Life these days can be hectic and stressful! Adding stress to a poor diet loaded with processed and sugary foods can wreak havoc on our hormones — potentially stopping fat loss AND muscle-burning in their tracks.

Hormones are the subconscious signals which control your body, and they can have a profound effect on how it behaves. This is why many people find that the “calories in = calories out” approach doesn’t give them the weight loss results they want.

Some hormones are designed to increase muscle mass, while others actually break down muscle to use as emergency fuel. Some hormones help us burn fat, while others make us GAIN fat.

To help you maximise weight loss and muscle-building results, here’s everything you need to know about hormones…

What is a Hormone?

In layman’s terms, a hormone is basically a chemical that sends signals to the organs and cells in your body. Hormone molecules travel through your blood, telling your body what to do — usually in response to stimulus.

There are different types of hormones[1]:

  • Steroid hormones control your metabolism, your body’s immune response, inflammatory response, and salt/water balance.
  • Protein and peptide hormones are responsible for processes like reproduction of the body’s cells, sending pain signals, constriction of the blood vessels, and more.
  • Amine hormones are neurotransmitters and are used by the body to produce serotonin and epinephrine.

Read on to find out which hormones are essential for muscle-building, as well as how you can regulate them for optimum results!

Hormones You Need to Build Muscle and Control Fat

These are the key hormones that affect your ability to build muscle and burn fat. You can click on the links below to jump straight to the info about that specific hormone:

Insulin

  • Source: Pancreas
  • Type: Peptide Hormone
  • Purpose: Regulate blood sugar levels
  • Affected by: Consumption of food (predominantly carbohydrates)

+ Positive Effects: Anabolic (Promotes muscle building) by carrying amino acids into muscle cells

– Negative Effects: Can also promote fat storage if no demand from muscles for glucose. In extreme circumstances excessive consumption of foods (refined carbs in particular) can lead to type II diabetes if this system is overused.

BodyHormones-Insulin

Glucagon

  • Source: Pancreas
  • Type: Peptide
  • Purpose: Raise blood glucose levels
  • Affected by: Consumption of food (predominantly carbohydrates)

+ Positive Effects: When energy levels are low, this hormone signals to the body that it needs more glucose. Breaks down stored body fat to use as fuel

– Negative Effects: Can cause the body to stop turning carbs into energy, instead storing them as fat.

BodyHormones-Glucagon

IGF-1

  • Source: Liver
  • Type: Steroid
  • Purpose: To stimulate cell growth and prevent cell death
  • Affected by: Age (production decreases as you grow older)

+ Positive Effects: Anabolic (Promotes muscle building) by stimulating the growth of new tissue cells. Prevents catabolism (breakdown) of muscle tissue. Protect and stimulates growth of motor neurons in the brain.

– Negative Effects: Low blood sugar

BodyHormones-IGF1

Cortisol

  • Source: Adrenal glands
  • Type: Steroid
  • Purpose: Stimulate production of adrenaline in stressful situations
  • Affected by: Environment, lifestyle habits, work, sleep habits

+ Positive Effects: Provide immediate boost in adrenaline, enabling faster response time in traumatic situations

– Negative Effects: Muscle loss, fat gain, too-high insulin levels, reduction in sleep quality, appetite increase, slower post-workout recovery

BodyHormones-Cortisol

Leptin

  • Source: Fat cells
  • Type: Appetite
  • Purpose: To signal to the brain when the stomach is full
  • Affected by: Body fat percentage (higher body fat % means more leptin)

+ Positive Effects: Signals to body that hunger is satisfied.

– Negative Effects: Too high body fat percentage causes leptin resistance, resulting in reduced appetite control

BodyHormones-Leptin

Testosterone

  • Source: Testes, Adrenal Glands
  • Type: Anabolic
  • Purpose: Development of sexual organs, libido, secondary sexual characteristics, sperm production, red cell production, distribution of fat, muscle mass and strength maintenance
  • Affected by: Age (production declines after 30)

+ Positive Effects: Promotes muscle growth, strength increases, sexual activity, healthy circulation, and proper fat storage and distribution

– Negative Effects: Excess testosterone can lead to aggressive behavior, acne, and a tendency toward infidelity

BodyHormones-Testosterone

Thyroid Hormones

  • Source: Thyroid
  • Type: Thyroid
  • Purpose: Helping the body convert food into heat and energy, protein synthesis, elevate heart rate to meet increased oxygen needs during exercise
  • Affected by: Thyroid gland health

+ Positive Effects: Directly affects energy production and metabolism, regulates body temperature, important for the development of ALL vertebrates

– Negative Effects: Genetic disorders (mutations in the TH) are fairly common, including autoimmune conditions

BodyHormones-Thyroid

Growth Hormone (GH)

  • Source: Pituitary gland
  • Type: Peptide
  • Purpose: Stimulate growth and cell reproduction and regeneration
  • Affected by: Age (production decreases with age)

+ Positive Effects: Increases retention of calcium for bone health, boosts muscle mass, increases synthesis of protein, promotes fat burning, stimulates cell growth, stimulates immune system, and more.

– Negative Effects: Has been potentially linked to leukaemia[2], excessive GH in normal adults and children can lead to abnormal bone and organ growth, as well as cardiovascular disorders.

BodyHormones-GrowthHormone

References

[1] A look at hormones

[2] Mayo Clinic on GH Side Effects