How To Choose The Best Hormone Balance Diet Plan: 5 Best Diet Choices

Hormone type 1 diet and exercise

As a woman, it’s critical to get appropriate medical support if you’re experiencing any form of hormonal imbalance. When it comes to balancing your hormones, some natural methods may help. Exercise, for example, has beneficial effects on hormones. Therapeutic activities such as yoga can help to reduce stress hormones, while resistance training such as Pilates and weight training can support optimal hormonal balancing. Alongside movement, diet can play a key role in hormone balancing.

How does the Hormone balance diet plan work? Let’s jump in.

Relationship Between Diet And Hormone Balance

Hormone type 1 diet and exercise

Hormonal changes affect us all as we move through the different stages of life, and the impact these changes have varies significantly between individuals. Weight gain, lethargy, mood swings, insomnia, high blood pressure, cholesterol & acne are among some of the symptoms we may experience.

A well-balanced diet and other healthy lifestyle habits can help you reclaim your health, regulating and balancing your hormones. When it comes to hormones, diet matters since the nutrients you get from food are the raw materials used to make hormones and fuel your body.

Fertility and menopause, sex hormone-related malignancies, thyroid balancing, type 2 diabetes, and metabolism regulation can all be influenced by our diet. A well-balanced diet has a significant impact on our hormonal systems, but finding common ground on how and what to consume is challenging, as no two bodies are the same. However, below are some recommendations you might like to try and see if they work for you & your body.

Warning Signs Of Hormonal Imbalance

Hormones are chemical messengers produced by your body. They pass via the bloodstream and influence various physiological activities, including metabolism, reproductivity and mood. Hormone levels change regularly throughout life, most notably during puberty and during a woman’s menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause. In addition, lifestyle behaviours and some medical issues might also have an impact. 

Hair And Skin Issues

Hormone type 1 diet and exercise

Hormone fluctuations can impact hair, skin and nails because androgen hormones activate oil glands and hair follicles in the skin. Additionally, changes to thyroid hormone levels may lead to changes in hair texture. Acne or breakouts, dry skin, and skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea could indicate hormonal imbalance.

Weight Gain

Thyroid and insulin abnormalities, an excess of the stress hormone cortisol, and dysregulation of hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin; which impact hunger and fullness cues, can all contribute to weight gain.

Having Difficulty Sleeping, Focusing And Digesting Food

These signs and symptoms could indicate that your cortisol (the stress hormone) levels are elevated. You may notice digestive discomfort, difficulty sleeping, or muscle weakness after a particularly stressful period. Prolonger elevated stress levels can have an impact your mood, energy levels & ability to focus.

Heavy Or Painful Periods

Hormone type 1 diet and exercise

Another indicator of hormonal imbalance may be excessively heavy periods. If heavy periods are accompanied by additional symptoms such as abdominal pain, frequent urination, lower back pain and constipation, you may want to see your doctor just to rule out fibroids.

Fertility Issues

Hormonal imbalance is one of the primary reasons for female infertility, and a woman’s fertility declines typically after the age of 35 as her hormone levels change. Low levels of luteinising hormone (LH), which encourages the ovaries to release an egg and begin generating progesterone, can also cause reproductive issues. In addition, fertility can be affected by early menopause and other hormone-related conditions such as PCOS.

What Is The Hormone Diet?

Hormone type 1 diet and exercise
Photo by Anna Pelzer on Unsplash

The hormone diet is a dietary plan based on a book written by Dr Natasha Turner, a naturopathic physician. The diet is designed to help women manage hormonal changes that can lead to weight gain and other health problems. The book discusses how hormonal swings can cause stubborn mid-section weight, weight gain, sugar cravings, sluggishness, stress, a low libido, amongst other health symptoms.

The six-week diet plan claims to harmonise your hormones and address imbalances that produce negative consequences with a specialised diet. The regime also contains workout instructions, gentle detox procedures, and supplement recommendations. The diet not only recommends what to eat, but also when and how to eat to support hormonal balance.

