Which is more important for weight loss, calories or hormones?
The reality is that they are both important but today I’m going to focus more on hormones.
That’s because hormones are some of the most powerful compounds in biology and they can and do exert a profound impact on your weight.
And if you’ve been struggling with your weight, then you’ll want to pay attention close attention because it’s very likely that your hormones are at least partly responsible for that struggle.
But back to the issue of calories vs hormones for a second.
How do you know which you should focus more on?
A good way to think about it is like this:
In general, the more overweight you are, the more important your hormones become if you want to lose weight.
This is especially true if you have at least 25 pounds or more to lose.
If you are closer to your ideal body weight, within 10-15 pounds, then calories become more important.
This is because obesity by itself disrupts multiple hormone systems and it takes a lot of disruption to get you to these higher levels of weight gain.
So if you are someone who has more than 25 pounds to lose, this information is for you.
The good news is, there are bio-identical hormone therapy replacement options available for people who have hormone imbalances.
And some of these hormone replacement treatments can seriously augment your weight loss efforts by making them much more effective.
As a quick disclaimer before we start, though, you need to understand that hormones are incredibly powerful and they should only be used if you have a deficiency.
Do not use the hormones we are about to talk about unless you know you are low!
Taking them without testing your levels may cause more harm than good!
With that out of the way, let’s talk about the hormones that can help you lose weight starting right now:
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By the way, as we go, I’ll let you know if the hormones that we are talking about are more relevant to men or women or if both genders can use them.
Testosterone happens to be one of those hormones that is beneficial for both men and women who need to lose weight.
Testosterone plays a very important role in regulating lean muscle mass (1).
It does way more than this, but this benefit is probably the most important when it comes to your weight.
You can think of lean muscle mass as the organ of longevity and metabolism.
A decline in muscle mass, known as sarcopenia (2), should be avoided at ALL costs and you should do everything in your power to protect the amount of muscle that you have.
If you allow your testosterone to stay low, you will impair your ability to build lean muscle mass which means your metabolism will suffer.
This is a problem for people who are already overweight because obesity has a tendency to cause a decline in testosterone levels.
Remember when I said that the more weight you gain the more imbalanced your hormones become? This is a perfect example of that.
The more weight that you gain, the lower your testosterone levels will be, and the easier it is to gain more weight.
This connection is well known which is why bodybuilders use testosterone to build muscle and why there are thousands of TRT clinics out there.
But you don’t have to take bodybuilder levels of testosterone to see benefits in your health and weight.
Small amounts of bio-identical testosterone can help restore your muscle mass and provide additional benefits to your mood, libido, and energy levels.
For men, the use of testosterone is a no-brainer but it can get a little bit more complicated for women.
In men, obesity almost always results in low testosterone but this isn’t always the case for women.
Sometimes weight gain can trigger an increase in androgens by causing a PCOS-like condition but as long as you test prior to using it, you won’t have any issues.
When it comes to testing, you’ll want to look beyond the standard reference ranges provided.
The standard reference range provided by lab companies is very broad and doesn’t take into account suboptimal or low normal levels.
If you find that your testosterone level is in the bottom 25% of the standard reference range then using TRT is generally safe and beneficial.
This is one that is more important for women as opposed to men.
Progesterone is a sex hormone that acts as an antagonist to the effects of estrogen.
And it’s almost always the case, that women tend to have excess estrogen relative to progesterone.
This is because progesterone starts to decline more rapidly than estrogen starting at about age 35.
So what ends up happening is that while both estrogen and progesterone decline until menopause is reached, the decline in progesterone occurs earlier and more rapidly compared to estrogen.
On top of this issue, the more fat that you have in your body, the more likely you are to create more estrogen through the process of aromatization.
Your fat cells contain an enzyme called aromatase (3) which takes androgens and turns them into estrogenic compounds.
The more fat that you have, the more active these enzymes are, and the more estrogen that will be produced.
This may not sound like a problem until you realize what estrogen is doing in the body.
Estrogen is best thought of as a hormone that builds tissues up.
During the menstrual cycle, it builds up the uterine wall, but it also acts to build up fat cells and breast tissue as well.
In normal amounts, this isn’t a problem, but if its effects are not countered by progesterone, they can result in excess weight gain and other problems.
