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The Hormone You’re Missing Out On: Testosterone For Women

The stereotypes surrounding testosterone levels in women are many and varied: too much will give me a beard, high levels will make me angry all the time, I don’t want to get bulky like a man! Let’s put all of those myths to rest by investigating this hormone & what it can do for women searching for ways to look, feel, and move better.

What is testosterone?

Testosterone is a sex hormone produced by men in the testes and by women in the ovaries. Men produce testosterone at about 20x the rate of women; production is controlled by the pituitary gland. Testosterone plays an important role in sex drive, brain function, bone and muscle mass, fat distribution, the vascular system, and energy levels. Low testosterone in women usually strikes around menopause, but can also creep up on young women who are on hormonal birth control for long periods of time. Women with low testosterone usually fall into the category of being estrogen dominant. Let’s lay down some symptoms of low testosterone in women:

  • Low energy
  • Low sex drive
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Osteoporosis
  • Depression

Bringing testosterone levels back up to normal levels can have profound effects on a woman’s energy levels, confidence, her ability to gain muscle mass and lose fat, and increasing her libido. With optimal testosterone levels, you can build more muscle, have more energy and focus, improve your sex drive, and sleep more soundly.

 You can bring your testosterone levels up without any kind of medical intervention like hormone replacement therapy (HRT). It takes steady, sustained attention to alter testosterone levels in women, however, so stick with it!

Here are FIVE ways to raise your testosterone levels.

  1.  Change the way you work out. Studies have found time and again that certain types of training elicit certain hormonal responses. In this case, we want our workout to stimulate testosterone production. The key is high-intensity interval training coupled with resistance training. High-intensity intervals generate a more favorable response than steady-state endurance exercise. [1] Similarly, training with multi-joint, compound exercises like squats and deadlifts (which stimulate a huge number of muscle fibers at once) elevates testosterone.[2] Focus on moving some heavy weights several times a week and step away from the long, low-intensity runs if you want to bring your testosterone levels up.
  2. Sleep well. Losing sleep can drastically throw off your testosterone levels.[3] As sleep research progresses, we are learning that sleep is incredibly important for normal hormone functioning. Testosterone levels tend to dip when we are sleep-deprived so make your sleep a priority. Set a time to go to sleep & stick to it. Make your bedroom as dark as possible, wear ear plugs if you must, but let nothing disturb your sleep or cut into your 8-10 hours a night.
  3. Eat garlic, fat, and protein. Garlic has been shown to increase serum testosterone levels. [4] Eating a diet higher in protein has also been shown to elevate testosterone[5]. Cook up some garlic (you can buy little jars of chopped garlic) in coconut oil and then fry up some eggs– it’s pretty fantastic. Getting some quality saturated fat into your daily diet has also been shown to raise testosterone levels.[6]
  4. Kick out the estrogen. When you are exposed to certain chemicals in your daily diet or environment, they have the ability to act as estrogen in your body, creating an environment of estrogen dominance that practically drowns testosterone. These are known as xeno-estrogens or phytoestrogens. Xeno-estrogens are chemicals found in pesticides and herbicides, plastics, cleaners, makeups, lotions, shampoos, and countless other places. Phytoestrogens are found in foods, such as these common culprits: soy, dairy, flax, potatoes, and wheat. Wheat is the biggest offender here because it is EVERYWHERE in our daily diet. Check out this book, “Wheat Belly” for more information on cutting grains out of your diet.
  5. Reduce stress. This last tip is linked to my previous 2-part article on cortisol, a steroid hormone that rises as stress levels go up. Cortisol has the ability to block testosterone.[7] Read up on my article “Are my cortisol levels too high?” to learn how to better control your cortisol levels.

Those are FIVE ways to bring up your testosterone, a hormone that builds muscle, burns stomach fat, & gives you strength and confidence. Leave a comment below if you have more ideas on how to raise testosterone levels or to share your experience with estrogen dominance.

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[1] Testosterone responses to intensive interval versus steady-state endurance exercise. J Endocrinol Invest. 2012 Dec;35(11):947-50.

