If you experience a menstrual cycle, you are probably able to anticipate when your skin will be the most clear each month and when it most definitely won’t. Or when you will have ample energy to smash out an intense workout and when you will need to reserve the single ounce of energy you have to grab a heating pad and push “Yes, I’m still watching” on your Netflix screen.
Your hormones are always changing – they ebb and flow, and not just each month. These important chemical messengers fluctuate throughout the day, too. Understanding your hormones may seem like an impossible feat, but they’re more predictable than you think. And once you know their natural daily patterns, you can optimize your routine to work in harmony with your hormones, not against them.
In the AM
Cortisol is highest early in the day and gradually lowers as the hours pass. This hormone is what wakes you up, kick starts your digestion and other biological processes, and naturally helps fuel your workouts.
If you have lower cortisol levels, a high intensity workout in the morning can help balance out your system. But be wary of those early morning HIIT sessions if you suffer from chronic stress or high cortisol levels. In that case, you should opt for a lower intensity workout like yoga, or wait a few hours to break a sweat when your cortisol levels have naturally lowered.
Ever wonder why people always recommend doing things like meditation or exercise in the morning? Research shows healthy habits are easier to stick to if you do them first thing. Why, you may ask? Cortisol plays a major role in the formation of habits. Blame it or thank it!
Insulin is a hormone that helps your blood sugar enter your cells in order to be used for energy (aka when carbs are converted to energy). This hormone fluctuates during meal times, rising after you eat and decreasing when you’re hungry. Spikes and falls in your blood sugar can put stress on your body, negatively impacting the balance of your other hormones.
If eating a big lunch leaves you feeling like you need to block off the rest of your afternoon for a midday nap, you may be experiencing your insulin changes in action. For many, that feeling of hitting a wall after a carb heavy meal happens because of the quick blood sugar spike and then drop after the release of insulin. Eating smaller meals with healthy fats throughout the day can help you maintain stable blood sugar and keep your body and hormones in peace. Studies have also shown that nuts and seeds can help improve insulin resistance and support hormonal balance.
In the PM
Melatonin works to keep our circadian rhythms in harmony by helping to promote those sweet sweet feelings of nighttime sleepiness. This hormone ramps up at sunset and naturally decreases production when exposed to morning sun – or artificial light. Cortisol and melatonin work in opposition, meaning when cortisol levels are higher, melatonin should be lower and vice versa.
But the delicate balance between these two hormones can easily be thrown off by lifestyle factors. To support the natural fluctuation of decreased cortisol throughout the day and increased melatonin throughout the evening, limit your caffeine intake after noon, restrict your screen time past sundown, reschedule arguing with your SO for the morning, and embrace a relaxing sleep routine. Your hormones will thank you for it.
Getting to know your hormones can be intimidating, but understanding their patterns and making small changes to your lifestyle and diet to optimize their functioning can make a huge impact on your skin and overall health.
What else would you like to know about your hormones? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.