Hormone Imbalances and Weight Gain

Hormone Imbalances and Weight Gain

Hormones: the Body’s Messaging System

Before examining how a hormone imbalance can negatively impact an individual, it is valuable to gain a broad understanding of how hormones operate within the body.

Hormones are chemicals produced and secreted by endocrine glands. These chemicals enter the bloodstream or surrounding tissues and act as metabolic messengers within the body.

Hormones carry information the body needs in order to tweak the metabolism and meet the immediate needs of the body. Some easily recognizable hormones include adrenaline, insulin, testosterone, and estrogen.

When Messages Become Confused

When the body is functioning properly, these chemicals send messages through the bloodstream to communicate with the body in an optimal way. However, when the hormones achieve a state of imbalance, the release of hormones may trigger metabolic responses that do not benefit the body. The repercussions can be felt throughout the body’s systems. It is important to recognize some of the common signs of hormone imbalance.  Many individuals experience fatigue, lowered sex drive, and skin problems. Some people also report issues with memory, mood fluctuations, and weight gain.

Unbalanced Hormones and Weight Gain

One of the most commonly discussed hormones is cortisol. This chemical messenger has been dubbed the “stress hormone” because of its role in the flight or fight response. During times of perceived danger, the adrenal cortex releases a handful of hormones. This cortisol then travels through the bloodstream with the message that the body should immediately convert its stores of glycogen to energy.

To increase the efficiency of this process, cortisol also shuts down other bodily functions, such as the maintenance of blood sugar, blood pressure, and immune response. The immediate results of this chain reaction is a surge of energy and a higher pain threshold. Thanks in large part to the stress hormone, the body is now prepared to rapidly flee or fight off danger.

This system is better suited for primitive living than for postmodern stress, however. Stress can cause a hormonal imbalance and lead to an increase in appetite and blood sugar and, ultimately, an increase in fat storage. This specific type of weight gain often includes increased fat storage in the abdominal section.

The Wrong Exercise for Hormone Imbalance

The obvious solution to weight gain is exercise, right? Yes and no. Exercise can indeed lower stress, increase endorphins, and burn excess calories. However, too much cardiovascular training can actually increase the very hormone levels that caused the weight gain in the first place.

In fact, the traditional method of increasing cardiovascular activity and restricting calories may cause the body to sense danger from low glycogen levels and once again stimulate the release of the stress hormone. This release once again triggers the cascade of chemical events that results in yet further weight gain.

A Primal Solution for a Primal Problem

The best way to beat this primal system is to join it. Primitive humans engaged in short spurts of high intensity work and lifted heavy objects.  The modern equivalents of this, High Intensity Interval Training and resistance training, mimic the primitive lifestyle by combining periods of intense activity with periods of lower activity or rest.

Weight training helps individuals release endorphins, build fat-burning muscle, and increases levels of human growth hormone to actively combat the stress hormone. Additionally, full body workouts can actually increase metabolism for many hours after a workout.

Other beneficial activities drawn from ancestral humans include eating protein-rich meals, getting adequate water and rest, and eating immediately after engaging in strenuous activity or working out. The combination of High Intensity Interval Training, resistance training, and positive lifestyle behaviors can actually jump start weight loss for individuals seeking assistance with weight gain caused by hormonal imbalance.


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