[2] Loebel, C.C., and W.J. Kraemer. A brief review: Testosterone and resistance training in men. J.Strength and Cond.Res. 12(1):57-63. 1998

[3] Sleep deprivation lowers reactive aggression and testosterone in men. Biol Psychol. 2012 Oct 6;92(2):249-256

[4] Garlic Supplementation Increases Testicular Testosterone and Decreases Plasma Corticosterone in Rats Fed a High Protein Diet. J. Nutr. August 1, 2001 vol. 131 no. 8 2150-2156.

[5] Diet and Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. January 1, 2000 vol. 85 no. 1 293-296

[6] Dorgan JJF, Judd JJT, Longcope CC, Brown CC, Schatzkin AA, Clevidence BBA, Campbell WWS, Nair PPP, Franz CC, Kahle LL, Taylor PPR. Effects of dietary fat and fiber on plasma and urine androgens and estrogens in men: a controlled feeding study. The American journal of clinical nutrition 1996;64:850-5.

[7] Horm Behav. 2010 Nov;58(5):898-906. Epub 2010 Sep 15.

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Are My Cortisol Levels Too High? Part 2

In Part 1, we covered the ways in which your cortisol levels can become skewed & the side-effects associated with imbalanced cortisol. In Part 2 of this two-part series, we will look into ways you can fix your cortisol levels and bring them back to normal.  Let’s start with lifestyle fixes for lowering cortisol.

Lifestyle Solutions for High Cortisol

  1. SLEEP. This is placed in the number one spot for a good reason. Sleep is INCREDIBLY important to normal hormone levels, especially normal cortisol levels. The body (correctly) interprets lack of sleep as a high-stress situation and prepares for hard times by releasing cortisol, often triggering cravings for high-calorie foods that will perk you up. Sleeping eight quality hours a night or more is absolutely crucial for bringing cortisol levels back into line.
  2. RELAX. Easier said than done! We live in a hectic, fast-paced world where expectations are high and time is short. Taking the time out to relax and unwind is a must. Meditation, exercising, chatting with friends, laughing, and getting in quality time with people you love are all good ways to dial down the stress pattern that elevates cortisol.
  3. EXERCISE. Exercise (especially resistance training) is key to burning fat and building muscle. Lift heavier weights for fewer reps for a more positive anabolic response.[1] Endurance exercise can have the opposite effect. When you go long (over an hour) cortisol levels tend to go higher and stay that way. [2]

Nutrition Solutions for High Cortisol

  1. CAFFEINE. High caffeine intake has been linked with elevated cortisol levels.[3] If you are downing 4-5 cups (300-400mg of caffeine) of coffee every day, you might be unintentionally spiking your cortisol levels.
  2. LESS PROCESSED FOOD. Cut the junk out of your diet to improve your cortisol response.

“When we eat sugar, white flour and other refined foods, they are absorbed very quickly by the body and bring our blood glucose levels up too quickly to an excessively high level. This sends an emergency signal to the pancreas to bring the blood sugar levels back down, so it releases an excessive amount of insulin to deal with the excessively high levels of blood glucose.

This in turn causes the body to call on the adrenal glands to release cortisol to bring the blood sugar levels back up, because it works in conjunction with insulin to keep blood sugar in balance. Every time you eat sugar and refined foods the pancreas and the adrenals go through this cycle and this puts too much demand on them.”

-holistichelp.net

3. CUT OUT THE ALCOHOL. Drinking alcohol has a profound effect on cortisol levels. Drinkers who consume alcohol on a regular basis have chronically high cortisol levels[4] and tend to store high levels of fat in their abdomen due to high cortisol levels and other factors.

In short, these are pretty easy steps you can take to make sure your cortisol levels are in a good pattern. If you need help tweaking your exercise plan, just contact me and I can set you on the right path.

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[1] Acute Hormonal Responses to Heavy Resistance Exercise in Strength Athletes Versus Nonathletes. Juha P. Ahtiainen, Arto Pakarinen, William J. Kraemer, Keijo Hakkinen. Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology, 2004, 29(5): 527-543, 10.1139/h04-034

[2] Catecholamines, growth hormone, cortisol, insulin, and sex hormones in anaerobic and aerobic exercise.

European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology. September 1982, Volume 49, Issue 3, pp 389-399.

