Hormones and Body Fat

If you think you’re carrying a lot of body fat on a certain area of your body, perhaps you’ve got man-boobs or you carry all of your fat around your stomach, then you may be suffering from a hormone imbalance.

Thank the estrogen (or plastic surgeon).

Thank the estrogen (or plastic surgeon).

Your hormone levels direct where excess fat is stored on your body.

Don’t believe me?

Then think about it – what makes a woman different than a man (other than the desire to own more clothes than necessary as my fiancee can prove)?

The big thing is the different levels of the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone.

Estrogen is the female sex hormone. During puberty, when estrogen levels ramp up, body fat starts accumulating in the chest and sometimes the bum, for some more than others.

Testosterone is the male sex hormone that as men, deepens our voice, hairies up our chest (and in some horrific cases, back, neck and shoulders…) and adds a whole lotta muscle mass so we can do impressive things for those estrogen dominant humans we’re always trying to impress.

[Wikipedia has more on sexual differentiation if you're so inclined]

Believe me now?

Great, then let’s continue…

Whether you’re a man or woman, if you’re carrying excess body fat in a certain area, it can often tell you what your hormone imbalance is.

I was recently contacted by Vito Brancaccio, coach of a female boxer who is training for a spot on the 2012 Canadian Olympic boxing squad.

He contacted me because he wants me to train her so that she’s got the endurance to go all day and the power to end it with a single punch.

Another part of this is getting her down to the proper weight class, so Vito contacted me and I setup a time to assess the fighter.

When I assessed her, I performed a body fat test by measuring the skinfolds with my Lange skinfold calipers.

I noticed she carries excess fat on her triceps and hips/thighs, relative to her torso.

This tells me that estrogen *may* be the problem and that we’ve got to look at ways to lower it to be able to get down to the right weight class.

Just going on a regular fat loss program won’t work here because of this hormone imbalance.

Because of this, I’m going to implement the following things to work on getting this hormone back in balance:

  • Add heavy strength training, with lower reps, heavier weights and lots of rest times, keeping workouts 30-45 minutes, 3 days/week to naturally promote Testosterone/GH production
  • Remove as many sources of xenoestrogens from the diet and environment:
    • All plastics like tupperware and plastic water bottles
    • Any lotion, shampoo or cream that has parabens or petroleum-based ingredients
    • Any perfumes (sorry Calvin Klein)
    • Any non-fermented soy products
    • Any cooking done on teflon/non-stick coating pans
  • Recommendations on what to eat to help get estrogen back in balance include:
    • Switching to organic, or at least hormone-free meats
    • Consuming 2 tablespoons of freshly ground flax seed per day
    • 3-5 cups of green tea/day
    • Get some of the spice turmeric into the diet, or perhaps a curcumin supplement
  • Birth control pills can also wreak havoc on a female’s hormonal balance

This is of course on top of a solid diet of natural foods, not processed food products.

Excess estrogen in guys often results in what you probably know of as ‘man-boobs’ – you can do the same things I’ve listed here to help you go from a C-cup down to a, well, hopefully, no-cup, or just some hard pecs.

Eat me to help lose your man-boobs.

What I’m not talking about is if you’ve got man-boobs on top of being fat everywhere else. Hormonal imbalances result in body fat accumulation imbalances.

If you’re excessively fat everywhere, the basic protocols for fat loss will work for you.

Each and every hormone can be out of balance, but the major ones include the sex hormones I’ve listed here, cortisol and insulin.

Problems with cortisol often show up with excess belly fat compared to the rest of the body – if you’ve got a huge gut and you’re lean in your arms and legs, look to reduce cortisol.

Insulin problems often show up in the love handles and back.

If you’ve got excess body fat because of hormonal issues, the same old fat loss training efforts will not do you any good and could in fact make things worse.

Intense metabolic resistance training workouts that are all the rage in the fat loss world may in fact lower testosterone and boost cortisol, which are the exact opposite of what you want.

