By Dr. Natasha Turner ND
If you read or completed my first Hormone Diet prescription, you might recall that I didn’t recommend or stress the importance of exercise until the fourth week of my plan. This was simply because I wanted you first to focus on optimizing your sleep, detoxifying your body, and optimizing your nutrition. But, in my New York Times Bestselling book, The Supercharged Hormone Diet, I recommend beginning all of the habits and activities that are going to bring you great results, in an accelerated manner. So, I suggest you combine my workout tips described below with the diet plan that comes with The Hormone Diet Reset Kit.
During the coming Holiday weeks, or at least until before the New Year, I want to recuperate your nervous system from stress and activate muscle function but also prevent the stress of over-exercising. Keep in mind that whether we engage in strength training or aerobic activity, cortisol is released during exercise in proportion to the intensity of our effort. Both high-intensity and prolonged exercise cause increases in cortisol, which can remain elevated for several hours following a vigorous workout. Numerous studies have proven that this rise in cortisol tends to occur with very strenuous exercise and when we exercise for longer than 40 to 45 minutes. Repeated strenuous workouts without appropriate rest between sessions can also result in chronically elevated cortisol.
We know that chronically high cortisol can cause muscle breakdown, suppress our immune function and contribute to stubborn abdominal fat. Researchers at the University of North Carolina have also linked strenuous, fatiguing exercise to higher cortisol and lower thyroid hormones. Remember, thyroid hormones stimulate your metabolism, so depletion is definitely not a desired effect of exercise! The same study found thyroid hormones remained suppressed, even 24 hours after recovery, while cortisol levels remained high throughout the same period.
Over-exercising can lead to loss of muscle, frequent colds and flus, stress, an increase in free radicals, poor recovery after exercise and slower gains from your workout efforts. Plus, your risk of illness and injury increases as your metabolic rate slows. Certainly, these are not the effects you were looking for when you joined the gym. For those who are gym bunnies, don’t worry about taking some time off from your rigorous workout routine at this point in your program to avoid placing undue stress on your body. You can take weeks off from the gym without losing strength, according to research from Japan (and this is especially true when combined with the proper protein intake, the calculation for which is outlined in the Hormone Reset Kit diet plan). In the study, people followed an exercise program for three months and then took a three-month break. At the end of their hiatus, they were just as strong as they had been before taking time off. So, starting your program with yoga and walking will provide the perfect amount of movement to wake up your metabolism without causing excess strain on your body.
With its full spectrum of poses, yoga can bring the body back into its natural alignment, level out muscular imbalances and improve physical weaknesses. If you are an athlete, yoga can improve your performance by enhancing your flexibility, relaxation, breathing and balance. Anyone can improve posture, energy and endurance with regular yoga practice. Yoga offers fabulous benefits for calming your nervous system, restoring hormonal balance and strengthening your muscles.
Yoga is a terrific stress reliever. Numerous studies, including one completed in 2003 by The Center for Integrative Medicine of Thomas Jefferson University in collaboration with the Yoga Research Society, have shown that yoga can lower blood cortisol levels in healthy men and women. It also is known to reduce adrenalin and stimulate the calming brain chemical GABA. Research from Boston University School of Medicine and McLean Hospital published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (May 2007) suggests yoga should be explored as a possible treatment for disorders often associated with low GABA levels, such as depression and anxiety. However, its benefits extend even further: a study conducted by Ohio State University (Jan 2010) and published in Psychosomatic Medicine indicates that yoga may act to reduce inflammation in the body. In this research, 50 subjects were divided into two groups: those who regularly participated in yoga and a group of yoga beginners. Researchers assessed blood samples from each of the subjects and found that those in the novice group had 41% higher levels of an inflammatory compound called interleukin-6 versus their more advanced peers.
If you struggle with excess belly fat or sleep disruption, yoga is a stellar choice of workout for you. It’s also excellent if you have fertility concerns. For all these reasons, it is included in your Supercharged four-week plan. I want you to try to practice yoga twice a week for the next four weeks. You can purchase a yoga DVD or look for a yoga studio in your area. You can also check out online options like poweryoga.com. There are many types of yoga you can try. My favorites are ashtanga, anusara or hatha, but you are free to try all types and find the practice that suits you best.
While high-intensity workouts should be avoided at beginning of your New Year detox, we want to get you moving during the coming weeks so that your body will be primed to eventually begin strength training, which is definitely your secret to lasting metabolic power. Plus, even a short stroll can be a simple and highly beneficial way to avoid cheating, falling off track with your diet and lessening the harmful effects of stress and fatty foods on your body. Studies prove that walking after an unhealthy meal can curb the effects of stress by reducing the amounts of fatty acids, sugars and stress hormones that are released into the bloodstream and subsequently stored as fat. This gentle form of exercise strengthens nearly every aspect of your body, promotes energy during the day, encourages a relaxation response and improves the quality of your sleep.
Your light cardio prescription four times a week. It could include the following:
- Interval cardio sessions on the treadmill or completed outside – do 10 intervals of increased speed. Fully recover in between intervals before taking on the next. You can walk fast up a hill, do sprints on the treadmill, or any other variation of interval training – Any other cardio machine at your gym including the elliptical or exercise bike (avoid high intensity cardio such as spinning during this time)
- A power walk – when walking outside use the Strava App to make sure you are keeping an average speed of about 6.0 km/hour and walk for at least one hour, an hour 15 mins is best for fat loss. An indoor option is walking on a treadmill on an incline (try not to hold onto the rails for a more effective workout)- try a speed of 4.0 and an incline of 4.0.
So, get started with these activities and stay tuned! I will share metabolic workouts in January, which are the absolute best for building muscle and dropping fat – without causing an increase in cortisol or a drop in thyroid hormone.