The First Phase

A two-week “detoxification” period is included in this diet phase. Gluten-containing cereals, cow’s milk dairy products, oils, alcohol, caffeine, peanuts, processed sugar, artificial sweeteners, red meat, and citrus fruits are all avoided. Instead, you can take natural, organic gluten-free grains and starches, vegetables and fruits, beans, nuts and seeds, organic chicken, fish, organic soy, organic eggs, plant milk, sheep or goat dairy, and some unheated oils.

The Second Phase

This Phase involves reintroducing some of those foods to your diet while monitoring how your body reacts to them. However, the diet suggests avoiding “hormone-disrupting” items long-term. High fructose corn syrup, mercury-laden fish, non-organic meats, non-organic coffee, raisins, dates, and peanuts are among them.

The Third Phase

The Third Phase focuses on overall physical and mental wellness through aerobic exercise and strength training. The second Phase’s diet pattern continues into the third Phase.

Choosing The Best Hormone Balance Diet Plan – 5 Best Diet Choices

If you’re considering going on a hormone balance diet plan, here are some essential guidelines you might want to follow:

Increase Your Protein Intake

Incorporate a protien at each meal. Protein is involved in the building of muscle and bone mass. It may also assist with appetite regulation by lowering the hormone ghrelin, popularly known as the “hunger hormone.”

Avoid Sugar And Refined Carbs

Hormone type 1 diet and exercise

Photo by Anna Sullivan on Unsplash

When it comes to a hormone balance diet plan, it’s important you reduce your sugar intake. Insulin resistance occurs when your body’s cells do not respond appropriately to the hormone insulin. This can lead to prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic health problems. Studies show that a diet high in sugar & refined carbohydrates can contribute to insulin resistance, especially in person who are overweight or obese and have prediabetes or diabetes.

Consume Healthy Fats

People often think fat consumption leads to weight gain, but this isn’t the whole story. Healthy fats, in the right quantity, are essential to a well balanced diet. Eating healthy fats like nuts, linseed oil, coconut, flaxseeds, avocado and extra virgin olive oil (unheated) has been shown to support satiety and keep you fuller for longer. Since hormones thrive on fat, your body requires the correct amount of healthy fats for optimal hormonal functioning. So, you can include a variety of healthy fats everyday, but moderation is of course key!

Consume Omega 3 fats Frequently

Omega-3 fatty acids are highly linked to the hormone balance diet plan. These fatty acids not only aid to reduce inflammation, but they also support hormonal health. If you eat fish, you can include small oily fish like mackerel, sardines, anchovies, oysters & herring. If you aren’t a fish eater, you can include flaxseeds, cold pressed linseed oil, chia seeds, walnuts, organic soybeans & seaweeds.

Herbal Infusion

Hormone type 1 diet and exercise

Your liver is in charge of hormone metabolism and detoxification. You can support liver detoxification by drinking herbal tea infusions like dandelion root tea, liquorice & fresh ginger, which are caffeine-free.

Hormone Balancing Foods To Eat

Are you looking for a holistic hormone balance diet plan? Do you want to balance your hormones, manage PCOS or PMS naturally? Here are some foods you may eat and some you may avoid:

Lean protein; vegetables and most fruit; chia seeds, flaxseeds, and most nuts; olive oil and other unsaturated oils and fats, such as coconut; and organic ancient whole grains like buckwheat, brown rice, and quinoa are among the foods you may eat.

Caffeine, alcohol, fried meals, processed meat, peanuts, saturated fat, processed dairy products, artificial sweeteners, and simple carbohydrates like white bread, white rice & white pasta are best consumed in moderation or avoided altogether.

In a nutshell, you want to try as much as you can to consume these foods as they may help balance your hormone: 

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables, herbs and spices
  • Beans
  • Legumes
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Olive oil
  • Lean protein (only organic meat)
  • Organic ancient whole grains

You should avoid these things regularly if you want to keep your hormones in check. 

