Ask anyone if they know a hormone that causes weight loss. Most people will mention the thyroid hormone. That's true, but did you know there are actually six hormones that impact fat loss?
More: 5 Signs of Hormone Havoc
This is the group I refer to as "the fat-loss six": thyroid hormones, adrenaline, glucagon, adiponectin, the androgenic hormones (DHEA and testosterone) and the growth and rejuvenation hormones (growth hormone and acetylcholine). These super-performers help us get lean and strong in two key ways: They directly stimulate metabolism, or the breakdown of body-fat stores for energy, and they stimulate fat loss by supporting the growth of metabolically active muscle.
Thyroid Hormones (TSH, Free T3 and Free T4)
The masters of your metabolism, these hormones drive every single cell in your body. It all starts with TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone). TSH, in turn, stimulates thyroxine (free T4), which is then converted to triiodothyronine (free T3). When all three are functioning properly and produced in the correct amounts, your metabolism is a fat-burning machine. And that's what we're aiming for!
Also known as epinephrine, adrenaline is responsible for revving you up (think fight-or-flight response and all the physical effects it has on your body). This handy hormone allows the body to free up the fats and sugars it's stored so that we have that burst of energy we need when we really need it.
Think of glucagon as insulin's helpful opposite: Rather than lowering blood sugar by transporting glucose from the bloodstream (and into liver, muscle and fat cells) for storage as glycogen or fat, glucagon raises blood sugar by breaking down the fat and glycogen that were stored. We can tap into this awesome hormone through exercising, consuming protein, or experiencing a dip in blood sugar.
Adiponectin isn't nearly as well known as the previous three hormones—and that's really too bad. This fantastic hormone is produced in and sent out from your fat cells, but it's also got a direct and reciprocal relationship with them, which means that although it's produced by your fat cells, it actually helps burn up fat! Even better, the higher your adiponectin levels, the higher your energy and caloric expenditure. And because it increases insulin sensitivity, it also improves glucose tolerance and inhibits inflammation.
The Androgenic Hormones (DHEA and Testosterone)
Let's talk about sex, baby! And by that I mean sex hormones. DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone—yes, that's a real word, and a really important hormone) comes from the adrenal glands and leads the charge for estrogen and testosterone. A DHEA boost is definitely part of your hormonal powering up because of its ability to support metabolically active muscle growth.
Muscle growth is key to fat loss, so attending to DHEA is part of this program. DHEA will support your immune system, improve tissue repair and sleep and neutralize the impact of cortisol (the stress hormone), among a host of other benefits.
And testosterone? It's almost impossible to build muscle mass without enough of this hormone—for both men and women—and testosterone is also connected to improvements in libido, bone density, strength, motivation, memory, fat burning and skin tone. Boosting this dynamic duo is a huge part of realizing your health and vitality goals.
The Growth and Rejuvenation Hormones (Growth Hormone and Acetylcholine)
It's impossible to discuss fat loss and muscle growth without touching on growth hormone and acetylcholine. Released during deep sleep, growth hormone is almost magical in its ability to repair tissue and build muscle. Its regenerative powers can make a huge difference in your fat-loss and muscle-growth goals.
And when it comes to communicating with muscles to encourage their movement, coordination and tone, you need the right amounts of acetylcholine. Because we use up this hormone when we exercise, boosting its levels is imperative for maintaining strong, healthy and metabolically-active muscle.