foundation series

part 3: hormones & METABOLISM

Having provided you with a basic sense of what metabolism is, what hormones are, what they do, and how they interact, it is time to explore the role of hormones in metabolism. As you now know, your metabolism is the sum total of all of the biochemical actions and interactions that occur in your body. You also know that hormones direct and coordinate all of these Building and Using processes. They do so by telling your cells what biochemicals to use, produce, and release, that is, whether to:

  • Make new (Build) or get rid of (Use) old structural biochemicals like muscle and bone tissue
  • Make (Build) or secrete (Use) new functional biochemicals like hormones, neurotransmitters, antibodies, and enzymes
  • Store (Build) or utilize (Use) energy biochemicals in the form of fats and glycogen – the storage form of glucose, a type of sugar

To keep things simple, consider that hormones are primarily either Building hormones or Using hormones.

Literally, every aspect of Building and Using happens from hormones telling the cells of your body what to do — whether to Use or to Build. To keep things simple, for now, consider that hormones are either, primarily, Building Hormones or Using Hormones.

Building Hormones

There are a number of Building hormones, both major and minor, that work together to rebuild all of your functional, structural, and energy biochemicals. In this working relationship insulin plays the leading role. Insulin is your only major Building hormone. Minor hormones such as thyroid, estradiol, testosterone, DHEA and HGH play supporting roles.
  • If you do not produce sufficient amounts of insulin, you cannot Build at all. You will rapidly break down (waste away) and die if you don’t produce enough insulin
  • If you do not produce sufficient amounts of the minor Building hormones, then insulin cannot perform its Building role optimally. While you can still Build, you cannot Build as well because insulin has to work much harder to keep you Building, and it is easier for your Using hormones to overpower insulin and cause you to Use more.

Building Hormones

  • Insulin*
  • Thyroid
  • Human growth hormone
  • Estradiol
  • Testosterone

*Denotes the major Building hormone

Using Hormones

There are three major Using hormones – adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol. You will sometimes hear adrenaline and noradrenaline referred to as epinephrine and norepinephrine. In conjunction with minor Using hormones such as glucagon and progesterone, these major Using hormones are the chemicals that help to keep you alive and enable you to do everything you do. Every thought, every action, and literally every physiologic function requires these hormones. All of this “doing” results in Using up your functional, structural, and energy biochemicals.

Using Hormones

  • Adrenaline*
  • Noradrenaline*
  • Cortisol*
  • Glucagon
  • Progesterone

*Denotes the major Using hormones

To Build or Not to Build (Use)

Living requires constant Using. In fact, Using is our default mode. Staying healthy is a constant process of making sure that Building keeps pace with Using – of ensuring that you have a Balanced Metabolism. It sounds simple and logical, and it is. But here’s the tricky part. Essentially, your cells cannot both Build and Use at the same time. Here’s why.

In simplest terms, individual cells can’t multi-task – they cannot simultaneously perform both Building and Using processes. Think of it this way. Your hormones tell your cells what to do by signaling them, by giving them instructions. Building hormones deliver Building instructions; Using hormones deliver Using instructions. When a cell receives both Building and Using instructions, it follows the instructions that are dominant (think “louder”). If it receives more Building instructions than Using instructions, it Builds. Otherwise it Uses.

Living is a constant process of Using. Staying healthy is a constant process of making sure that Restorative Building keeps pace with daily Using.

Admittedly, this is a very simplified explanation and not entirely technically accurate because at all times, to various degrees, both Building and Using occur simultaneously in different cells. So, in reality, it is the overall “net” Using versus Building that we are concerned with.

The Net Effect

At all times your body is Using to some degree just “to keep the lights on.” Keeping your brain functioning, your heart beating, your liver and kidneys and other organs working, all require energy, all rely on (and deplete) hormones, neurotransmitters, and other functional biochemicals. And, as a result of this basic metabolic activity, there is some degree of cell degradation. All of this happens even when you are sleeping, although certainly to a much lesser degree than when you are awake, active, and engaged.

As well, and, again, to a limited extent, Building activity is also always occurring — even when you are active and busy. It has to, in order to enable the basic metabolic functions that merely keep the lights on. This kind of low-level “maintenance” building is different from the “Restorative Building” required to actually offset the cell degradation and biochemical depletion caused by daily Using.

For all practical purposes there is no “neutral.” Said differently, whether you are Building or Using at any given moment is determined by the collective or “net” hormone effect of the various instructions sent by all of your hormones to all of your cells. In other words, if there are more Building than Using instructions in play, your body will be in Restorative Building mode. Conversely, if there are more Using than Building instructions in play, your body will be in Using mode.

Your Habits Determine the Balance Between Building and Using

What determines whether your Building or Using hormones are dominant? Your daily habits do. Provided all of your hormone systems are functioning correctly, then nutrition, stress, sleep, foreign chemicals, and movement and exercise determine whether you are in net Building or net Using mode.

To be clear, what you eat triggers the release of both Building and Using hormones. The type and amount of each is determined by, specifically, what you eat and how you eat. Did you eat mostly protein or mostly carbohydrates? Were you busy, distracted, or stressed when you ate? Or did you calmly eat a balanced meal with time afterwards for digestion?

Similarly, all doing triggers the release of both Using and Building hormones. Which Using hormones are secreted and the amount of those hormones depends on what you are doing and for how long. Running triggers the release of more Using hormones than walking does. The same is true of whether you are stressed or relaxed.

Just as eating triggers the secretion of Using hormones, doing also triggers the release of Building hormones. The science of how and why this happens is beyond the scope of this Session. However, you can think of it this way: All Using triggers Building and all Building triggers Using.

The “take home message” here is, that what you do, how you live each day, in other words, your Habits determine what hormones are in play and in what quantities. Every minute of every day, the quantities of the in-play hormones (who’s “yelling” the loudest) determine the “net hormone effect,” that is, whether you are Building or Using. Since a balanced metabolism – Building keeping pace with Using – is the key to a long and healthy life, then the magic formula for the rest of your life is to maximize Restorative Building and keep Using at or below the level at which your body can Restoratively Build.

By the way, doing exactly this – turning up Building and turning down Using — is precisely what The Schwarzbein Program is about. We’ll talk about that soon. But, first we’re going to talk about Aging.

Building occurs whenever the effect of all of your Building hormones dominates the effect of all of your Using hormones.  You have the potential to Restoratively Build under the following circumstances:
  • Eating – when you eat the right combinations of food under the right circumstances
  • Sleeping – during deep restorative Stage 3
  • Meditating or resting with a quiet mind
  • Sitting quietly after eating a balanced meal
Using occurs whenever the effect of all of your Using hormones dominates the effect of all of your Building hormones.  You are Using whenever you:
  • Talk or think
  • Are emotionally stressed
  • Are moving, exercising, or literally doing anything
  • Skip meals or don’t sleep enough
  • Ingest stimulants like sugar and caffeine
  • Can no longer effectively produce some of the minor Building hormones