  • Junk foods and fried foods
  • Refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, crackers, flour tortillas, biscuits
  • Sugar-sweetened drinks like soda, tea with added sugar, sports drinks
  • Processed meats like bacon, cured meats, salami, sausages
  • Trans fats like heated vegetable oils, margarines & spreads

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A Word From The Health Space

Hormone type 1 diet and exercise

If you’re having problems with hormonal imbalances or are not sure of your following line of action, talk to a nutritionist. Change your health and life with our hormone balancing nutrition programme. Learn the right foods for hormone balancing with your personalised menu plan. Let me support you through the next 12 weeks as we balance your hormones and transform your health. Book a Free Discovery call today.

— Update: 17-03-2023 — found an additional article Hormone Balance for Weight Loss: Fact or Fiction? from the website for the keyword hormone type 1 diet and exercise.

See the NASM Weight Loss Specialization course for more information on this subject!

A quick online search for weight loss strategies reveals a plethora of “hormone-balancing” diets, supplements and medications. The premise behind these products is that hormones—tiny chemical messengers that regulate physiological processes—get out of balance, causing weight gain or foiling attempts to lose weight.

That seems like a reasonable claim, but is it true? What should you say when clients ask about hormones and weight management? In this article, we’ll provide answers on the links between body weight and five of the most talked about hormone imbalances: those relating to insulin, cortisol, the thyroid hormones, testosterone and estrogen. I’ll review the science and outline nutrition and exercise strategies to help your clients overcome weight loss plateaus and succeed at long-term weight loss.

The hormone issues discussed below often fade away with proper diet, exercise, sleep and stress management. Supplements and specialized diets typically address the symptoms of hormone imbalances, not the causes. Your clients may get better results if they understand the difference between the two.

Let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

  • Insulin
  • Cortisol
  • Thyroid
  • Testosterone
  • Estrogen
  • Additional Info on Hormone Balance

1. Insulin

Insulin is the hormone that manages our blood sugar levels. One of its key roles is to signal the uptake of glucose (and nutrients) from the bloodstream into cells. Consuming excess calories—especially from sugary, calorie-laden processed foods—triggers an insulin response: The hormone tells tissues to take up the fuel.

Unneeded calories get converted into body fat. As people grow more overweight or obese, the body’s insulin response starts to malfunction, progressing from insulin sensitivity to insulin resistance, the stage when cells stop responding effectively to insulin. Insulin resistance is a key symptom of type 2 diabetes, which may require medication to restore insulin function.

The more your clients suffer from overweight or obesity, the worse their insulin sensitivity will typically be, meaning their bodies must pump out more insulin than normal to cope with each meal. Insulin resistance is the end of the spectrum; this is the hallmark of type 2 diabetes.

Because higher insulin levels accompany overeating, it’s tempting to ask: Does more insulin cause weight gain? Yes and no.

Carbohydrates have the biggest impact on insulin output. This led one group of experts to propose the “carbohydrate-insulin model” of obesity, which broadly states that carbohydrates are specifically more fattening than other macronutrients. While it’s an interesting hypothesis, the research doesn’t back it up, because eating too much fat also consistently induces insulin resistance and weight gain (Ferrannini et al. 1983; Boden et al. 1991; Belfort et al. 2005). In short, consuming too many calories—from carbohydrate or fat—leads to weight gain. Excessive weight gain eventually leads to insulin resistance.

In fact, excess energy will endanger any cell because the extra energy ramps up reactive oxygen species and inflammation, scrambling the insulin signal and leading to insulin dysfunction or resistance. It becomes a vicious cycle: The body’s ability to cope with excess energy gets worse from continuing to consume too many calories, accelerating the downward spiral that ultimately leads to type 2 diabetes and increased risk of death from all causes. Unfortunately, today’s world of hyperpalatable processed foods available 24/7 makes it difficult to fight off the urge to keep snacking.

