Estrogen imbalance (i.e. estrogen dominance) is far more common than you think. And, when estrogen imbalances occur, our fat burning and muscle building efforts are negatively impacted. Wondering if estrogen imbalances are hindering your results? Keep reading.
What Is Estrogen Dominance?
Estrogen dominance is an imbalance between the amount of estrogen and the amount of progesterone (the other prevalent female hormone) in the body. When the body is balanced, the ratio of these hormones keeps the metabolism elevated. While estrogen can increase body fat, slow metabolism, increase bloating and water retention, progesterone can do the reverse—optimizing metabolism, increasing fat burning, reducing bloating and water retention.
What Causes An Estrogen Imbalance?
Estrogen imbalances can be the result of overexposure to estrogens (e.g. birth control pills, toxins and pesticides) as well as age and genetics. Even daily toiletries can be loaded in chemical estrogens that act like estrogen in the body impacting your natural hormone balance. Moreover, research has shown that those who are already overweight have higher estrogen levels, especially in the stubborn fat collecting areas (glutes, abs and thighs).
How Does Estrogen & Other Hormones Impact Fat Burning?
High levels of estrogen can prevent fat breakdown by increasing the presence of a specific receptor in fat tissue called the anti-lipolytic adrenergic receptor. Activating this receptor prevents fat oxidation and blocks the fat metabolizing pathways from occurring.
This anti fat burning effect is compounded by the fact that women also have a higher number of alpha-receptors over the fat burning beta-receptors! In fact, beta-receptors are 12 times more active for fat burning in men than us women! And, the rate of release of the single most important hormone for fat burning—norepinephrine—is 50% higher in men. As a result, women are definitely disadvantaged when it comes to burning the fat hanging around the hips, thighs and butt!
If that weren’t enough, fat is not an innate object. It also contains aromatase enzymes that break down the one hormone we need more of to increase our lean muscle and enhance our metabolism—testosterone! Aromatase in our fat tissue breaks down androgen (a precursor to testosterone) into estrogen. This further increases estrogen levels in the body.
Cortisol is also in high supply in fat tissue. This catabolic hormone prevents fat burning, decreases insulin’s effectiveness and eats away at muscle tissue.
Balance Estrogen With Low Carb Diet
When estrogen is high, it can block receptors for fat burning specifically in areas where fat deposition is higher – like the hips, thighs and glutes. Since most women have their fair share of fat to access, it is simply a matter of directing the body to access it by balancing out hormone levels and following a low carb diet.
Women tend to spare muscle glycogen—this is the stored form of carbohydrate in our muscle—even during a workout. This means women burn through far less carbs during a training session than our male counterparts. By limiting carbohydrate consumption, the body quickly runs out of the energy it has stored. It is then forced to find other means of energy to fuel the body, and its first stop? You guessed it…your fat! Follow a diet that provides 30% or less carbohydrates, depending on how active you are and how your body metabolizes carbs.
What Kinds of Food Should You Eat?
Choose a diet that is high in fibrous carbs and non-starchy vegetables such as those from green cruciferous vegetables. Research has shown that diets rich in vegetables like broccoli and kale help improve estrogen levels. These foods are high in fiber and natural estrogen-fighting compounds like indole and DIM, which help bind and remove estrogenic compounds that can have a toxic effect in the body and encourage the production of low estrogenic compounds that can have positive effects.
In addition, a high fiber diet from vegetables and whole grains has also been shown to reduce the amount of the enzyme (B-glucouronidase) that uncouples bound estrogen on its way out of the body. These carbs also provide sustained energy, control the release of insulin throughout the day and help to prevent estrogen re-absorption. If that wasn’t enough reason to use a low carb diet, consider this: one study on women showed that switching to a Mediterranean diet consisting of vegetables, good for you fats and protein reduced estrogen metabolites by 40%.
The rest of the foods in your diet should consist of lean proteins such as chicken, turkey, egg whites, whey protein and non-fat dairy. Fats should consist of natural sources of essential fatty acids including nuts, avocados, coconut oils, chia seed and flax.
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