Excess Bodyfat in Key Areas ?Look At Your Hormones
My personal fitness journey has been a winding and evolving adventure over the last 30 years. I have oscillated between focusing on flexibility and mobility and focusing completely on strength and power. Now as my body begins to age and subtle changes occur, I am finding that the balance between types of exercise, pain management and overall enjoyment is the key. A big take way I hope you gain from the information below is just how critical strength training is for both men and women (but especially women) as we move past the age of 40. Your strength exercise program is critical to balancing hormones, maintaining bone health, heart health and so very much more.. all of which are impacted no matter how ‘healthy’ your lifestyle has been pre-38 years, due to the decline in key hormones like testosterone (DHEA in women) and estrogen. If you are in your 30’s and reading this plan for your future health now, and if your are post 30, start weight training regularly, especially for women, this really is a non-negotiable.
Lets take a look at the way our wonderful body tells us what is going on at an hormonal level…
Excess abdominal fat often means that you are secreting excess cortisol, a major stress hormone produced during physical or emotional stress. The more stress, the more cortisol, and the more your body will distribute fat to the belly. Before you start exercising hard-core, have a look at your stress levels. HIIT sessions like F45 may not be the answer, but Yoga or meditation maybe.
In menopausal women, the reduction in estrogen also plays a role in abdominal fat storage, partly because estrogen normally helps slow down the production of cortisol. Low testosterone in males and low estrogen in females can contribute to increased belly fat. The main way to counter this is to increase growth hormone and DHEA by strength training. As little as 3x 30min functional weight training sessions per week can help with the regulation of these key hormones for both men and women.
Back fat, such as “love handles” and fat on the upper back, and also on the back of the arms often indicate excess insulin. If you are trying to target fat loss in these areas then your goal is to regulate your blood sugar. Combine carbs with protein to slow, cut out sugar and refined carbs from your diet, minimise alcohol and cut down on your coffee consumption, which in some people can impact insulin spikes. However, if like me you drink a great deal of coffee and manage your nutrient intake the benefits of drinking black coffee show significant decreases in Type 2 Diabetes in both men and women.
Estrogen promotes storage of fat in breasts in women, which is a healthy adaptation for childbearing. Excess fat in the upper chest area, including men with “man boobs”, or anyone with neck rolls is an indication of excess estrogen. Estrogen is not only produced in the gonads in males and females (females produce more estrogen because they have the enzyme aromatase that converts testosterone into estrogen) but it is also produced in fat cells.
Having excess fat in general means that you can have excess estrogen. Having too little of any hormone is just as bad as having too much. If low estrogen is an issue then having a healthy body fat is important (between 12-22% in females and 7-18% in men).
GLUTES AND THIGHS
Extra fat on the posterior and thighs is an indication of low androgens like testosterone and DHEA. This is why women tend to have more fat in this area than men. Women do make some testosterone but the primary androgen in females is DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), which is a testosterone-like molecule that is produced in the adrenal cortex. Testosterone plays an important role in fat metabolism, which is why men have on average 9-10% less body fat than women.
Most men will have a gradual decline in testosterone production after age 30. Low sex drive is the main indicator of low testosterone in men, along with signs of low mood and depression, and low DHEA in women. The only way we can stimulate the production of androgens as we get older is with strength training.
Weight training and HIIT also increase the production of growth hormone (also primarily made during exercise after puberty). Weight-bearing exercise is very important for menopausal women that no longer produce estrogen in the ovaries; the adrenal glands become the main source of these growth promoting hormones that prevent muscle weakness and osteoporosis.