Hormone type 1 diet and exerciseTo sum up, weight gain is the most common cause of insulin dysfunction (though not all people with type 2 diabetes are overweight). Thus, when fitness clients who don’t have diabetes ask you about “lowering insulin” to lose weight, the best approach is to refocus their attention on the root cause—excess body fat. That means getting back to fundamentals, reducing caloric input and/or increasing energy expenditure. Of course, clients with a medical diagnosis of diabetes require guidance from a doctor and a nutrition expert.

The bottom line is that insulin resistance goes hand in hand with caloric excess (Tam et al. 2010; Sims et al. 1973). Moreover, losing weight improves insulin sensitivity regardless of diet (Salans, Knittle & Hirsch 1968; Goodpaster et al. 1999). In short, to improve insulin sensitivity, your clients need a diet that provides a sufficient caloric deficit for weight loss and that they can adhere to over the long term.

Related Resource: NASM Body Fat Percentage Calculator

2. Cortisol

One of the body’s primary stress hormones, cortisol is produced in the adrenal glands, which sit atop the kidneys. When stress activates the sympathetic “fight-or-flight” nervous system, the brain signals the adrenal glands to ramp up cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline production. The feedback loop between the brain and the adrenal glands—called the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis)—responds to all types of life stressors, physical, mental and emotional.

Cortisol affects every cell in the body. It’s a catabolic hormone by nature, breaking down proteins into their amino acid building blocks to fuel the body during stress, infection, illness, trauma and so on. Does too much stress lead to weight gain? Strictly speaking, no. If you’re stranded on a desert island, surges in stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline will increase fat breakdown as you burn fat and tap carbohydrates stored in the muscles and liver, ultimately leading to weight loss.

The rules of the game change, however, when calorie-dense processed foods are easily accessible. While appetite declines during acute bouts of stress, chronic low-grade stress appears to encourage the brain to seek out more energy-dense foods (Chao et al. 2017). This is where the stress-obesity connection comes from. Combining caloric excess (and persistently elevated insulin levels) with chronic low-grade stress appears to be the perfect recipe for weight gain and obesity.

Can supplements, a detox diet or medication magically help your clients cope better with stress? Not likely. The key to increasing resiliency—the capacity to cope with stress—can’t be found in a pill or supplement bottle. You need to help clients reassess the pillars of wellness: sleep, a balanced training plan (with adequate recovery) and nutrition.

3. Thyroid

“My metabolism is broken!”

This common lament often blames weight management woes on the thyroid gland, which sets the body’s metabolic rate and produces hormones that influence how we think, feel, recover and perform.

Declining thyroid function often invites a diagnosis of hypothyroidism, in which the brain fails to instruct the thyroid gland appropriately, leading to insufficient hormone production. Hypothyroid symptoms may include fatigue, weight gain, brain fog, dry hair and skin, cold intolerance, and more.

Hypothyroidism is strongly associated with weight gain. Many people struggle with symptoms of thyroid dysfunction despite “normal” blood testing, meaning they don’t have a clear medical condition, but they do have suboptimal thyroid output. Though clients, trainers and even doctors may blame the thyroid for weight gain, the question of hormone balance remains: Is a sluggish thyroid causing the weight gain, or is it just a symptom?

Research suggests that medications can yield modest weight loss benefits for people with hypothyroidism (Agnihothri et al. 2014). The benefits occur in those whose level of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) is above 5.0, well outside the normal TSH high range of 4.0. Because higher TSH numbers signal lower thyroid output, people with 5.0-plus TSH readings may well have a “sluggish thyroid.” But many people with suboptimal thyroid output are likely to be in the normal TSH range, and drug benefits may not apply to them.

What’s next? In a recent interview on my podcast, Shawn Arent, director of human performance at Rutgers University, pointed to evidence in the scientific literature showing that thyroid hormones can be a very useful marker for overtraining in athletes (Arent 2018). The heavy stress and/or high volume of an intense training program can cause elevation in thyroid markers. For nonathletes, chronic life stress from too much work, too little sleep or mental/emotional challenges can yield the same results.

