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Women didn’t invent hormones. Granted, women may have given hormones a bad name, but infamy does not equal exclusivity. In reality, the hormones that men possess are exactly the same as women’s, right down to the oestrogen, though in amounts too small to make you enjoy dancing on ice.
Here’s another myth: that you can’t harness the power of your hormones. From what you eat to when you exercise, the movies you watch to the games you play, there are in fact a number of surprisingly simple yet impressively effective ways to control these chemicals.
And the pay-off? Increased energy, faster fat burning, a better night’s sleep and a more productive workday. And that’s just a sample. What follows is a plan for first targeting and then tapping into what may be your most valuable natural resource.
The Pineal Gland
Tells your body it’s time to sleep by sending out melatonin
Releases the hormone ghrelin, which makes you feel hungry.
The Adrenal Glands
Excrete adrenaline and cortisol to help you cope with stress.
Produce peptide YY and oxyntomodulin to make you feel full.
Control testosterone, which boosts sex drive and memory.
Flick Your Energy Switch
What you see as a good night’s sleep, your body interprets as eight hours of starvation. And so, in an effort to conserve energy, there’s a dramatic drop in your levels of leptin and insulin, two hormones that affect how quickly your body turns food into fuel. This process comes on automatically at night, but it’s up to you to shut it off in the morning or you’ll start the day in zombie mode.
Harness your hormones
Eat within an hour of your alarm. Chow down right after you wake up and you’ll trigger an increase in leptin, which will in turn tell your body that the recent fast isn’t a famine. “When leptin goes up, you feel less hungry and you increase energy expenditure,” says Dr Michael Cowley, an associate scientist in the division of neuroscience at Oregon National Primate Research Center. But if you want that energy to last until lunch, don’t just grab a muffin – you need a breakfast that will produce a slow and steady increase in insulin, not a swift spike.
Try a combination of protein and fibre rich carbs, such as two scrambled eggs stuffed into a wholewheat pita.
Melt Fat Faster
There’s no gauge in your gut, but at this point in the morning, it’s pretty much a given that you aren’t operating at full fat-burning capacity. How do we know? Simple: your thyroid gland is still snoozing.
As the master regulator of all things metabolic, this gland pumps out hormones that control how quickly your body burns nutrients and fat stores in response to energy demands. Those demands are low when you’re asleep – and remain low when you’re awake, unless you shake up your slow routine.
Harness your hormones
Squeeze in a morning run. In a recent Taiwanese study, scientists found that running on a treadmill increased the production of thyroid hormones in all the 27 men studied. And once thyroid hormones are released, they’ll remain in your bloodstream for hours, keeping your metabolism revved well after your workout. Here’s another reason to hit the treadmill before you hop into the shower: an early cardio workout will boost your mood for the workday ahead, says Dr Cedric Bryant, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise. Aerobic exercise increases your brain’s output of serotonin (a hormone associated with happiness) and dopamine (the hormone most closely linked to motivation).
Halt Your Hunger (And Advance Your Career)
You began the day with a full tank of testosterone. Now it’s six hours later and your T has begun to dip a bit. At the same time, your supply of the hunger hormone ghrelin is slowly rising. And the significance of these shifts? Even though your testosterone and ghrelin are headed in opposite directions, they’re both pointing towards an identical objective: a strategic lunch.
Harness your hormones
Combine your eating with a meeting. When testosterone levels are high, your brain is primed for independent, focused work (like writing, filing reports or generating ideas). On the other hand, your lower noontime level is ideal for meetings – you still have a mental edge but not an aggressive one. When the time comes to order, choose an entrée that contains both protein and fat (salmon and tuna fi the bill). Here’s why: as food enters your intestines, it stimulates the production of two hormones that create a feeling of fullness, known as peptide YY and oxyntomodulin. By adding slow digesting fat and protein to the intestinalequation, you will ensure a steady release of both.
Boost Your Brainpower
Here’s a familiar scenario: you have only a few more hours before quitting time, but your brain feels like it’s running on fumes. And in a sense it is, due to your testosterone levels bottoming out. “Research suggests that when you lose testosterone, your memory worsens,” says Dr Jeri Janowsky, a professor of behavioural neuroscience at Oregon Health and Science University, explaining that a steady supply of T is critical for the neurons in your brain to properly communicate with each other.