How Steroid Hormones Are Made In The Body
By Dan Hochman
What comes to mind when you think of the word steroids? Most of us will conjure up the image of a giant bodybuilder, but various natural steroid hormones are actually present in all of our bodies.
Table Of Contents:
- What Steroid Hormones Are
- How Steroid Hormones Are Produced In The Body
- What You Can Do To Upregulate Your Natural Production Of Steroid Hormones
I can honestly say that learning about how to influence my natural production of steroid hormones was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I went from a person who had little to no knowledge as to why I felt constantly in low energy state, to someone who understands how to give my body what it needs in order to thrive.
Our bodies are made up of complex “information” in the way of hormones, that inform almost every vital metabolic process that our bodies carry out. For those of you who are athletes, fitness enthusiasts, or just generally health minded people, learning to take your hormonal health into your own hands is absolutely crucial. So, without ado let's jump in!
What Are Steroid Hormones?:
So what exactly are steroid hormones? Simply put steroid hormones are naturally occuring steroids that act in the body as a hormone. They can be grouped into two classes: corticosteroids, which are generally made in the adrenal cortex, and sex steroids which are made in the gonads or placenta. According to Fillipo Acconcia “ Within those two classes, there are five types` according to the receptors to which they bind: glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids (both corticosteroids) and androgens, estrogens, and progestogens (sex steroids). Let’s take a look at each of the five major steroid hormones.
What Are The Main Steroid Hormones - 5 Major Classes Of Steroid Hormones:
Testosterone is the principal male hormone responsible for a whole host of health and developmental changes in the male body. It is also present in the female body, however in comparatively lower amounts. High levels of testosterone in the body are linked to benefits like improved mood, muscle size, blood circulation, and energy levels. However, a small amount of testosterone in the body is converted to DHT via the 5a reductase enzyme, and DHT is a far more potent androgen. Healthy levels of DHT in the body are linked to benefits like increased leanness, physical strength, beard growth, and during puberty is linked to broader shoulders and stronger jaw, and facial structure.
Estradiol, alongside progesterone is the primary development hormone for women during reproductive years. Like all steroid hormones, estradiol is a cholesterol derivative. Estradiol is responsible for maintaining the proper environment in the ovaries and is also responsible for the development of breasts and female secondary sex charachteristics. Unfortunately high amounts of estrogen in the body can amplify our bodies stress response and lead to depression, weight gain, and even breast cancer.
Progesterone is arguably the most protective steroid hormone the body produces. It is the main hormone produced by the ovaries, and is necessary for fertility and maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Interestingly enough it is also linked to a variety of health benefits. According to Dr. Ray Peat “ Progesterone relieves anxiety, improves memory, protects brain cells, and even prevents epileptic seizures.”
Cortisol is the primary stress hormone. In small amounts cortisol is actually very necessary for functions in the body such as waking up in the morning & your body's stress response. However in large amounts cortisol can wreak havoc on the body, and can be catabolic (break down tissue in the body).
Aldosterone is a steroid hormone that is produced in the cortex of the adrenal glands. It plays a key role in the regulation of blood pressure.
How Are They Different From Other Hormones
Steroid hormones are different from other hormones because they are produced from lipids, while non steroid hormones are derived from proteins. The specific lipid that steroid hormones are produced from is called cholesterol. Thus you can think of cholesterol as the main building block of steroid hormones.
How Are The Steroid Hormones Made?
Let's take a look at how steroid hormones are made. Steroid hormones are synthesized in the gonads and the adrenal cortex. The steroids that are made in the adrenal glands are cortisol, 11-deoxycortisol, aldosterone, corticosterone, and 11-deoxycorti-costerone. The other main steroid hormones are made by the adrenal glands, testes and ovaries.
Steroid Hormone Synthesis And Pathway
As we just touched on before, cholesterol is the building block for steroid hormones and is vitally important to its production. The pathway of steroid hormones starts with the conversion of cholesterol to pregnenolone in the mitochondria of our cells. Once cholesterol is converted into pregnenolone it becomes the immediate precursor to steroid hormones. Since steroid hormones are derived from cholesterol, they are not soluble in plasma and other body fluids. For this reason, steroids are bound to transport proteins that increase their half-life and insure ubiquitous distribution.
How To Increase Steroid Hormones Naturally:
So how do we boost Testosterone, GH, and TH, while keeping stress hormones like cortisol, and estrogen low. There are a variety of factors, but I always prefer to think of them as four core pillars. The pillars are as follows.. Diet, Exercise, Lifestyle, & Supplementation.
Diet is one of the most important factors for bringing your body to a state of hormonal balance, and increasing steroid hormones. Many of us are walking around today severely deficient in key micronutrients.
Our supermarkets are full of highly processed foods that are void of vitamins and minerals, and are loaded with compounds that cause stress and inflammation in the body. The best thing that we can do is start to consume whole food based, thermo approved food sources that cover each major macronutrient group.
Since we know that Cholesterol is the main building block of steroid hormone production, consuming foods such as eggs, butter and other saturated fat sources is an amazing way to upregulate steroid hormone production. Personally I opt for about a pound of grass fed beef, or bison per day.
I also make sure to consume some high quality eggs in the morning. It’s important to note that the quality of our fat sources matter here. Getting saturated fat from conventional dairy and beef is going to be highly counterproductive due to the many antibiotics, and endocrine disrupting preservatives that are often found within them.
Next, I recommend consuming thermo approved carbohydrate sources for the bulk of your carb consumption. This will do wonders for your thyroid, are packed with key micronutrients your body needs, and lastly the neurons that are responsible for causing the release of gonadotropin hormones are actually dependent on steady blood glucose levels.