So fat loss as everything we humans do must be addressed according to each of our individual needs.

Only then can you obtain optimal results.

If you’re on a program that should be helping you lose fat but you’re stuck, start investigating other avenues to achieve your goals and you just may bust out of that plateau.

21 Comments

  • bashar diab

    Reply Reply Fri, May 30, 2014

    Hi Eric,
    can you please teach me how i can diagnose the hormonal imbalance through skinfolds?

    thank you

  • Barbara

    Reply Reply Mon, May 20, 2013

    Hi Eric, I just came across your website, and I cant find the date you published this article so I hope you read it and can help me
    I had been working out for over a year, 5 times a week, interval training, 1500 cal day, and I lost 1 pound (160lb 56), so I was extremelly frustrated. I went to an endo, did blood tests, and turns out i have hypothyroidism and polycistic ovarian syndrome (I had very low estrogen)
    I was diagnosed about 2 months ago and Ive lost 15 pounds.
    I’m a D cup, I have fat n my back, love handles and belly (insulince imbalance associated with ov. Pol sd) and I had little fat n my legs, hips and ass, but now I have almost zero. My ass is toned, but because I have no fat down there and big boobs and belly, in comparison my legs look like sticks and my butt flat as a table. I keep losing weight, but it come off my torso.
    Currently im taking t4, espiranolactone (anti androgenic) and estradiol replacement drugs (about 30 mcg)

    So the thing is I want the exact opposite, I want to become more estrogen dominant so I can pack some fat n my lower body, or at least keep the luttle fat I have down there and start losing weight n my torso.

    (currently n a 1700 cal allowance, strenght train 4 days a week, cardio 2 a week.

    Thank you very much

    • Barbara

      Reply Reply Mon, May 20, 2013

      Wont come off my torso*

    • Eric

      Reply Reply Tue, May 21, 2013

      I’m sorry but I have no interest in promoting anything that will result in a hormonal imbalance because who knows what the other side effects will be? Although I’m sure they won’t be good.

      Just get in balance, continue your search on how to be healthy and be happy with whatever your body becomes as a result. Health is the key.

  • sia

    Reply Reply Sun, June 19, 2011

    hi man awsome article as always i wont be using plastic water bottle any more
    im right know on your diet plan and its awsome i lost 90pounds and im corrently trying to loos the last 10 pounds ( i wanna finally see my abs) and coudnt do it without you
    another thing a came accros this article http://www.peertrainer.com/myth_busters_jjvirgin.aspx this guy says eat every 4-6 hours and if you eat sonner your doing something wrong just wanted to know what you think about that
    p.s.thanks for everything and keep up the good work

  • Judit

    Reply Reply Fri, March 25, 2011

    Great article, I guess then from your point of view the lady in the picture has no hormone imbalance whatsoever

  • pe

    Reply Reply Wed, March 16, 2011

    PH is coming across as one giant man-boob!

    • PH

      Reply Reply Wed, March 16, 2011

      Sorry guys – my bad. I meant to say Great article Eric Keep up the good work!

  • PH

    Reply Reply Wed, March 16, 2011

    Bottom line – you CANT diagnose a hormonal imbalance by measuring skin folds. Alternative methods could include a prescribed diet, along with herbal supplements/remedies. Depending on the case, traditional medicines could be used, there are many treatments available which do not appear the WADC prohibited list.

    Sorry Eric, but you are way off – I suggest you do your homework on this one and actually learn how the medical community diagnoses and treats a REAL hormonal imbalance – or better yet just stick to what your good at, being a strength and conditioning coach ;)

    No hard feelings…I just calls it like I sees it :)

