Tracking Hormone Levels to Attain Fitness Goals
Are you struggling with hormone imbalance while trying to start or maintain a fitness program?
Take a deeper dive into achieving fitness with hormone testing. Monitor wellness milestones to ensure you aren't overstressing your endocrine system.
A suite of hormone test panels, called ZRT Wellness Metrics Suite, is available for beginning trainers and advanced athletes.
How Do Hormones Affect Athletic Performance?
There are two camps in which hormones play a part in our overall fitness.
- In the first camp: the untrained beginners. Underlying cardiometabolic risk factors may have been detected in an exam or lab test, causing your physician to suggest you start to exercise.
Monitoring your progress can be an important step to balance your sleep, diet, and fitness routine in the coming weeks and months to achieve the results you and your physician desire.
We will feature more articles in the coming months for those in this camp.
- In the second camp: the moderately trained, to highly trained. The balance between athletic workload and recovery is important. Athletes need to prevent injury by ensuring sufficient recovery time, balanced to a stressful workload to achieve the highest endurance for competition.
Then there are those who know they have underlying hormone or metabolic preconditions while wanting to be athletically competitive. For this unique group, at-home diagnostic tests can be an essential tool to monitor metabolic levels in order to reduce risk and better improve competitive wins.
This article will focus more on those in this camp.
A growing number of young people today are as susceptible to the same cardiometabolic risk factors previously seen only in older generations. The good news is there is a growing number of people adopting healthy fitness training to counteract their risk factors.
Whether you are a casual marathon runner, or a competitive cross-country contender, you may be wanting assurance your endocrine system is keeping up with the demands being placed on you body. Winning an event can be as simple as knowing your metabolic levels a few weeks or more before a competition and acting on the information.
For these reasons, ZRT Laboratory (ZRT) began offering a suite of at-home diagnostic tests especially formulated for tracking fitness-related hormone metrics.
What is the ZRT Wellness Metrics Suite?
The ZRT Wellness Metrics Suite is three distinct test profiles available for specific needs assessment.
- ZRT Wellness Metrics Profile for an overall hormonal and metabolic health screening. Targeted to the untrained fitness beginner. An excellent choice if you are just starting a fitness regimen.
We will go into greater depth into the ZRT Wellness Metrics Profile in an upcoming future article. We focus the remainder of this article on the other two test profiles in the ZRT Wellness Metric Suite.
- ZRT Fitness Metrics Profile for those wanting to monitor fitness or have weight loss goals. Targeted to the beginner to moderate trainer.
- ZRT Elite Athlete Metrics Profile for athletes who train at a higher level. Targeted to the advanced competitive athlete.
Depending on which profile is ordered, and with its own optional add-ons, each panel helps identify specific hormone imbalances associated with menopause (women), andropause (men), Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), excess weight gain or obesity, vitamin D deficiency, and hypothyroidism.
Insulin resistance, diabetes, and inflammation are on the rise. Vitamin D deficiency in the northern climes is on the rise as well. Vitamin D plays a complex regulatory effect upon calcium in our bodies and in the mineralization of our bones, and plays a protective role against certain cancers, and the development of diabetes and heart disease.
As a risk assessment profile, these profiles can help in the early detection of risk factors.
Working with your medical practitioner, the comprehensive test report of any one of the three profiles is designed to help you find effective treatments to rebalance sex hormone and adrenal hormone levels, address vitamin D and thyroid deficiencies, reduce overall risk for metabolic syndrome, and potentially avoid the onset of type 2 diabetes.
The ZRT Fitness and Elite Athlete Metrics Profiles help in the identification of hormone imbalances, cardiometabolic risk factors, and vitamin D deficiency that can:
- affect performance,
- increase injury risk,
- or prevent an athlete from competing at their highest level.
It is best to start with a baseline before rigorous training begins, and to track your hormones throughout your training regimen to look for big changes that can indicate problems and to make sure that your hormones are optimally balanced right before a competition.
How does the ZRT Wellness Metrics Suite Help Athletes?
Whether you are assessing your overall health, starting your fitness journey or training for competition, it's important to monitor hormonal and metabolic wellness.
Combining the strengths of several test panels into one, at less cost and a more comprehensive lab report. The Wellness Metrics Suite combines these smaller test profiles. You can order any of these profiles for ongoing monitoring if you believe you have preconditions in their test spectrum:
- CardioMetabolic Profile: CardioMetabolic Profile is a comprehensive subset merged into the Wellness Metrics Suite.
Measures: Insulin, High Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (hsCRP), Glycated Hemoglobin (hbA1C), Triglyceride (TG), Total Cholesterol (CH), High-density lipoprotein (HDL), low-density lipoprotein (LDL), Very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL).
Allows early detection of major indicators associated with metabolic/insulin resistance syndrome. Used as a screening profile to reduce the overall risk of type 2 diabetes and Cardiovascular disease (CVD).
- Vitamin D Sunshine Profile: has been incorporated into the Wellness Metrics Suite.
Measures: 25-OH D2, 25-OH D3, Total Vitamin D (Calcifediol, also known as calcidiol, 25-hydroxycholecalciferol, or 25-hydroxyvitamin D3)
Vitamin D deficiency can lead to a variety of problems including hypertension, joint pain, muscle weakness and even heart disease and stroke. This test measures both the biologically active (D3) and supplemented (D2) forms.