[3] Caffeine Stimulation of Cortisol Secretion Across the Waking Hours in Relation to Caffeine Intake Levels. Psychosom Med. 2005; 67(5): 734–739.

[4]  Alcohol use, urinary cortisol, and heart rate variability in apparently healthy men: Evidence for impaired inhibitory control of the HPA axis in heavy drinkers. International Journal of Psychophysiology. Volume 59, Issue 3, March 2006, Pages 244–250.

Are my cortisol levels too high? PART ONE

The stress of the holiday season effects all of us in different ways. For some, it is a time of family, fun, and bad food that, by January 1st, is already a fond memory. For others, however, the stress of shopping, cleaning, cooking, and eating our way through the holidays can bring us down into a funk that can be hard to climb out of. A common symptom of holiday overload is elevated cortisol levels. A buzzword since the introduction of drugs like Cortislim, cortisol has gotten plenty of attention from the weight-loss community for its negative effects on the body. Cortisol is a survival hormone, however–without it, we would be unable to function. Read on to learn more about this hormone & its role in the stress response.

 

What is cortisol?

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The adrenal glands are located on top of the kidneys

Hormone levels are the end-all indicators of the levels of stress your body may be enduring (physical or mental). Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands in response to a) stress or b) low blood sugar levels. Cortisol is characterized by its diurnal variation pattern; like some other hormones, including the sex hormone testosterone, the levels peak in the morning and drop off toward the evening.

In its normal function, cortisol helps us meet these challenges by converting fats and proteins into energy, keeping us alert, balancing electrolytes, calibrating heart beat and pressure, and counteracting inflammation. In the short run, that’s great — even protective and restorative.

However, problems can develop as today’s relentlessly busy lifestyle forces your adrenal glands to be on constant “high alert” resulting in sustained high levels of cortisol.

womentowomen.com

Chronically High Cortisol Levels

How can you tell if your cortisol levels are chronically high & why can this be a potentially destructive pattern? Firstly, your doctor can run a blood test to tell you if your cortisol levels are above normal. Here is a table showing the upper and lower limits of cortisol levels in the blood.

Reference ranges for blood plasma content of free cortisol
Time Lower limit Upper limit Unit
09:00 am 140[46] 700[46] nmol/L
5[47] 25[47] μg/dL
Midnight 80[46] 350[46] nmol/L
2.9[47] 13[47] μg/dL

Here are some observations you can make yourself to get an idea of whether your cortisol levels are up (and staying up):

1. The Wired/Tired Combo

A symptom of chronically high cortisol is the inability to relax. Your brain is often running at high speed with the stress of life while your body is physically not up to the task.

2. Junk Food Cravings

Similar to the reaction the human body generates when deprived of sleep, high cortisol prompts high-fat, high-sugar food cravings in response to perceived stress.

3. Long-Distance Exerciser

Training for a marathon? Or maybe you just like to go out everyday for a 45 minute jog to calm your brain. This type of repetitive, aerobic exercise can contribute to elevated cortisol. You might be able to spot this type next time you’re at the gym–the man or woman who is always on the treadmill, never hitting the weights, yet has a pudgy middle.

Chronically  high cortisol levels can make it next to impossible to lose weight. Cortisol, as a stress hormone, keeps your body on high alert and in a constant state of stress. Your body is not in homeostasis, or biological balance.

In Part Two, we will talk about ways to bring your cortisol back into sync to have you looking and feeling better. Until then,

North Texas Fitness

How to Get Better Sleep Infographic

How to Get Better Sleep Infographic

Get Your Vitamin D On

Hi All,

Let’s break down the hows and whys of supplementing with Vitamin D, a vitamin that gets a lot of attention during the winter months because that tends to the time of year when most people come up short.

Vitamin D is a secosteroid responsible for intestinal absorption of calcium and phosphate. For this reason, the supplement calcium often comes coupled with Vitamin D for better absorption.  While Vitamin D can be found in food, it is also made in the body. When you expose your arms and legs to the sunshine for about 20 minutes, you’ve just met your Vitamin D quota. During the winter (and potentially during the summer with copious sunscreen use), most folks Vitamin D levels tend to plummet. Having top-notch Vitamin D levels can lend protection from everything to Type II diabetes to certain types of cancers, not to mention giving you an edge when it comes to losing weight.

vitamins

How Much Vitamin D Should You Take?

