Written by: ASN



Time to read 5 min

Have you ever started your fitness loss journey, gained amazing results, but then hit a plateau? Or perhaps you’ve started, executing all the right things, altered your calories, exercising consistently; but no difference! You’re not sure what it is, but somehow you can’t progress how you want!

My question for you is, how much do you know about your hormones? What they do and the role they play in your metabolism, your ability to lose fat and build muscle?There is a very large list of hormones in your body and this would be a very long blog if I were to touch on majority of the more commonly known hormones.

So today, I want to put focus on 3 key hormones; Cortisol, Human Growth Hormone and your Thyroid Hormones – all of which have a role for both women and men, contributing to your fitness journeys progress.

First, let’s take a moment to understand what hormones are; a simple definition for hormones is –

Hormones are chemical messengers, that signal reactions within the body to carry out functions specific to cells or tissues.

For example: ‘Insulin’ stimulates the liver to uptake and store excess glycogen from carbohydrates, as well as stimulates the liver to release glycogen back into the blood stream, when sugar levels drop too low.

  1. Cortisol

Commonly known as the stress hormone (due to its response and secretion in stressful environments), has a bad reputation for weight gain. Cortisol is important however; it has a role in the regulation of our metabolism and the use of glucose in the body, it helps regulate our blood pressure, during pregnancy it supports the growth of the foetus and as a bonus it can also act as an anti-inflammatory.

Cortisol is usually highest, first when we wake, then decreases throughout the day; but what happens if we have too much or too little?

If we have high levels of cortisol for an extended period of time, a few common occurrences are:

  • Rapid weight gain around our abdomen and face
  • Anxiety, erratic moods and depression
  • Bruising and changes in skin colour

Too little Cortisol can also be a problem though! Some symptoms of low levels are:

  • Extreme weight loss and muscle depletion
  • Hair loss
  • Osteoporosis and muscle weakness

Like all hormones; it’s really about balance. Work on finding the middle ground, so the hormone can do its vital functions, without causing health issues. For Cortisol, monitor your stress levels and make time to practice self-care and self-love. Think about the activities and practices that bring you joy, calm and peace of mind. These simple acts on their own could help lower any high levels of cortisol from any surrounding stressful environments.

  1. Human Growth Hormone

The Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is secreted by a what’s called the ‘pituitary gland’ every few hours and more frequently during ournon-REM sleep.

When secreted, it stimulates smaller protein hormones that result in the following actions and reactions to occur in our body:

  • The growth and maintenance of muscle mass and bone.
  • Increased tissue repair and healing of skin/injuries.
  • Promotes the body to break down fatty acids in the adipose tissue, to then be used for ATP production.
  • The regulation of glucose being used as energy and keeping enough for reserve in times of shortage.

The regulation of Human Growth Hormone is vital to our overall health, but if you have fitness goals that you are striving to achieve, I recommend you prioritise healthy levels as much as possible.

A few things that promote the secretion of the Human Growth Hormone are:

Non-Rapid Eye Moment sleep (Deep Sleep); in short, prioritise your sleep!! If you’re exercising regularly, I recommend you aim for 8-9hours of sleep. This will maximise your ability to be in a non-REM state and secrete healthy levels of HGH.

Increased vigorous physical activity and stressful environments. Don’t put yourself in a stressful situation, but vigorous exercise (HIIT training, boot camps, etc), heck yes!

Increasing your protein/amino acid levels and decreasing your fatty acid intake to maintainable and healthy intakes, can also stimulate the production of HGH to be secreted.

Other hormones can also have a domino effect in stimulating HGH such as insulin, oestrogens and cortisol.

What you should be cautious of and can decrease the secretion of HGH is:

  • Unhealthy intakes of fatty acids in your diet.
  • Sleep deprivation.
  • Low levels of protein and amino acids.
  • Hypothyroidism.
  • Obesity.

  1. T4/T3 – Thyroid Hormones

These bad boys Triiodothyronine(T3) and Thyroxine(T4) regulate and operate your metabolism (The conversion of nutrients and substances into energy.)!

Your thyroid gland converts the iodine from your foods into the hormones T3 and T4 and then releases it into your system to regulate your how fast your body digests the food you consume, as well as the speed of your heart rate.

Hyperthyroidism is the name used when your thyroid gland is producing too much T3 and T4 and your metabolism is working too fast (converting your food into energy too quickly).

From this you can end up suffering from:

  • Too much weight loss.
  • Muscle depletion.
  • Anxiety.
  • Hair loss and irregular menstrual cycles for women.

Hypothyroidism (which is more common to experience), means you’re not producing enough T3 and T4 from either an iodine deficiency or potentially, an autoimmune disease (where your body starts attacking your thyroid gland). This in turn can have you experience:

  • Unexplainable weight gain.
  • Fluid retention.
  • Depression.
  • Fatigue.
  • Sluggish bowels and constipation.

It’s important to ensure you’re getting enough iodine in your diet to ensure healthy levels. If you struggle, some foods that are rich in iodine are:

  • Tinned fish such as tuna and salmon. (Perfect things to meal prep with!)
  • Oysters and other shell fish. (Tinned or fresh, if you like seafood, go nuts!)
  • Eggs and some dairy products due to how they are manufactured.
  • Sea vegetables such as seaweed, nori, kelp… Sushi Train here, I come!

If your diet has been on point, your exercise is consistent and you’re still experiencing symptoms of weight gain, or even extreme weight loss, I would consider consulting a doctor for a blood test on your T3 and T4 levels. Just to ensure you don’t have an autoimmune disease or thyroid problem.

None of these hormones are good or bad and shouldn’t be given those labels. Every hormone is produced in our body for a reason; they are designed to help our bodies maintain a balance in health and well-being; but issues can occur. Sometimes our bodies produce too much or too little and that can have a real negative impact on our goals and health.

With this blog, take the information as an opportunity to monitor your health, understand your body more and be aware of potential warning signals to avoid excess stress, health issues and potential disappointment in your progress.

As always, stay happy my loves! Smile often, be curious and enjoy life!

Always Ellis x

Sources: (pg 642) physiology text book for HGH reference.