We asked sports nutritionist and researcher, Rudy Mawer to share his insights into how hormones affect everything from how heavy you lift to how well you sleep.
ON FAT LOSS
As we gain body fat or become less active as adults, insulin sensitivity often declines, leading to ill health and weight gain.
Thyroid hormones control metabolism, weight gain and many other bodily functions. Lower levels of thyroid hormones, resulting in hypothyroidism, can lower our metabolism, making it harder to lose weight, utilise nutrients, maintain energy levels and recover from a workout.
Combined, impaired insulin function and a slower metabolism caused by a decrease in thyroid hormone levels can make it tough to lose weight, reach your physique goals and maximise health in general. Insulin and thyroid hormones should be monitored and, while insulin function is harder to test from a blood test, you can do a simple at-home test (which comes in a kit that can be purchased online) to monitor your fasting blood sugar levels in the morning. Blood sugar function is closely linked to insulin function, making it a clear marker.
Lifestyle drastically affects insulin function. While there are genetic factors that will dictate baseline levels and associated conditions such as type 1 diabetes, generally it’s lifestyle decisions that cause type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance.
For instance, a bad diet including excessive amounts of processed foods or long-term overconsumption of calories will be one of the biggest drivers of impaired insulin function and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Other factors such as exercise regime, stress, sleep and body fat levels also affect insulin function.
Nutrition largely affects thyroid hormones and metabolism, with newer research showing every diet type impacts your thyroid, lowering your metabolism. Many people go on various diets – yo-yo dieting being a common one nowadays – that negatively impact your thyroid hormones, making it harder to be successful with fat loss long term. Other issues such as iodine and selenium deficiencies, food intolerances, toxicity and hormone imbalances also contribute.