The Adequate Intake recommendation of this vitamin increases as you age, so pay special attention to your age group here:

Ages 19-50: 200 IU
Ages 51-70: 400 IU
Over age 70: 600 IU

IU stands for International Units. Please note that most experts agree that these recommendations are incredibly conservative. Not sure if you are deficient in this vitamin? Ask your doctor for a Vitamin D deficiency panel. The issues surrounding deficiencies in this vitamin are gaining awareness & he/she should be able to set you up pretty quick with a test to see where you’re at.

Side Effects

Now, until I nailed down the time of day to take for taking my Vitamin D supplement, I struggled. I was immediately constipated by the supplement, which I have also learned can be a sign of toxicity. Given, this was during late summer, early fall & I probably was taking on a little too much D. You can become constipated from Vitamin D because, since it increases the absorption of calcium, it will also move water away from the gut & make your stool much harder. Coupling Vitamin D with my Hair Skin & Nails vitamin (which contains a healthy dose of magnesium, a stool softener) I was able to bypass this frustrating side effect.

Buying D

You can buy Vitamin D VERY cheaply. It costs next to nothing to get a reputable brand like Carlson’s.Unless you are a vegetarian, you should select a Vitamin D3, not a Vitamin D2. The D3 has a much higher absorption rate. You may also want to take your Vitamin D with a meal that contains some fat, to boost absorption of this fat-soluble vitamin even more.

Questions about Vitamin D? Leave them in the comments below or email me!

North Texas Fitness

Winter Workout

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Brrrrrrr

Here in North Texas, it is COLD. Cold for Texans, anyway. The high temp today is a teeth-chattering 45 degrees. For folks like me who do not have a gym membership & workout in their garage, here is an indoor workout that will get you sweating without having to brave the wintry outdoors.

 

 

 

Choose a room where you have lots of free space & no distractions! Set a timer on your phone or computer (here or here) for FIVE rounds of 60 seconds of work, 10 seconds of rest. You will spend 1 minute on each exercise & use the 10 seconds between stations catching your breath or grabbing a sip of water. Try to get as many reps as possible for each exercise! Push yourself! 60 seconds isn’t that long.

 

Station ONE: Pushups. Either from your toes (easy), your knees (easier) or your hands on an elevated surface (easiest) like a couch or coffee table. Keep your body BOARD STRAIGHT all the way through the descent and ascent. No sagging hips or butts in the air, people.

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The switch lunge

Station TWO: Switch-Lunge. The switch lunge is going to be hard to keep up for a whole minute but you need to give it everything you got! Here is how you do a switch-lunge (aka jumping lunge): get into a lunge position. Your front shinbone should be straight up and down and your back thighbone should be straight up and down also. Keep your chest proud and your back straight. Exploding upward, jump and switch legs in the air. Upon landing you should already be pretty close to a lunge again. You don’t have to bang your knee into ground. Absorb the impact with your leg muscles and get ready to jump again!

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The Plank

Station THREE: Plank. Get into the pushup position. Hold your body straight as a board for 60 seconds. A straight line should be formed from shoulders to heels! Look down at the space between your hands. Remember to breath! 

Station FOUR: Air squat. Pushing your hips BACK and DOWN, sit back like you’re going to sit in a chair. Descend as far as is comfortable for your low back, but ideally you’d squat down until your thighs are parallel with the floor or lower. Stand up. Repeat as fast as possible with good form.

Station FIVE: High Knees. Jogging in place, high step it so that your knees come up past your hip bone. Pump your arms and work hard for 60 seconds!

 

Rest 2 minutes and then repeat as many times as you can muster. Happy Holidays!

Best Workday Snacks

Hey there!

Here are 5 workday snacks that will keep you feeling focused & energetic during the workday.

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Mini Quiche

1. Mini Quiches: Mini quiches are an easy, make-ahead, protein rich item to keep stocked up with at work. Get out your mini muffin pan, sprinkle in your chopped spinach, tomato, mushroom, or ingredients of choice. Spoon your whisked egg over your vegetables & pop in the oven at 350 for 10-15 minutes.