What does all this mean for your clients? Thyroid markers that are mildly out of balance reflect heightened stress or inadequate recovery, so clients are pushing too close to the red line. The good news is, these clients probably don’t have a broken thyroid gland. They need to prioritize sleep, watch their nutrition and reduce stress levels (easier said than done, but you get the point).

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From an exercise perspective, training load should be your top priority. Ensure that your program design applies proper overload and incorporates periods of training adaptation.

4. Testosterone

For many men, more testosterone means more muscle and a leaner physique, and the notion of improving testosterone levels remains front and center in many men, particularly those over 40. The blogosphere is full of anecdotes saying that boosting low testosterone—or low T—triggers fat burning and packs on lean mass. But how well do these stories of “hormone hypertrophy” hold up?

Research confirms that training the body leads to acute increases in testosterone, growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor-1. Moreover, the better the workout, the greater the hormone output. Seems like hormones trigger hypertrophy, right? Not quite.

Reminding us again that correlation is not causation, Brad Schoenfeld, director of the human performance laboratory at Lehman College in New York, notes that in his research lean muscle gains (highly beneficial for weight loss) occurred without the presence of these hormones (Schoenfeld 2013). Thus, the hormone hypertrophy hypothesis has been challenged.

Expert Eric Helms highlights how professional bodybuilders peaking for competition—at the height of their leanness and impressive physiques—all have minuscule testosterone levels (Helms 2018). Helms emphasizes that caloric restriction, in and of itself, is the biggest signal contributing to low levels of free testosterone (i.e., testosterone that is not bound to proteins in the blood). In fact, the prolonged and sustained caloric deficits required to be an elite bodybuilder mean it takes a pro 2–3 months for testosterone levels to return to normal.

What does this mean for the recreational client looking to burn fat and build muscle? Artificially boosting testosterone is not the answer. Instead, look at root causes of low testosterone. For clients carrying too much belly fat, losing weight should be the top priority. Belly fat is proinflammatory. Chronic inflammation can worsen blood glucose control and exacerbate weight gain. Abdominal adiposity also increases the activity of a hormone called aromatase, which helps convert testosterone into estrogen, further reducing testosterone levels.

What if your client doesn’t need to lose weight but still struggles with low testosterone? Once you’ve ensured that the client is eating enough, the next area to address is sleep—the second-most-likely cause of low testosterone, according to research. One study showed that healthy young men (average age 24.3) who got only 5 hours of sleep per night for 1 week saw their testosterone levels drop by 10%–15% (Leproult & Van Cauter 2011).

Sleep quality is also a factor. (Sleep apnea, a disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or periods of shallow breathing during sleep, compromises sleep quality.) A recent study by the University of Miami linked poor sleep quality to lower testosterone levels and found that for every hour of sleep loss (under 7 hours), men could expect a drop in testosterone (Patel et al. 2018).

Hormone type 1 diet and exerciseRe-examining a client’s training plan is crucial to restoring testosterone levels. A poorly periodized plan can quickly lead to inadequate recovery, overtraining and low testosterone levels. Elite and high-level athletes often see such effects when intense training pushes them into the overtraining zone. For the fitness enthusiast or weekend warrior, too much aerobic exercise, too many HIIT sessions and excessive volumes of training in the gym can all lead to inadequate recovery and low testosterone. A properly designed resistance training plan can prevent the profound drop in testosterone that may occur from too much volume, too much intensity or both.

For more on this subject, check out “Can Foods Boost Testosterone?”.

5. Estrogen

Social media is awash with claims that too much estrogen causes hormone imbalances and weight gain, particularly in women. Research suggests otherwise. The worldwide obesity epidemic exploded only in the last 40 years. Why did this “estrogen-dominant” phenotype not cause obesity in the previous 200,000 years of human history? Yes, adults with overweight or obesity often have higher estrogen levels than their slimmer peers—but estrogen isn’t causing the weight gain.

A quick review: Weight gain reflects the accumulation of fat cells that are highly proinflammatory. That disturbs blood glucose and insulin function, contributing to a downward spiral of poor regulation of insulin and cortisol while estrogen levels move higher. Once again, weight gain causes this hormonal disruption—not vice versa.

