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Know Your Hormones: An Introduction

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We’ve all heard of hormones such as testosterone, cortisol and insulin, but what are they? What do they do and what difference does it make to your training?

In this ongoing series, I will be unpacking some of the science behind your hormones and how you can use this knowledge to help optimise your day to day performance in and out of the gym. However, before we tumble down the rabbit hole that is human biochemistry let’s cover a few basics.

What exactly is a hormone?

Hormones are chemical substances that have the potential to control and coordinate several biological systems throughout the human body. In essence, these chemicals could be thought of as messengers – providing information and instruction to the targeted tissue.

How do they work?

Hormones are created in specialised cells called endocrine glands and serve as part of the body’s endocrine system (read more here). Upon stimulation, the endocrine gland will release its particular hormone into the bloodstream which will then carry the chemical message to its intended location.

The hormone will then be able to bind to a receptor – similar to how a key fits into a lock – allowing it to alter the function of that tissue. However, should the receptor site be blocked or the hormone be the wrong shape then no change will occur.

Once the hormone “locks” into a receptor site it sets off a cascade of events within the target tissue that will result in either an immediate effect (i.e. insulin signalling resulting in a sudden uptake of sugar (glucose) from the blood) or a delayed effect (i.e. protein production).

How do I find out if my hormones are healthy or not?

The best way to check your hormonal health is with blood chemical analysis. You can request a test through your local GP.

Stay tuned for the next segment in this series!

(Please be aware that this content is for information purposes only – it is a simplistic overview of a complex topic)