Tracking Hormones to Aid in Your Ability to Compete
The latest trend is tracking your fitness routines using either a wristband device or your cellphone with downloaded apps. These emerging technologies are getting sophisticated enough to track up to a dozen levels of your body's response levels during exercise.
These devices or apps keep historical track of your rate of breath, heart rate, blood oxygen levels, total distance, weight, food intake in calorie, carbohydrates, fat, sugar, supplements.
While fitness trackers haven’t (yet) evolved to the point that they can give insight into hormone levels, that doesn’t mean you cannot track them. The bigger question, though, is why track them? What benefits does knowing that your testosterone is lower than it should be, or that your menstrual cycle will be starting in a few days deliver?
The reality is, because every system in the body is interconnected and interrelated, what affects one system spills over to others.
Hormone tracking allows both casual athletes and elite athletes to drill down into hormone levels, make connections between symptoms and performance effects, and then arrive at data-driven decisions.
A good example is Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). It's estimated that as many as 3 of every 4 menstruating women have experienced some form of premenstrual syndrome and includes symptoms that can make everyday life challenging, much less reaching a personal best in your fitness routine.
Tracking hormone changes over time can provide enough information to tailor a fitness regimen to your monthly cycle, and then adapt as that cycle changes.
For instance, during the follicular phase of a woman’s cycle, estrogen peaks, which means she will likely see improvements in both endurance and strength.
It can also affect the metabolism, and she may see more fat burning during this time. Contrast that with the luteal phase of the cycle, which sees high levels of both progesterone and estrogen, but high levels of progesterone often spell performance problems for female athletes.
It’s also important to understand that while hormones affect performance, physical exertion also affects hormones. For instance, exercise increases levels of testosterone, growth hormone, prolactin, and cortisol. However, the spike in luteinizing hormone doesn’t occur until after the workout, during the rest period. It’s also been noted that follicular stimulating hormone and thyroid-stimulating hormone are unaffected by exercise.
How Does Overtraining Syndrome (OTS) Affect Hormones?
Another important reason to track hormones is to avoid what’s called ‘overtraining syndrome’ (OTS). This occurs when the body is unable to return to homeostasis and usually happens because you’ve been training too much and resting too little.
Initially, OTS presents with symptoms like fatigue and decreased performance. However, if your recovery period is insufficient, OTS can lead to serious physiological changes in the body that require long periods from which to recover.
Important hormones to track to avoid OTS include estradiol and testosterone. Growth hormone is another important marker to measure. Catecholamines and vitamin D levels are also important markers.
Overtraining syndrome can lead to decreased sperm quality in men, low estrogen and menstrual disorders in women, muscle mass loss for both, and numerous other conditions.
Delving Deeper with Testing
Hormone testing allows you to customize your training program to your unique needs and goals.
It’s about more than mere personalization – it’s about identifying potentially dangerous imbalances and ensuring that your body has the optimum recovery period.
Metrics Hormone Testing Plan for Beginner, Moderate, and Advanced Training
Taking control of your fitness health surrounding hormone imbalances is simpler than ever. Regular tracking of hormone levels through regular testing ensures your safety and can help to achieve your best performance.
Use this image to help determine which ZRT Wellness Metrics Suite test profile you need and with which add-ons.
- Step 1: Start by selecting the a test profile appropriate for your level of training.
- ZRT Wellness Metrics Profile, for just starting to look at getting well
- ZRT Fitness Metrics Profile, for beginner to moderate training
- ZRT Elite Athlete Metrics Profile for the advanced training athlete.
- Step 2: Take the test to establish the starting hormone baseline at the onset of your plan. Consider developing your plan alongside:
- a licensed health care provider for medical conditions, especially for severe "out of normal range" results
- or a health care consultant for nutrition and supplements that will support your results
- Consider working with a fitness trainer or healthcare professional to create a training plan suited to your needs, goals, and body.
- Make sure to support your performance with a healthy eating plan.
- Step 3: Develop a plan based on your lab test results, establishing a one-year or more outlook.
- Be diligent to address the risk factors you can, such as work stress, poor diet, lack of sleep.
- Keep logs of your intakes, and daily routines related to your hormone test results.
- Step 4: Actively working on your plan, take the same test again, on the basis of your competitive events schedule, or take a smaller panel that test specific areas of concern to determine your progress.
ZRT Fitness Metrics Profile
includes: Fitness Metrics Profile – E2, Pg, T, DS, C, SHBG, TSH, Vitamin D, TG, CH, LDL, HDL & VLDL (blood spot)
Optional add-ons: fT3, fT4, TPOab, Insulin, HbA1c, hsCRP, LH (blood spot)
ZRT Elite Athlete Metrics Profile
includes: Elite Athlete Metrics Profile – E2, Pg, T, DS & Cx4 (saliva); TSH, fT3, fT4, TPOab, & Vitamin D (blood spot)
Optional add-ons: Insulin, HbA1c hsCRP, TG, CH, LDL, HDL, VLDL, LH (blood spot)
 Dr. Zane Hauck, "How Your Hormones Affect Athletic Performance and Why You Need to Start Testing", ZRT Laboratory, 31 Jan 2020, https://www.zrtlab.com/blog/archive/how-your-hormones-affect-athletic-performance/
 Gawel, M J, et al. “Exercise and Hormonal Secretion.” Postgraduate Medical Journal, BMJ Group, June 1979, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2425585/.