisol. Certain foods groups contain proteins called lectins that disrupt the lining of the gut and trigger allergies and inflammation. Consider avoiding nightshades, legumes, and grains.
- Get high-quality sleep — avoid blue light near bedtime (enable Night Shift on your iPhone, get F.Lux, use light bulbs without blue light in your bedroom and bathroom), stay hydrated (keep water by your bed — morning and night), take weekly baths with epsom salt (magnesium in epsom salt improves sleep quality)
- Avoid over training — avoid working out where muscle soreness lasts more than 48 hours. DOMS increases cortisol. Measure your readiness to workout by monitoring your HRV score. Don't workout if your HRV is low.
- Meditate any way you can — perform unthinking and monotonous activities (walking, biking, fishing, meditation, reading, napping, etc)
Overweight men are found to have higher estrogen levels. Estrogen increases our body’s fat storage and impairs muscle growth.
How to lower estrogen:
- Eat foods that metabolize estrogen — eat foods high in DIM (broccoli & spinach), choline (found in egg yolks), and fiber (found in plants)
- Avoid using personal care products that contain estrogen — avoid products with extracts and oils such as tea tree and lavender — many flowers and herbs defend themselves by reducing the fertility of their predators by raising their estrogen
- Avoid touching and using estrogen-like plastics — avoid using food and drink containers with plastics made from BPA (plastics #3, 6, & 7) — avoid touching thermal paper and physical store receipts, most are made with BPA
Testosterone increases muscle growth and fat loss from exercise and during rest. It’s 3rd on our list because cortisol and estrogen kill free testosterone.
How to increase testosterone:
- Get adequate intake of the testosterone building blocks — take in full recommended daily doses of Vitamin D3, Zinc, Magnesium, and Vitamin B6.
- Increase dietary fat — many vitamins are fat-soluble and require fat to be properly absorbed by the body. Eat plenty of wild fish, pastured meats, grass-fed butter, sprouted nuts, and other healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil.
Increase Growth Hormone
Growth hormone increases muscle mass by triggering muscle growth in response to damage during exercise.
How to increase growth hormone:
- Avoid eating near bed time — avoiding eating for at least 3 hours before sleep increases growth hormone production. Fasting increases growth hormone and growth hormone increases lean body mass and decreases body fat.
- Perform compound lifts — multi-muscle group exercises such as bench, squats, and deadlifts stimulate HGH — rest until you reach full recovery — lastly, avoid endurance training which decreases resting HGH.
When you positively impact your hormones, you maximize your body’s ability to lose fat and hold onto muscle without suffering or needing to make drastic changes.