Har­ness the power of your hor­mones to boost to­tal health.

Shape (Singapore) - - Contents -

Every time you ex­er­cise, spe­cial hor­mones in your body spring into ac­tion. Re­leased by your sys­tem when you move, they give you en­ergy, spark your mo­ti­va­tion, and boost your mood. “Hor­mones are es­sen­tial for your abil­ity to work out ef­fec­tively,” says Kata­rina Borer, a pro­fes­sor of move­ment sci­ence and the di­rec­tor of the Ex­er­cise En­docrinol­ogy Lab­o­ra­tory at the Univer­sity of Michi­gan. “They im­prove your heart and lung func­tion, they bring fuel to your mus­cles, and they help your body re­cover af­ter­wards.” Even so, these ex­er­cise hor­mones are vir­tu­ally un­known and un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated – but that’s about to change.

OSTEOCALCIN This hor­mone is pro­duced by your bones when you work out. Its job: to en­cour­age your mus­cles to ab­sorb the nu­tri­ents that help them per­form at their peak. “In women, though, osteocalcin pro­duc­tion be­gins to de­crease around age 30,” says Ger­ard Karsenty, the chair of the ge­net­ics and de­vel­op­ment de­part­ment at Columbia Univer­sity Med­i­cal Cen­ter. As lev­els drop off, he says, your nu­tri­ent-de­pleted mus­cles can’t work as hard.

For­tu­nately, reg­u­lar ex­er­cise may bump up your pro­duc­tion of osteocalcin, and that ex­tra boost can el­e­vate your per­for­mance, Ger­ard says. His re­search found that women’s lev­els were higher after they worked out for 45 min­utes; in an­other study, the mus­cles of an­i­mals that were given a dose of the hor­mone func­tioned as ef­fec­tively as those a frac­tion of their age. Hit the gym at least every other day to keep your lev­els up, Ger­ard sug­gests.

NORADRENALINE Your brain prompts the re­lease of this pow­er­ful stress hor­mone when you work out. And that’s a good thing. “Noradrenaline stim­u­lates the metabolism and helps your heart and lungs re­spond prop­erly to ex­er­cise,” says Jill Kana­ley, a pro­fes­sor and as­so­ciate chair of nutri­tion and ex­er­cise phys­i­ol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Mis­souri. It also makes you more re­silient to men­tal stress. In ad­di­tion, noradrenaline helps turn white fat into brown, just like irisin, ac­cord­ing to a study from Brigham and Women’s Hos­pi­tal in Bos­ton.

The longer or harder you move, the more noradrenaline you pro­duce, Kata­rina says. Your best bet: Add short, su­per high-in­ten­sity bursts to your reg­u­lar rou­tines.

PEP­TIDE YY The gut se­cretes this to help you feel full. But ex­er­cise also trig­gers the pro­duc­tion of pep­tide YY (PYY), ac­cord­ing to re­search in the jour­nal Ap­petite. “Peo­ple who ex­er­cise more fre­quently pro­duce more PYY than others, but lev­els can rise after a sin­gle work­out,” says Les­lie Bonci, a sports di­eti­tian and a sports nutri­tion ad­viser for nu­tri­tional sup­ple­ments brand Klean Ath­lete. The re­la­tion­ship be­tween PYY and hunger is com­plex. “You might feel ravenous im­me­di­ately after ex­er­cis­ing but less hun­gry an hour later as lev­els of the hor­mone con­tinue to climb,” Les­lie says. Over­all, you’ll feel more sat­is­fied with smaller por­tions.

Weight-bear­ing aer­o­bic ex­er­cises, like jump­ing rope and play­ing ten­nis, are the most ef­fec­tive at sup­press­ing ap­petite, re­search in­di­cates. Ex­perts aren’t sure why, but it may be be­cause these ac­tiv­i­ties en­gage your gut, where PYY is pro­duced. You can max­imise that ef­fect by eat­ing about 0.6g to 0.8g of pro­tein per 0.5kg of body­weight daily, Les­lie says. “Peo­ple with di­ets that are higher in pro­tein tend to pro­duce ex­tra PYY,” she ex­plains.

GROWTH FAC­TORS These in­clude hor­mones as well as hor­mone-like sub­stances that help build your mus­cles – and your brain­power. When you work out, the body re­leases hor­mones such as in­sulin-like growth fac­tor 1 (IGF-1) and vas­cu­lar en­dothe­lial growth fac­tor (VEGF), along with pro­teins like brain-de­rived neu­rotrophic fac­tor (BDNF). “IGF-1 and VEGF help re­pair the mus­cle dam­age caused by ex­er­cise, help­ing to build the fi­bres back stronger,” says Ger­ard.

The growth fac­tors may also strengthen your mem­ory and cog­ni­tive func­tion. Dif­fer­ent types of work­outs are best at boost­ing each growth fac­tor, Kata­rina says. For in­stance, HIIT ex­er­cises raise VEGF, lift­ing heavy weights raises IGF-1, and high-in­ten­sity en­durance aer­o­bic ac­tiv­i­ties like run­ning raise BDNF lev­els. To score all three, change up your rou­tine reg­u­larly.

IRISIN This in­creases the ac­tiv­ity of the genes that con­vert white fat cells into brown, a ben­e­fi­cial type of fat that can burn calo­ries, ac­cord­ing to re­searchers from the Univer­sity of Florida Col­lege of Medicine. Irisin may re­duce white fat stores, too. Tis­sue sam­ples that were ex­posed to irisin had up to 60 per cent fewer ma­ture fat cells than others, the study au­thors say.

Work­outs that tar­get large mus­cle groups like your glutes, quads, or chest typ­i­cally re­lease more irisin than ex­er­cises that work smaller mus­cles such as bi­ceps or calves, since big­ger mus­cles con­tain more of the hor­mone, Les­lie says. She sug­gests en­durance ac­tiv­i­ties such as run­ning or high-in­ten­sity strength work­outs like Crossfit.

There’s also ev­i­dence that in­creas­ing lev­els of mela­tonin, the sleep hor­mone, bumps up the pro­duc­tion of irisin. Eat­ing mela­tonin-rich foods like wal­nuts and tart cher­ries be­fore bed will help you sleep better and burn more fat, Les­lie says.

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