All in all carbs are definitely steroid hormone friendly. When it comes to proteins, I recommend getting high quality saturated fat from grass fed beef and bison sources. These proteins are also incredible at providing the body with magnesium and zinc, which can cause low testosterone.
If you would like a step by step guide on exactly what to eat to improve not only your steroid hormone production, but your health in general, then make sure to check out The Thermo Diet only inside UMZUfit!
Exercising properly is the second biggest thing you can do to positively impact your natural steroid hormone production. For years, I would structure workouts that I thought were healthy, but were actually completely taxing my central nervous system, and upregulating my cortisol levels.
If you are someone who often feels stressed out when they exercise, and yet have accepted it as normal.. This one's for you. Chronic endurance exercise is not your friend when it comes to the healthy production of androgens. In fact long bouts of running, biking, and other forms of cardio are known to drastically spike cortisol levels and suppress testosterone, DHT and GH.
Luckily for you, there is a better way. Structuring your workouts to be relatively short and intense, with ample amounts of rest is crucial to your health and steroid hormone production. The best way that I have found to accomplish this, is to structure my workout to be no more than forty five minutes to an hour, while focusing on compound movements that challenge me week to week. I also make sure to avoid overtraining because that will once again spike my cortisol levels and hammer my CNS.
A sample workout for me usually involves picking four to five compound exercises with a few assistance exercises that support my prime movements. For example, I may choose to work on my shoulder press, weighted pull up, and muscle up. While using face pulls, rows, and bicep curls as my assistance movements. Lastly when doing these exercises I will apply the testosterone work principle that Chris created to get the full hormonal benefit of each movement.
This principle asks us to do a high amount of “work” done explosively, activating a large amount of muscle tissue while staying under a stress threshold. For this reason weighted calisthenics can be an incredible asset. You can accomplish this relatively simply, and continue to drive progressive overload week to week.
Progressive overload is the last factor of exercise that will allow your body to continually release steroid hormones. If your body is used to the stimulus it simply won’t signal a large amount of androgens to be produced.
This one really comes down to a few main factors, getting high quality sleep, doing our best to avoid toxins from getting into our bodies, and mitigating psychological stress.
Let’s start with how to mitigate toxins and environmental stressors from our environment. We can start by minimizing our exposure to household toxins. I recommend starting with kitchen items. Stop using plastic water bottles, utensils etc. Stop using teflon, and aluminum cookware.
These products are notorious for containing chemical estrogens and endocrine disrupting substances. However there are some great kitchen replacements that you can start using today. Cast iron or stainless steel cookware, can replace your teflon pans.
Glass or steel water bottles are good alternatives to plastic. Another common thing to look at is the products that you are using in your bathroom. I recommend that you stop using toxic soaps, tooth pastes, and deodorants. Since the chemicals in these self care products are applied directly to your skin, they go straight to your bloodstream. I recommend using plant based soaps, and deodorants are safe alternatives to the many toxic alternatives out there.
Now let's discuss psychological stress a bit. For many of us this is the primary way that high cortisol negatively affects our bodies. We go about our day largely operating from a place of fear about the future, or we allow the past to dictate our present moment fears. Given the current state of pandemic that the world is in, it can be challenging to not let our fears get the best of us.
You may find yourself worrying about your job, or your health and that of your loved ones. However, the best thing you can do in those moments is breath and get present. Thus, some form of mindfulness practice is crucial to helping combat the effects of psychological stress. I personally began meditating this past year, and have noticed more spaciousness in my interactions with people, and more mental bandwidth in the present moment.
Many of us don’t quite enjoy sitting down each day to meditate though, and that’s ok! Yoga and movement practice or also phenomenal ways at getting out of our heads and into the present moment.
The last piece of lifestyle I would like to address is sleep. Many of us simply don’t get enough sleep, even though it is absolutely critical to our health. The majority of our androgens production is actually done while we are sleeping, and it was even found that men who slept an average of eight hours or more per night had double the amount of serum testosterone as men who slept four to six hours per night.
This drive’s home the importance of quality sleep, but how do we ensure that we are getting enough of it? Well, there are few specific habits that you can do daily to start sleeping better. The first is getting on a bedtime routine. Our body likes routine, and we can actually set our circadian rhythm by going to bed each night at the same time. The next, and perhaps biggest thing you can do for your sleep quality is set an environment that is conducive to sleep. For this, think of setting the environment in your room to be like a cave at night.
Dark, slightly cool, and quiet. I personally use black out curtains, sleep with ear plugs, and turn the thermostat down at night to set the right conditions. Lastly, let's touch on the impact of electronics. Electronics, specifically screens, emit blue light which suppresses the release of melatonin. Obviously that’s not something we want to do for optimal sleep. Thus I recommend that you stop using electronics about an hour before bed, and take them out of your room at night.
Read More: 3 Natural Steroid Alternatives
This one is pretty simple, but the best testosterone booster there is Testro-X. We touched on this in the diet section but the human body functions optimally when it has all of the raw materials it needs for various metabolic processes, including hormonal function. A high quality supplement like Testro-X is great at filling in the gaps. I also recommend supplementing with a stress reducing supplement like Cortigon, as well as a supplement that will help with your blood flow and the transport of these steroid hormones like Redwood.
I hope that this article was informative for helping you better understand steroid hormones, as well as the various ways that you can influence your body's natural production of them. As you can see they play a vital role in the health and proper functioning of your body, so make sure to be consistent with the various ways that you can improve your hormonal health. Until next time!