Since the “estrogen causes weight gain” claim is most often targeted to women, let’s look at exercise solutions with women in mind. Often, hourglass or pear-shaped body types do really well when training with heavier weights (e.g., powerlifting or strongman-type training). The most difficult task may be shifting the client’s mindset around training. Many women still fear heavy weights. The mental roadblock of “light weights and cardio” still persists, despite major progress in the fitness community—such as the growth of CrossFit® and, subsequently, the re-emergence of powerlifting—in the last decade.

Aim to get your clients to lift heavier loads at lower rep ranges (always with good form). This will ramp up lean muscle gains, increasing metabolic rate and supporting long-term weight loss. The new mantra “strong is the new skinny” seems quite apt in this scenario.

Address the Cause, Not the Symptoms

When your clients ask you about hormones and weight loss, help them understand the difference between symptoms and causes.

Many hormone imbalances are symptoms of weight gain, which triggers proinflammatory responses that affect the body’s output of insulin, cortisol, thyroid hormones, estrogen, testosterone and many other hormones. To lose weight, your clients don’t need to balance their hormones with fancy supplements, detox diets or medication.

They can achieve success by adopting an integrated wellness plan and addressing lifestyle factors such as lack of sleep and chronic stress. At the end of the day, compliance is king. Ultimately, as clients move along in their weight loss journey, finding a fitness strategy they can maintain over the long term is the key.

A NEAT Way to Burn Calories

Many trainers get too focused on the calories clients burn during their training session and forget about how much they move the rest of the day (Levine 2004). This other energy expenditure is called non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), and it actually makes up the bulk of calories burned in a day’s activity.

If your clients are sedentary, ensuring they’re getting enough movement during the day should be a top priority. The suggestion for 10,000 steps is a great place to start. In the short term, apps or fitness trackers can be very effective tools for showing clients how inactive they truly are.

It can take 8–12 weeks to build new movement habits. Walking to work, taking the stairs, parking as far away from the entrance as possible (where all the free spots are!), or doing a daily or nightly walk with friends or loved ones are all great ways to add more movement into the day.

If you want more context on NEAT, read this resource next!

Three Pillars of Wellness

The stress hormone cortisol isn’t bad—it’s essential for adaptation, survival and effective responses to stress. The problem is the impact of chronic low-grade stress on nutrition, movement and lifestyle choices. To address a cortisol imbalance, reassess these essential components of wellness.


Few of us get enough sleep. The average American sleeps about 6.5 hours per night, below the National Sleep Foundation’s recommended 7–9 hours (Hirshkowitz et al. 2015). Nighttime exposure to blue light from electronic devices further impairs sleep quality.

Your clients are more likely to be “under-recovered” than overtrained. Setting a sleep schedule—consistent bedtime, regular wakeup time and dedicated hour before sleep to unplug from technology—is a great first step in increasing resiliency.


You probably have “chronic cardio” clients who run the same distance day after day, week after week. Not surprisingly, they struggle with improving fitness and losing weight. The trouble is that this repetitive stimulus (“junk miles”) takes a toll on the body, limiting effective recovery. Clients of this type will often crave sugars, rely on caffeine for energy, struggle with fitness and get stuck on a weight loss plateau.

Check out this downloadable PDF for more on tackling weight loss plateaus.

If you have a “chronic cardio” client, try this: Reduce aerobic training volume and provide a new stimulus by increasing intensity with either sprint interval training or high-intensity interval training. Use your expertise as a fitness professional to find the source of your client’s under-recovery, and you’ll see dramatic improvements.


You will no doubt have conversations with clients about topics like meal frequency. While high meal frequency can be a great tool for bodybuilders and competitive athletes, the outcomes for recreational exercisers are more apt to be negative. Some people may think that increasing meal frequency will boost metabolism, thereby aiding fat loss.

