[This is a guest post by Alex Eriksson. Alex is the founder of Anabolic Health, a men’s health blog dedicated to providing honest and research backed advice for optimal male hormonal health. Anabolic Health aspires to become a trusted resource where men can come and learn how to fix their hormonal problems naturally, without pharmaceuticals. Check out https://www.anabolichealth.
Estrogen Levels and Athletic Performance
So you want to be a top performance athlete do you? Well, chances are, whether you are male or female, that you will need to possess a superior androgenic profile. This does not mean that a woman needs to have supra-physiological testosterone levels, but rather a level that is beneficial for performance.
When it comes to the more feminine hormone, estrogen, its role in athletic performance is not as important, though you cannot underestimate its utility. How does it help? For one, estrogen can help take the pain out of high intensity training, as it helps retain water around the joints and keeps collagen synthesis high.
Regardless of the secondary benefits of estrogen levels, you will want to keep it in check, or ideally maintain an optimal ratio of testosterone to estrogen.
If you’ve tried to increase your testosterone/ DHT levels but have found it an uphill challenge, it’s likely estrogen had a role to play. It’s time we take a deeper look at estrogen.
What Exactly Is Estrogen?
Estrogen is one of the body’s primary sex hormones, though it is primarily associated and important in women. In men, estrogen is produced via a process known as aromatization, which is the conversion from testosterone under the influence if the aromatase enzyme. It is not possible, or advisable to try to suppress estrogen production in its entirety, as negative repercussions will ensue.
This does not mean that you should allow estrogen to run amok in your body, or you can may just pave the way for the disruptive scenario known as estrogen dominance.
What Is Estrogen Dominance?
Estrogen dominance is the scenario that results when estrogen levels are running rampant, coupled with a drop in progesterone, and possibly testosterone as well. Some people can be feeding the flames of estrogen dominance without even realizing it. Factors such as the following contribute greatly to the development of estrogen dominance:
• Having Excessive Bodyfat: fat is a factory of sorts for estrogen, since this is the location where the conversion of testosterone occurs in men. This alone is a self-sustaining process, since as more estrogen in made, likewise is an uptick in fat storage.
• Chronic Stress: stress is a primitive response in order to survive- but not the way or extent we experience it today. Stress is a major underlying factor to a host of health conditions, but is also responsible for the depletion of progesterone levels we briefly mentioned before. Why? Because cortisol (the stress hormone) is synthesized from progesterone. Thus, states of chronic overproduction of cortisol will result in diminished progesterone levels.
• Exposure To Pseudo-Estrogens: these are substances that occur both naturally and artificially in substances such as many plant based foods, plastics and more, that have the ability to mimic estrogen’s effects closely. So even though you may believe that you are not doing anything to negatively alter your hormonal profile, that soy protein you religiously take may be the culprit!
Estrogen’s Direct Beneficial Roles On Athletic Performance
Estrogen Has A Favorable Effect On Bone Tissue
It should come as no coincidence that women experience highest levels of bone mass density during their pre-menopausal years, as estrogen is a hormone that promotes bone mineralization, helping to keep the bone matrix integrity high. Fractures are rare in young men with an optimized estrogen profile who also resistance train, as bone is subject to getting stronger as well. Testosterone itself does not have a beneficial effect on bone density.
Estrogen Can Help You Gain Muscle Mass
Though estrogen itself will not lead to an increase in muscle mass, as it is not a known anabolic hormone, what it does is increase other hormones that are considered anabolic, such as insulin like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). In turn, IGF-1 can signal the carrier molecule known as GLUT-4, which increases active transport of glucose and amino acids across the cell membranes into muscle cells, allowing for enhanced muscle gains.
The Best Ways To Optimize Your Estrogen Levels For Athletic Performance
Keep in mind optimize does not equate to “increase”, as it the belief by many men. Rather, it is the process of getting that estrogen level in the sweet spot, so that benefits are maximized, and negatives are minimized. It is not very difficult, but does require you to have a good diet and exercise program, and be consistent. Try these tips to optimize your levels:
Consume The Right Phyto-Estrogens
Though we briefly mentioned above that external sources of pseudo-estrogens such as those found in soy may be bad for you, there are also good ones too. Among the good ones are pomegranates, which increase testosterone levels by as much as 24%, while also inhibiting the aromatase enzyme and preventing the conversion of testosterone to estrogen. Quite the double whammy as it is favorable to testosterone, while suppressing estrogen.
The other, resveratrol, is a compound best known for being present in grapes and red wine, and which has potential testosterone boosting effects and anti-estrogen ability, by binding to the estrogen receptor and preventing the hormone from acting, according to findings of a study.
Lucky you, we’ve just given you another reason for that glass of wine every night!
Consume Cruciferous Vegetables
Vegetables within the cruciferous family, such as broccoli and cabbage, possesses a unique Phyto-nutrient known as 3,3′-Diindolylmethane (DIM for short). This is a beneficial compound, as it can act as an anti-aromatase, and also metabolizes estrogens into less potent forms.
Diet should be the cornerstone of your plan to optimize estrogen; however it is impractical if your levels are already higher than average. In such cases, an effective natural estrogen blocker may be your best bet. As long as you can, avoid prescription based estrogen blockers, as they come with a range of possible negative effects, such as increased bone fractures, joint pain or sexual dysfunction. These supplements can be classified into 2 groups:
• Aromatase Inhibitors (AIs) – these block estrogen production from occurring in the first place, although they may take longer to elicit effect. They are more potent that the other group, the SERMS.
• Natural SERMs: representing selective estrogen receptor modulator, these are supplements that have different actions depending on the location of the estrogen receptor. For example, on breast tissue they act as antagonists, blocking the receptor, whereas it can elicit beneficial effects on bone metabolism.
Combining an aromatase inhibitor with a SERM may be the best course of action, as it will deliver both fast and prolonged estrogen suppressing effects.
Wrapping It Up
The key to getting the most out of estrogen for athletic performance is to keep it within an optimal range, as opposed to trying to completely suppress its effects, or just leaving it unabated. Consuming a diet rich in beneficial Phyto-estrogens is a good first step, along with resistance training and avoiding environmental exposure to negative pseudo-estrogens.