One of the main goals when it comes to fitness is getting lean. After all, leaning out feels amazing and gives you a major boost to your confidence. But sometimes this process can take a toll on your body.
What do I mean by this? Well basically your body stores fat as a necessary safeguard against starvation, so it doesn’t like to be exceptionally lean. A certain level of body fat is required to sustain proper function, which is why drastic diets can quickly throw your body into panic mode. Additionally reducing your body fat with intense diets has a huge impact on your hormones, which regulate your mood, energy, and health.
#1: All About Leptin
You may be asking yourself, what is leptin? Well basically it’s a hormone that responds to three things: Calorie intake, carbohydrate intake, and current body-fat levels.
When your body fat decreases, your leptin levels decrease as well. Additionally, carbohydrate and calorie intake have a huge effect on circulating leptin levels. So any significant changes to your diet will have a pretty big impact on this hormone.
So what happens when leptin drops? Leptin is designed to signal when energy intake is not being adequately met, at which time changes in the body will occur to try and balance things out.
Some of the main things you’ll begin to notice include:
- Insatiable hunger
- Low libido
- Decreased energy
- Lowered strength and endurance
- Feeling cold all the time
- Feelings of depression or decreased interest in normal activities
- Decreased fat loss
- Suppressed metabolic function
- Slow healing, recovery, or both
These symptoms are definitely something you probably wish to avoid. That’s why you should try your best to take care of your leptin levels.
While women should also pay attention to testosterone, men tend to experience a more significant decline as they diet, which can diminish overall feelings of wellness, and hinder results. After all, testosterone is one of the most anabolic hormones in the body. When your testosterone starts to decline, so will your strength and muscle mass. Low testosterone may also cause:
- Increased body fat
- Poor sexual performance, decreased libido, or both
- Feelings of depression
- Low energy levels
When you diet, the drop in total calorie intake and the decrease in total fat consumption interferes with testosterone production. Dietary fat is particularly important because cholesterol is a precursor for all sex hormones, including testosterone. If you want to keep your gains, don’t cut all the cholesterol out of your diet! Some saturated fat in the diet can be a good thing, and is in fact necessary, for both men and women to normalize hormone levels.
#3: Cut Back on Cardio and Get More Sleep
While some cardio is necessary for cardiovascular health (but not necessarily to get lean), hours upon hours of cardio each week could negatively suppress testosterone production. In fact, research confirms that men who introduce a high level of running into their program over a period of months typically see a decline in production of this powerful hormone.
Also, if you are trying to shed a few pounds of body fat, make sure you get enough sleep at night. While sleep in general is important for optimizing your testosterone levels, it will be even more vital while you are on a reduced calorie intake. So don’t skip those rest days and make sure you are sleeping well!
#4: Thyroid Hormones
Thyroid hormones are extremely important when it comes to regulating your resting metabolic rate and overall well-being. It is normal to see some thyroid down-regulation when on a reduced-calorie diet plan, especially if it’s for an extended period of time.
However you should try your best to optimize your thyroid output. You can do this by:
- Do not overtrain on a calorie deficit. Too much exercise will tax your body and may even cause your thyroid and central nervous system to become sluggish. Take it easy and don’t be afraid to take a day off.
- Manage everyday stress. You already have a high degree of stress being placed on your body from diet and exercise alone. The last thing your body needs is high stress in other areas of your life. Find ways to relax and unwind to manage your daily stress.
- Maximize your sleep. Allow your body adequate rest and sleep for full recovery of hormonal status while dieting. Think of sleep as the reset button for your hormones.
In short, while you are getting lean you should try your best to maintain happy hormones. Make sure to take care of your leptin levels, testosterone, and get plenty of sleep! If you follow these steps your body will definitely thank you.
Interested to find out how I can help YOU achieve your fitness and fat loss goals while still living your life? Check out my 28 Day Fat Shredder Program which has helped hundreds of busy parents just like you shed pounds and pounds of ugly, oozing bodyfat while still enjoying the foods and beverage that they love.
Author: Chris Friesen
Chris Friesen is a gym owner, personal trainer, online fitness coach and former “fat dad” living on 60 beautiful acres of countryside in rural Canada.
He specializes in helping busy parents shed body fat quickly, WITHOUT becoming gym rats OR giving up the foods they love to eat.
In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his wife and 3 kids, sitting in his hot tub out in the snow with a glass of bourbon, and yelling at his (many) misbehaving barn cats.