    • hojge

      Reply Reply Wed, March 16, 2011

      All I’m saying PH is that the girl isn’t presenting w/ c/o amenorrhea or showing s/s of Graves disease or myriad other potential endocrine processes. It is a sound approach with empirical data backing it. Why would you want to think that manipulating hormone metabolism on such a small scale is an attempt dx through a skin fold measurement. Dude did you even read the article?
      I don’t mean to pull rank on you PH, but if you recognize anything I have written in the aforementioned you will know that I have been exposed to the health care industry. Not important to qualify my tenure, suffice it say over seventeen years allows my opinion.
      Again, Eric keep the awesome and well informed info flowing out to us more open minded and G.A.D. non sufferers with your wisdom. (General Anxiety Disorder) : )

  • PH

    Reply Reply Tue, March 15, 2011

    Unless you are her MD, I recommend you refer her to a sports medicine doctor – get blood work done, have him analyze it – her coach should voice his concerns about her fat loss plateau to him not you. If she in fact has an imbalance the MD will refer her to an endocrinologist – their findings can be relayed to a nutritionist who can help her with diet. After all, if she is an Olympic hopeful, she should be getting the best treatment available.

    • hojge

      Reply Reply Tue, March 15, 2011

      Hey nervous nelly, Eric is prescribing exercise and giving the same advise Dr Oz throws out to millions of people everyday. Common sense practices with sound training. You need to stop watching House/Grey’s Anatomy. Keep up the good work Eric, love your blogs. Pseudo-Intellectualism seems to be a growing problem.

      • PH

        Reply Reply Tue, March 15, 2011

        Dr O’s advice is for millions of people that watch TV, not potential Olympians. To the best of my knowledge, Eric is not a sports medicine doctor. When it comes to Olympic athletes they need a little more attention than even the best personal trainer can give. This is not pseudo-Intellectualism, I feel I am providing logical, scientific-based, yes vs. no, problem solving advice.

    • Eric

      Reply Reply Tue, March 15, 2011

      @ PH, I see it as a progression. Even if she were to see a doc, she’d still have to do the things I’m suggesting, as if they are present and contributing to the issue, any drugs the doc prescribes will only manage symptoms and you can’t fight while taking any types of hormonal supplements. If there are still issues after my interventions, then yes, another specialist must be consulted.

      And no, I am not a sports medicine doctor. Just a lowly strength and conditioning coach.

      @ Hojge, nervous nelly cracked me up. :)

  • milt bollinger

    Reply Reply Tue, March 15, 2011

    I have to agree, one year ago, battling prostrate cancer, they gave me a chemo(time realeased) shot. Lasts six months, neutrailises all Hormones becuase cancer feeds on it. I’m on my second shot, cancer is in remission, but every old school wieght loss trick doesn’t work. I have been loosing body fat at a slow rate, but have also lost indurance. Using Tower 200 to build strength, but it’s tough for a 66 yr old man. Hanging in there, Milt.

    • Eric

      Reply Reply Tue, March 15, 2011

      Milt, not sure what you’re doing for your cancer, but be sure your #1 focus is on minimizing stress, minimizing environmental toxins and fortifying your immune system. Fat loss is a nice side effect if it happens but should not be a priority.

      • milt bollinger

        Reply Reply Wed, March 16, 2011

        Eric:
        As usaul you are right on. I was just commenting on the hormone thing. It does change everything. And as for the person that was pushing MD’s, at last count I have five. Most with conflicting opions. I’m not worried about wieght as much as how I feel and look, for myself, no one else. I’ve always been a large man and probably die that way, but I’m going Kicking and punching. Thanks Eric for all that you do. Milt.

  • Red

    Reply Reply Tue, March 15, 2011

    Good article.
    I was wondering if you could go into a little more detail as to how “sources of xenoestrogens from the diet and environment” can affect (or is it effect? I can never remember) a person. I understand the foods you eat, but can a plastic bottle really give you man boobs?

    Thanks!

    • Eric

      Reply Reply Tue, March 15, 2011

      Hey Red, xenoestrogens basically act like estrogen in the body – so it’s like taking an estrogen supplement. Too much estrogen in a guy = more fat in the chest and other undesirable symptoms, like being unable to check a blind spot while driving (J/K ladies, relax ;)

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