2. Almonds:This is probably a no-brainer. New evidence, however, shows that almonds have way less calories than previously thought–about 20% less! So grab a handful (about an ounce) and reap the benefits of the protein, good fats, and nice texture that raw almonds have.

3. Green Tea: This is probably not a ‘snack’, per se, for most people. But my office is chilly & it keeps my hands and mouth occupied. Start sippin’!

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Red Delicious

4. The Humble Apple: Though the apple’s season is fading, this is still an easy, affordable, healthful snack to chow down on. Full of fiber and minerals, it is not super juicy or messy like some other fruits & has about 1/3 sugar of a ripe banana.

5. Cottage cheese: Bringing a container of this filling, creamy snack to work is pretty simple. Go ahead and buy organic on this one— you don’t need the antibiotics and hormones floating around in factory-farmed dairy. Buy organic cottage cheese (full-fat) and reap the benefits of CLA, protein, and satiating fat!

There you have it, FIVE work snacks to keep your munchies at bay. Post your favorite work snacks below!

The Paleo Diet

Here is an good info-graphic on The Paleo Diet, a way of eating that has been gaining steam lately.

Inaugural post!

Hi & thanks for visiting our page! You’ve found the go-to place for up-to-date, easy to apply fitness and wellness information. If you ever have any questions or comments about our content or services, just leave your information below or click ‘contact us‘.

 

On to the first post! 

I want to talk a little bit about taking care of yourself during the holiday season. I think one thing that trips most people up, whether they recognize it or not, is the time change. For us in the South, days are drastically shorter, temperatures much colder, and there seems to be much more time (and much more inclination) to sit around and just…nibble. If you’re trying to control your weight over the dark winter months, this time when the sun goes down around 6 & you’ve parked it in front of the TV or computer can be a major hazard. Luckily, I am going to outline 5 ideas for keeping you trim through the holidays.

1. Only keep the healthy snacking foods around. Out with the Doritos or pretzels & in with the berries or air-popped popcorn. If you are truly being driven to your wit’s end when it comes to snacking during the winter, at least snack on stuff that is going to do minimal damage; in the case of blueberries or strawberries, you may even be doing yourself a favor by adding those anti-oxidant rich foods into your diet.

 

2. The simplest and most obvious is to just get out of the house. Get up, get moving! Take your loving dog on a walk, take your loving significant other with you, listen to your favorite podcast or whatever you need to do. Removing yourself from the situation of mindless night-time snacking is the objective. Make sure if you are walking alone at night you stay in well-lit areas, take your phone, only put one ear-bud in, and stay aware of your surroundings at all times. Safety first.

3. Close the kitchen. This is a pretty popular strategy for those of us with late-night snacking habits. I make dinner around 6/6:30, eat, and then immediately go back in and (because I have the luxury of a small kitchen & no children) clean the space top to bottom. All of the dishes go in the dishwasher, pans get scrubbed, counter-tops wiped, and lights get turned out. The kitchen is effectively ‘closed’ for the night. This puts up a pretty effective mental barrier that no more access to the kitchen is allowed for the night.

4. Mini Work-out. Sometimes distraction can be the best technique for success in these meVSmyself situations. I either slip in a workout or yoga DVD, do exercises (push ups, planks, mountain climbers) during commercials, or do the deck of cards workout. The deck of cards workout is easy– just assign an exercise to each suit (clubs=pushups, spades=situps, diamonds=squats, hearts=burpees) and start pulling cards! An 8 of hearts, for example, would be 8 burpees. Continue until you’re either out of cards or out of energy. Beware the self-reward path, however! If you tend to reward yourself after exercise, this may not the best route for you to follow if you know you’ll wind up in the kitchen with a spoon in the peanut butter afterward.

5. Get a hobby. A good cure for the snack-attack is to just occupy those hands. You can take up quilting, knitting, sketching, painting, blogging, anything to take your hands and mind away from the kitchen. Hell, even cleaning might be a good idea to distract you from the munchies.

 

There you have it! 5 quick ideas to try to soften the blow of those shorter days & longer opportunities for munching. If you have other ideas that have helped you avoid extra calories in the fall and winter evenings, post below!

 

-NTF

 

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