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However, this is not what the science shows. In a research review that looked at 15 studies on meal frequency, only one found a positive association between feeding frequency and improvements in body composition and weight loss (Schoenfeld, Aragon & Kreiger 2015). Keep things simple for your clients: Removing snacking opportunities and getting back to three meals a day can be a highly effective strategy for weight loss.

For more on nutrition and weight loss, see our free course on weight loss. 

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Help your clients learn the secret to long-term weight loss success with the NASM Weight Loss Specialization (WLS). Show clients how to embrace a healthier lifestyle as you design programs using the Optimum Performance Training™ (OPT™) model. Invest in your clients’ lives and futures, as well as your own.


Agnihothri, R.V., et al. 2014. Moderate weight loss is sufficient to affect thyroid hormone homeostasis and inhibit its peripheral conversion. Thyroid, 24 (1), 19–26.

Arent, S. 2018. Assessing body composition, performance metrics & biomarkers. Dr. Bubbs Performance Podcast, Season 2, Episode 12. Accessed Jan. 4, 2019:

Belfort, R., et al. 2005. Dose-response effect of elevated plasma free fatty acid on insulin signaling. Diabetes, 54 (6), 1640–48.

Boden, G., et al. 1991. Effects of fat on insulin-stimulated carbohydrate metabolism in normal men. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 88 (3), 960–66.

Chao, A.M., et al. 2017. Stress, cortisol, and other appetite-related hormones: Prospective prediction of 6-month changes in food cravings and weight. Obesity (Silver Spring), 25 (4), 713–20.

Ferrannini, E., et al. 1983. Effect of fatty acids on glucose production and utilization in man. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 72 (5), 1737–47.

Goodpaster, B.H., et al. 1999. Effects of weight loss on regional fat distribution and insulin sensitivity in obesity. Diabetes, 48 (4), 839–47.

Helms, E. 2018. Nutrition for bodybuilders, hypertrophy and physique-focused athletes. Dr. Bubbs Performance Podcast, Season 2, Episode 7. Accessed Jan. 4, 2019:

Hirshkowitz, M., et al. 2015. National Sleep Foundation’s updated sleep duration recommendations: Final report. Sleep Health, 1 (4), 233–43.

Leproult, R., & Van Cauter, E. 2011. Effect of 1 week of sleep restriction on testosterone levels in young healthy men. JAMA, 305 (21), 2173–74.

Levine, J.A. 2004. Nonexercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT): Environment and biology. American Journal of Physiology–Endocrinology and Metabolism, 286 (5), E675–85.

Patel, P., et al. 2018. Impaired sleep is associated with low testosterone in US adult males: Results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. World Journal of Urology, doi:10.1007/s00345-018-2485-2.

Salans, L.B., Knittle, J.L., & Hirsch, J. 1968. The role of adipose cell size and adipose tissue insulin sensitivity in the carbohydrate intolerance of human obesity. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 47 (1), 153–65.

Schoenfeld, B.J. 2013. Postexercise hypertrophic adaptations: A reexamination of the hormone hypothesis and its applicability to resistance training program design. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 27 (6).

Schoenfeld, B.J., Aragon, A.A., & Kreiger, J.W. 2015. Effects of meal frequency on weight loss and body composition: A meta-analysis. Nutrition Reviews, 73 (2), 69–82.

Sims, E.A.H., et al. 1973. Endocrine and metabolic effects of experimental obesity in man. Recent Progress in Hormone Research, 29, 457–96.

Tam, C.S., et al. 2010. Short-term overfeeding may induce peripheral insulin resistance without altering subcutaneous adipose tissue macrophages in humans. Diabetes, 59 (9), 2164–70.

Wiegner, L., et al. 2015. Prevalence of perceived stress and associations to symptoms of exhaustion, depression and anxiety in a working age population seeking primary care—an observational study. BMC Family Practice, 16, 38.

— Update: 17-03-2023 — found an additional article Hormone Diets Are All The Rage Now, So Here’s Some Actual Science from the website for the keyword hormone type 1 diet and exercise.

When it comes to losing weight and getting healthy, there never seems to be a shortage of diet and fitness crazes claiming to hold the secret to easy, sustainable weight loss.

