The Lean Body Blueprint: Hormones vs Calories

Most people hope to see less body fat and more muscle tone when they exercise. If this includes you, consider changing your mindset away from burning calories and instead applying these concepts of hormone status to get you far better results in less time.

Calories you eat vs calories you expend does not work. It’s not a simple equation. We could get 10 people together eating exactly the same diet and doing the exact same exercise and movement. You would see a big difference in terms of who loses weight, gains weight and stays the same. If calories in vs calories out was true, each of the people would have exactly the same result.

Your individual hormone status has everything to do with how you will handle those calories you ate… at rest and with exercise. The hormones I’m talking about are insulin, cortisol, growth hormone, testosterone and estrogen….to keep it simple.

You already know people have big differences in hormone levels. Some are very well balanced and others have certain hormones too high and others too low. In that case, fat burning and ability to keep or build muscle will be hampered… no matter how much exercise you do and how little you eat. In fact, eating too little and exercising too much further distorts the hormone balance making the whole problem of body fat loss even worse.

The following table indicates what happens when your hormones are too high, too low, or enough, and you do 30-60 minutes or so of cardio. It’s likely you think as long as you do cardio you will burn fat and end up a leaner person. Or, you may be a runner or a cardio fiend and wonder why you never really “lean up”.

Your hormone status during exercise

You store fat

You burn fat

You increase muscle

You burn muscle

enough growth hormone

no

yes

yes

no

low growth hormone

yes

no

no

no

high insulin

yes

no

yes

no

high cortisol

yes

no

no

yes

enough testosterone

no

yes

yes

no

low testosterone

yes

no

no

yes

high estrogen

yes

no

no

no

Say you’re someone with low growth hormone, low testosterone and high insulin. There is hope for you! If you choose Tabata or high intensity interval exercise you will change all 3 hormones in the right direction and it will lead to fat burning and muscle sparing.

On the other hand, if you have the same condition (low growth hormone, low testosterone and high insulin) and you did 30-60 minutes of cardio, you would end up burning up muscle and not burning fat….. and on top of it, increasing stress and aggravating your hormone imbalance even more.

The Tabata (short burst) exercise (and I emphasize SHORT) is one of the only things you can do to increase your growth hormone (deep deep sleep also does this but diminishes as you get older).

I recommend a very short (4 minute) high intensity tabata every morning. You will be surprised at the increase in energy. For you runners or those of you taking step or other cardio exercise classes in search of a lean body (and you don’t see it happening), I highly suggest you replace the running and cardio with a 4 minute tabata every morning.

The key here is your stress hormones will diminish while you a nice burst of growth hormone and testosterone. On top of that, you will increase the number of mitochondria inside your cells, giving you higher energy for the long term. Both those hormones are fat burning and promote muscle.

5 keys to getting results with tabata:

  1. You MUST choose an exercise that’s so difficult you can barely finish the 20 seconds. Even better if you can only make it to 12 seconds.

  2. You MUST rest in the 10 seconds between exercises. If you feel like moving, you’re working hard enough in the 20 seconds.

  3. You must have enough magnesium on board for your body to make mitochondria and for you to get the increased energy. Most people are magnesium deficient.

  4. Warm up for 2-5 minutes before the 4 minute tabata.

  5. Be sure you’re well hydrated well before you do the tabata. Don’t plan on sipping water while you’re doing this.

You’ve likely experienced a number of HIIT (high intensity interval training) formats. Just beware of any format where the exercise segment is 1 or more minutes. This defeats the purpose. It can still be good exercise, but in order to shift your hormones in the direction of fat burning, you must hit that peak….. and if you’re doing anything for 1 minute or longer, you’ll have to “pace” yourself because no body can work at a peak for that long. By definition you are reducing your intensity. Instead, you are increasing stress hormones and not getting the growth hormone burst.

Tabata Formula:

Choose 2 exercises that are really hard right away (as in 1-2 seconds). You should feel out of breath and/or your muscles feel like they’ll stop or give out really quickly.

Do exercise #1 for 20 seconds

REST for 10 seconds

Do exercise #1 for 20 seconds

REST for 10 seconds

Do exercise #2 for 20 seconds

REST for 10 seconds

Do exercise #2 for 20 seconds

REST for 10 seconds

Do exercise #1 for 20 seconds

REST for 10 seconds

Do exercise #1 for 20 seconds

REST for 10 seconds

Do exercise #2 for 20 seconds

REST for 10 seconds

Do exercise #2 for 20 seconds

REST for 10 seconds

Use a timer and music to keep you on track. Download a tabata timer on your phone. Play music. In 4 minutes you’re done.

 

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