5 important hormones for optimum fat burn

October 27, 2012

What if I told you that learning to stabilize five important hormones found in your body would give you an incredible edge and a better chance to get in great shape? That’s right, never underestimate the power of hormones. With some education and a little discipline you can master important techniques that will make your body’s chemicals work for you, helping you lose unwanted body fat and gain lean muscle.


Testosterone is the primary sex hormone found in men; it is also found in women but in lesser amounts. Testosterone is important because in addition to triggering puberty, it also helps adults build quality muscle mass, strength and bone density, and burn fat stores. Testosterone also aids in protein synthesis and promotes mental clarity and stable energy levels. The best way to boost testosterone levels is to lift weights with a focus on compound movements such as dead lifts, squats and cleans that recruit groups of larger muscles. Research also suggests that HIIT - high-intensity interval training - is another excellent way to burn fat and boost testosterone levels. HIIT refers to short, intense exercises with periodic bursts of speed spread throughout the session. A great example would be sprints, jumping rope or even weight training.


Another very important hormone made in the body is insulin, because it controls fat burn and can wreak havoc on your appetite. If your insulin spikes, you will retain fat, and your body will crave more sugary, fattening foods. If your insulin level is stable, your body will release fat stores, and it’s much easier to control your eating habits. To ensure that you create a positive hormonal balance with stable insulin levels, it’s important to eat plenty of quality protein such as lean chicken, eggs and fish; and replace processed carbohydrates such as white breads, enriched pasta and sugary drinks with oatmeal, sweet potatoes and brown rice. Another great way to control insulin levels is to eat 5-6 small meals a day.

Growth Hormone

HGH or human growth hormone is produced by the pituitary gland and triggers the growth and maintenance of bones, muscles and other tissue. It also plays a large role in a healthy metabolism by controlling blood sugar and insulin levels. As you get older, your HGH level naturally decreases, and a poor diet of sugary carbohydrates and lack of sleep makes it even worse. The good news is, you can boost HGH by changing your lifestyle. To accomplish this, make sure you are eating a healthy diet with quality proteins, smaller frequent meals and plenty of stable low-glycemic carbohydrates. Get 8-10 hours of quality sleep every night, and be sure to participate in a strength training program with short, intense workouts.


Cortisol is a unique hormone that does the exact opposite of testosterone, insulin and growth hormone by breaking down tissue instead of building muscle mass. It’s important to understand cortisol release is a natural process, and if you work out correctly, there is no way to avoid it, but you can learn to control it if you want to maximize results. The trick is to make sure you follow certain rules that allow your body to keep cortisol levels in check. First, it’s important that you train hard but give your body time to recuperate, keeping weightlifting workouts between 30-50 minutes and taking one to three days off a week for recovery. Second, you must time meals correctly to deliver the proper nutrition needed to repair muscles by eating small, frequent meals every three hours. Last but not least, make sure you don’t miss the opportunity for a post-workout recovery drink within 15-30 minutes of completing a hard workout.


A recent study concluded that failure to get enough sleep causes the body to release a hormone called ghrelin. Ghrelin is an appetite-stimulating hormone that tells the body you need food and will make you feel hungry even when you’re not. However, when you get enough sleep, the body releases another hormone called leptin that makes you feel full and tells the body to stop eating. When you feel full, the body is not in crisis mode, and you have the ability to be more selective with your food choices, making it easier to eat healthy.

So the next time you find yourself wondering why hard work isn’t getting the job done, remember, achieving hormonal balance may be just what you need to do to get to the next level.

  • Chris Antonio is a personal trainer and former world-class weightlifter. He has been lifting for more than 20 years and has trained a wide variety of clients ranging from All-American athletes to the average person trying to get into shape. To send a question to the Ask the Trainer column, email Chris at or check out

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