HORMONES AT A GLANE
Fat distribition in women is a result of their predominant hormones progesterone and estrogen.
The fat around a women’s hip and thigh area is due to estrogen, while the fat in their breasts is due to a mixture of both estrogen and progesterone. Men on the other hand tend to be leaner in the arms and legs, they do however store more fat in their mid-section, this is due to their predominant hormone testosterone. During menstruation a woman will experience hormonal fluctuations, and any woman can tell you this will severely impact the way they feel and look.
UNDERSTANDING HORMONAL FLUCTUATIONS DURING MENSTRUATION.
Before you can understand how our hormonal fluctuations affect our fat loss results then you first need to understand the female menstrual cycle. The menstrual cycle is divided into two phases:
Follicular phase – (the maturing of the ovarian follicle)
Luteal phase – (corpeus luteum which is what ovarian follicles become after ovulation).
Ovulation separates these two parts of the cycle and is the ovaries release an egg.
During the follicular phase your estrogen levels are higher compared to progesterone, whereas the luteal phase is the reverse. The ratios of these two hormones can impact fat loss results.
BALANCE BETWEEN ESTROGEN AND PROGESTERONE AND HOW THIS CAN AFFECT OTHER HORMONES RELATED TO FAT LOSS.
For fat loss to occur the fine balance between estrogen and progesterone needs to be met, otherwise this will in turn affect other fat loss hormones such as cortisol and insulin. While a mans beer belly is not a good indicator of his testosterone levels, a women’s hips and thighs can suggest greater estrogen levels relative to progesterone. On the flip side a woman with larger breasts and smaller hips and thighs can indicate the opposite balance of these hormones. Another key indicator of hormonal balance or in-balance is our menstrual cycle. Just before our period begins, we are generally progesterone dominant. PMS is a strong indication that we are progesterone deficient relative to estrogen. This may seem confusing however you must understand that a relative deficiency is different to an absolute deficiency. A woman who has higher than normal progesterone levels can still have progesterone deficiency if their estrogen levels are extremely higher in comparison. Women who are low in progesterone relative to estrogen will complain of the following symptoms:
Headaches (especially premenstrual)
Mood swings (most often irritability and depression)
Weight and/or fat gain (particularly around the abdomen and hips) Cold hands and feet (a symptom of thyroid dysfunction)
Estrogen and Progesterone both play a part in helping to keep our mid section smaller.
Estrogen works against the action on insulin, testosterone is a tummy fat storing hormone in women, while both progesterone and estrogen oppose the action of cortisol.
Cortisol and insulin, together with low estrogen and testosterone create a formula for belly fat storage in women.
Estrogen is a big factor in the increase of fat storage in the hips and thighs area.
Estrogen together with progesterone decreases the storage of fat around the waist, however stress has a negative impact on progesterone’s action. High stress levels in women will negatively impact progesterone, so if you have noticed more fat accumulating around the waist you may want to implement lifestyle changes to reduce stress with the aim to raise progesterone.
Progesterone can be used to make cortisol in the adrenal glands. Many holistic practitioners believe that progesterone derived from the ovaries can be used to increase cortisol production when needed. This procedure is called “progesterone steal” and it is used to describe a situation where the adrenal glands steal progesterone to make the stress hormone cortisol. This may become an issue at menopause. As progesterone interrupts the action of cortisol, cortisol does the same in return therefore stress is a major issue for women.
Estrogen works differently, as it raises fat storage by up-regulating alpha-adrenergic receptors in fat around the hips and thighs in women. Adrenergic receptors work to accelerate or decrease fat usage.
Alpha -adrenergic receptors block fat burning whereas Beta-adrenergic receptors increase it.
Women’s hips and thighs have higher amounts of alpha-adrenergic receptors compared to men. This is the major reason why it is so difficult for some women to lose fat from this area.
One of the best ways to decrease alpha-receptors is to follow a low carb nutrition plan. Keep in mind the plan must not be too low, as extremely low carb diets can increase cortisol responses therefore negatively impacting thyroid.
Many women have a lot of fat to spare in the hips and thighs but instead of losing it in this section they will become leaner in the waist and breast first and remain larger on the bottom. This is a very frustrating problem for many.
Estrogen increases alpha-adrenergic receptor numbers while progesterone decreases it. Progesterone, like testosterone in men, may increase beta-adrenergic receptors. Estrogen and progesterone work to influence the ability to burn fat and to determine from which area it will be taken from. This is due to hormonal balance not calories.
Women must not make the mistake of assuming estrogen is bad. Extremely high levels of estrogen are not good, but neither is too low. Estrogen helps the body be more sensitive to insulin and has fat-loss and muscle building benefits. So long as estrogen is in balance with progesterone and other hormones, it will aid in fat loss for women.
HORMONE CHANGES CAUSED BY AGE, LIFESTYLE AND ENVIRONMENT.
Many women believe that following a low calorie eating plan and high cardio protocols is the answer. This approach to fat loss will rarely work and if it does it will often create damage to their body as a result. As a woman ages, becomes more stressed and is possibly subjected to environmental estrogen mimicking compounds, this negatively impacts her in many ways.
The ovaries decrease their production of progesterone and estrogen. This exacerbates the imbalance between these two hormones pushing the body towards estrogen dominance.
There are so many estrogen mimickers that people are not aware of, these can be in our food and environment. Fat cells produce estrogen through an enzyme called aromatase which is present in fat cells, this then leads to the estrogen/progesterone balance to shift more towards estrogen. At the same time fat loss and muscle building hormones, like human growth hormone (HGH) and DHEA, decline, together this leads to female fat gain and most of it occurs in the mid-section.
HGH, DHEA and progesterone are all hormones that work to keep a woman lean and block the storage of fat in their mid section. The problem with a low calorie diet and high cardio protocol is that lesson the chance of restoring these powerful hormones and create an estrogen dominant body in the long run.
SO WHAT CAN YOU DO TO FIX THIS PROBLEM?
Women must focus on following correct nutrition protocols and exercising smarter. This means eating large amounts of cruciferous vegetables and “estrogen free protein” (organic meat and soy free foods) as well as engaging in strength training over cardio. There are only three ways to reliably restore HGH in the body:
2.Adequate and good quality sleep
3.Intense strength training
The latter one being the most important aspect as it is critical for female health especially to stop the belly fat that accumulates during aging. Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is to women what testosterone is to men. It keeps them looking young, lean, and firm. Once progesterone levels fall due to menopause, stress and other factors, HGH is all that is left to help with belly fat.
If you are a women looking to optimize your hormones then strength training and correct nutrition protocols need to be your main focus along with more relaxing activities like lots of stretching and slow leisurely walking.
Xtreme Results Personal Training and Nutrition Gold Coast offers fantastic transformation programs, which implement these three main factors to correct hormone imbalance in women, therefore decreasing stubborn fat and increasing health and vitality.