For this reason, progesterone use in women can help balance the ratio of estrogen to progesterone and may help with weight loss (4).
It does this by counteracting the anabolic effect of estrogen on fat cells as well as helping the body eliminate swelling and fluid retention.
Progesterone shouldn’t be used in men, but if you are a woman who is experiencing the effects of low progesterone, or high estrogen, and you are over the age of 35, it is a tool worth considering.
#3. Thyroid hormone.
This is probably my favorite because I spend a lot of time talking about the thyroid.
And, just like the other hormones we’ve discussed, the more overweight you are, the more likely you are to have thyroid problems.
Sometimes people get made fun of if they say they say that their thyroid is the cause of their weight gain but the reality is that it’s more true than most people realize.
Out of all of the hormones we’ve discussed so far, thyroid hormone is, by far, the most important when it comes to regulating your metabolism.
Estimates suggest that up to 40 to 60% of your basal metabolic rate is regulated by your thyroid (5).
Even though this is true, direct thyroid dysfunction typically only causes about 10 to 15 pounds of weight gain.
But indirectly, it can be responsible for a LOT more.
That’s because, in addition to regulating your metabolism directly, it also has an indirect impact on many other systems including hormones like testosterone and progesterone.
So if your thyroid is out of balance, it will cause a chain reaction of hormone imbalances which often lead to MUCH more weight gain than just 10 to 15 pounds.
The good news is that you can fix the problem.
There are many types of thyroid hormones out there but the most powerful when it comes to regulating metabolism include T3 and T2.
Both are bio-identical and only one requires a prescription to get and that’s T3.
T2 can be purchased over the counter and there’s emerging evidence that it may be able to be used as a weight loss supplement.
This research is evolving, though, so if you do want to use T2 to assist with weight loss you should know that it’s still in the experimental phase.
I have a video that explains this in a lot more detail if you want to check it out.
Note that the use of T2 for weight loss is different from the use of T2 in patients who have low thyroid function.
Using T2 if your thyroid is already low is perfectly fine, the question is whether or not T2 can be used in people with normal thyroid function who are interested in losing weight.
And the answer to that question is that it looks like it’s going to be a promising tool.
If you want to find out if your thyroid is not functioning optimally, make sure you check your free T3 and free T4 levels.
These tests are not typically ordered by doctors so you may have to specifically request them.
DHEA stands for dehydroepiandrosterone and it is a hormone secreted by your adrenal glands.
Of all of the hormones that we’ve mentioned so far, this one is the easiest to get and the least likely to cause major issues if you take it.
That’s because DHEA is both a precursor hormone and a hormone with direct androgenic action (6).
You can think of it kind of like a very weak version of testosterone.
Your body uses DHEA as a building block to create more powerful hormones like testosterone and estrogen.
And that’s exactly why people often take it.
They use it to try and indirectly increase or impact these more powerful hormones.
This is both good and bad.
Bad because you can’t really force your body to make more of the hormone that you need so when you take it, you are really just crossing your fingers and hoping that it does what you want.
And good because even though you can’t force it to create these other hormones, it’s fairly weak and low risk.
In general, you probably won’t see a significant decrease in weight when taking DHEA but there has been at least one double-blind, placebo-controlled trial that showed that taking DHEA for 6 months resulted in a decrease in both visceral abdominal fat and subcutaneous fat (7).
So there’s definitely some direct action and benefit that can be obtained from using DHEA most likely because of its impact on blood sugar and insulin levels.
Like T2 thyroid hormone, DHEA can be obtained in supplement form without the need for a prescription.
In my opinion, it’s far better to use bio-identical hormones to help augment your weight loss efforts as opposed to prescription weight loss medications.
These hormones are part of your biology and your body is accustomed to using them.
It’s just that many of us don’t have enough of them due to aging or other complications.
Whether you decide to use these hormones or not, remember this:
While hormones can help you lose weight and feel better, they should ALWAYS be combined with diet, exercise, and intermittent fasting.
But if you like the idea of augmenting these therapies, then you will probably find this article interesting.
It discusses some of the best non-hormone weight loss supplements available and you can read more about them next.
Now I want to hear from you:
Were you aware of the powerful connection between your weight and your hormones?
Have you taken hormones before? Did they help you lose weight?
Have you had your hormone levels tested?
Leave your questions or comments below!