Metabolic Insight Series
Part 3 - Hormones and Metabolism
Now, with a working knowledge of what metabolism is, what hormones are, what they do, and how they interact, it’s time to explore the role that hormones play in metabolism.
As you now know, your metabolism is the totality of all of the constant Building and Using processes that occur in your body. And you know that hormones direct all of these processes by telling your cells whether to Use or Build. So, for now, consider that hormones are either, primarily, Building Hormones or Using Hormones.
There are a number of Building hormones that work together to restore all of your functional, structural, and energy biochemicals.
- Insulin is your only major Building hormone. If you don’t produce enough of it, you will rapidly break down, waste away, and die.
- Minor hormones such as thyroid, estradiol, testosterone, DHEA and HGH play supporting roles in Building. If you don’t produce enough of any of them, you won’t Build as well.
Now, let’s talk about Using Hormones
In contrast to Building, there are three major Using hormones – adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol. In conjunction with minor Using hormones such as glucagon and progesterone, these major Using hormones 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.
To Build or Not to Build (Use)
Living requires constant Using. In fact, Using is your default mode. Staying healthy is a constant process of making sure that Building keeps pace with Using so that you don’t break down and accelerate your aging process. It sounds simple and logical, right? And it is. Sort of. But here’s the tricky part. Even though you always have both Building and Using hormones circulating in your bloodstream, essentially, your cells can’t both restoratively Build and also Use at the same time. Here’s why.
Though it’s a simplified explanation, think of it like this: Your hormones tell your cells what to do 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 the cell receives more Building than Using instructions, it Builds. Otherwise it Uses.
Basically, restorative Building can’t happen when you have more Using hormones in play than Building hormones.
Keep in mind that both Using and Building occur at basic “maintenance” levels all the time, simply to “keep the lights on.” However, your body at any given time is in an overall Using or Building mode depending on the “net” effect of all instructions sent by your hormones to your cells.
Your Habits Determine the Balance Between Building and Using
So, what determines whether your Building or Using hormones are dominant? Your daily habits and circumstances do.
- What you eat, how you eat, and when you eat
- How well you are sleeping
- How stressed you are and how you manage those stresses
- How much you move and how you exercise
- What foreign chemicals enter your body
- Your hydration level
- Whether you are sick or healthy and
- Whether you are injured or in pain
All of these factors determine what hormones are produced and released and how your body will respond to them.
For instance, eating triggers the release of both Building and Using hormones, but how much of each type of hormone is released depends on whether:
- You ate mostly protein or mostly carbohydrates. Protein triggers the release of primarily Using hormones, whereas carbs trigger the release of more Building hormones.
- You ate calmly with time afterwards for digestion or you were busy, distracted, or stressed when you ate, triggering the release of various Using hormones.
Habits that increase the release of Using hormones include:
- Being constantly busy
- Skipping meals
- Not getting sufficient quality sleep
- Doing strenuous exercise
- Consuming alcohol, sugar, nicotine, and other toxic chemicals
Circumstances that increase Using Hormones include:
Your habits and circumstances determine which hormones are in play, in what quantities, and for what duration. In other words, which hormones are dominant — “yelling” the loudest, and, therefore, whether you are Building or Using.
The “take home message” here is that, you don’t always have control over your circumstances, but you do have control over your daily habits.
Since a balanced metabolism – Building keeping pace with Using – is the key to slowing your aging process, then the magic formula for the rest of your life is to make sure your habits maximize Building and optimize Using.
Which takes us to our next topic – understanding aging.