Some of the most recent popular diet crazes include the ketogenic diet (low carbohydrate, high fat), the carnivore diet (only eating meat and other animal products), and intermittent fasting (eating only within a strict timeframe, or on certain days).

But another diet plan that’s come into the spotlight recently is the hormone diet, which claims that the reason people struggle to lose weight is because their hormones aren’t working properly.

Numerous books have been written about this topic, with advocates of the hormone diet claiming people can experience quick and significant weight loss by using diet and exercise to manipulate or “reset” their hormones. There are a few variations of the diet, but the main idea with each is that the key to losing weight is by correcting perceived hormonal imbalances in the body.

Hormones play an important role in our body’s everyday processes, from digesting food to helping bones grow. They’re transported around the body through the bloodstream and act as “chemical messengers” which instruct cells to perform specific jobs.

For example, insulin is essential for regulating metabolic processes and allows the body to store the carbohydrates from food as energy in our muscle cells. When we eat, it causes blood sugar levels to rise, which results in the pancreas releasing insulin into the bloodstream. The insulin then attaches itself to cells and signals them to absorb sugar from the bloodstream and store it for later use.

Insulin was once thought to play a key role in weight gain, but recent research shows that total calorie intake is actually the primary factor in gaining or losing weight.

Fat loss can only be achieved by creating a calorie deficit, which simply means that you must burn more calories than you consume. Similarly, this is why many people have success with intermittent fasting, as it typically results in the consumption of less food and therefore fewer calories.

One popular book promoting the hormone diet uses a three-step programme that claims it will help people lose weight, gain strength, and feel younger. Steps one and two of the diet focus on changing nutritional habits. Step three concentrates on exercise.

According to the author, readers must “detox” their body. In step one, readers remove foods such as alcohol, caffeine, sugar, red meat, cow’s milk and milk byproducts (such as cheese or yoghurts) from their diet, while simultaneously eating more fruits and vegetables, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products from sheep and goats, and plant milks.

In step two, readers must then cut out processed foods, artificial sweeteners and refined grains. Step three involves an increase in cardiovascular and strength exercises.

The dietary recommendations provided in steps one and two require a decrease in food products that are typically high in calories and low in nutritional value, such as alcohol, high-sugar foods, and processed foods.

The diet also promotes foods such as vegetables, fish and fruit, which increase fibre intake (important for the digestive system) and provides the body with a variety of vitamins and minerals which perform numerous bodily functions required for overall health and well-being.

These foods are also generally lower in calories than alcohol, high-sugar foods and processed foods. And paired with the recommended exercises in step three, this “hormone diet” will probably increase calorie ‘burning’ along with other health benefits.

Does the ‘hormone diet’ actually work?

Generally, the hormone diet recommended in this book is not bad nutritional advice. However, the key here is that any potential weight loss will probably be from the change in calorie intake, rather than an effect (if any) on your hormones.

Weight loss (or body fat loss) is achieved by creating a calorie deficit, not by “resetting your hormone balance”.

Despite what advocates of the hormone diet might claim, hormonal imbalances are usually the result of a more serious underlying health condition, such as diabetes (impaired insulin function) or hyperthyroidism (where the thyroid produces too many thyroid hormones), which couldn’t simply be fixed through diet alone, and would require medical treatment.

Currently, there is no viable theory to demonstrate that a person can “reset” their hormones to influence fat loss. There is also no peer-reviewed research in a major journal that has specifically studied the hormone diet and its effects.

But there might be a simple explanation for why people think the hormone diet works: it helps to create a calorie deficit through improved nutritional habits and exercise, which will probably result in weight loss.

Ultimately, anyone that wants to lose weight or body fat should focus on creating a calorie deficit. How a person creates this calorie deficit may vary from person to person, and might even include following popular diet plans like keto or intermittent fasting.

However, the best approach is whichever someone finds the most compatible with their lifestyle. Hormone type 1 diet and exercise

Robert Naughton, Senior Lecturer, University of Huddersfield.

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