As Bodybuilders we spend so much
time worrying about how we can increase our levels of the Androgens (male
hormones) such as Testosterone, but very rarely do we think about what we can
do to decrease the levels of oestrogens (female hormones) such as Estrogen.
Whether you are a male or a female, you will have both groups of hormones, just
at different ratios, with males having higher levels of Androgens and females
having higher levels of Oestrogens.
It is because of higher levels of
Oestrogens, along with the lower levels of Androgens, that females generally
have a higher percentage of body fat than males. Even people who aren’t
interested in Bodybuilding should be cautious of their Estrogen levels because
high Estrogen levels, and problems eliminating it from the body, can increase
your chances of developing prostate and breast cancer.
What does Estrogen do?
Estrogen is essential for many
functions in the body including...
- Increasing the levels of good cholesterol (HDL) which
protects against cardiovascular disease, whilst decreasing the levels of bad
- The regulation of the menstrual cycle and
secondary sexual characteristics such as breasts in females.
- The regulation of certain functions of the
reproductive system important to the maturation of sperm in males.
- Estrogen plays a role in the release of growth
hormone and Insulin like growth factor 1.
So regardless of sex, Estrogen is
vital to your wellbeing.
Where does Estrogen come
You might think that that is a silly question because surely Estrogen
is produced within the body (in the ovaries in women and testes in men) with
the amount depending on your sex? Correct, but there are also chemical
Estrogens which are present in plastic bottles, plastic bags, plastic tubs,
paint, pesticides, shampoo and cosmetic products such as lip stick and nail
varnish. Every time you eat or drink from certain plastics (even those marketed
as BPA-free), or put certain shampoos on your hair, you are exposing yourself
to chemical Estrogen.
So the main source of Estrogen is that produced by your BODY, the second
source is your ENVIRONMENT, and the third factor affecting your Estrogen levels
is your body’s ability to REMOVE Estrogen from your body.
What if your Estrogen levels
are too high?
An unnecessarily high level of Estrogen in your body can hinder your
progress when trying to either lose fat or gain muscle. This is because Estrogen
promotes the storage of subcutaneous fat and can also cause water retention
under the skin which will not only lead to a gain in body weight, but it will
also decrease muscle definition and vascularity; not ideal if you’re a
Ever wondered why some men develop ‘man boobs’? This is the abnormal
development of breast tissue which is called Gynecomastia, often abbreviated to
Gyno, caused by an excess of Estrogen (caused by one of several reasons listed later
on in this article). The process occurs when Testosterone binds to Aromatase
(the enzyme responsible for the synthesis of Estrogen) and the Testosterone is
then converted into Oestradiol (the primary type of Estrogen). This process is called
Aromatisation and is common in people who use anabolic steroids and fail to
take the appropriate precautions. But Anabolic steroids are not the only cause
What else can cause Estrogen
levels to be high?
Factors such as age, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and alcohol
can all result in raised Estrogen levels. Being overweight increases Estrogen
levels because fat cells actually produce Estrogen, which in turn encourages
more fat cells, which can be a vicious circle if not controlled. Excess Alcohol
consumption will result in Estrogen not being effectively broken down by your
liver and Alcohol also decrease levels of Zinc within the body. Zinc inhibits
the aromatase enzyme so a lack of Zinc, along with higher Estrogen levels
caused by the consumption of alcohol, will lead to an increase in
Aromatisation. Some chemicals found in highly processed food can mimic Estrogen
and so occupy Estrogen receptors, inducing Aromatase activity.
As stated in previous articles, to a huge extent YOU are in control of
your hormones, and Estrogen is definitely on one them....
How can you control/lower your
levels of Estrogen?
- Reduce/Avoid alcohol consumption.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Avoid refined and processed foods and eat
natural whole organic foods where possible.
- Avoid food high in saturated fat.
- Limit sugar intake. This will help control
Insulin levels and therefore reduce the likelihood of fat storage.
- Exercise regularly.
- Eat cruciferous vegetables such as Broccoli and
cauliflower as they contain a nutrient called Indole-3-carbinol which is known
to partially block Oestrogen receptor sites on cell membranes and convert
highly active Oestrogen forms, and their by-products, into much safer
- Eat Fruits such as berries and citrus fruits as
these contain D-Limonene which has been shown to help with Oestrogen
- Increase Omega 3 consumption to help increase Estrogen
metabolism and Insulin sensitivity.
- Increase fibre intake to improve
gastrointestinal health to help with the excretion of unwanted/excess Estrogen
and stop its reabsorption. The fibre binds to Estrogen and so it is then
removed via the digestive tract.
- Taking a good probiotic will increase the amount
of good bacteria in your gut and therefore aid gut function.
Estrogen is NOT the enemy and is essential to your health, regardless
of whether or not you are a male or female, but the benefits of keeping a check
on your levels will help improve your overall health and body composition.
Regardless of whether or not you are currently aiming to lower Estrogen
levels, as a bodybuilder, you should already be following the above points; the
only difference is that you now have yet another reason to do so!