Season 7, Episode 6: The Hormone of Darkness

July 14, 2018

This week Sue and Meagan are learning all about hormones and how they affect the body, and we might even talk about running!

Full Show Notes and Resources:

What are hormones?

Cortisol - stress hormone that controls your mood, motivation, and fear (known for your body’s fight or flight response), also affects how your body metabolizes food, keeps inflammation down, regulates blood pressure, and controls your body’s sleep/wake cycles, can also boost energy. Cortisol can shut down bodily functions that aren’t necessary when your body is having a crisis of some kind (like shutting down menstruation when energy supply is chronically low). Having too much cortisol in your body for too long can have serious negative effects on the body like anxiety, depression, memory problems, trouble sleeping, and weight gain.

Adrenaline - another stress hormone that is secreted in times of crisis. In response to a threat, adrenaline stimulates the heart to beat faster and harder, increases alertness, increases blood flow to the muscles, and decreases the pain response. Excessively high levels of adrenaline due to stress without actual threat of danger can cause heart damage, insomnia, and a jittery, nervous feeling.

Estrogen - Estrogen, or oestrogen, is the primary female sex hormone. It is responsible for the development and regulation of the female reproductive system and secondary sex characteristics. Estrogen also affects metabolism, hunger, and fat storage - which is why changes in estrogen throughout the menstrual cycle can affect your hunger, food intake, and weight gain. Estrogen blunts hunger, so you may feel less hungry at times in your cycle when estrogen is high, like the week before ovulation. It also plays a role in bone formation and muscle protein synthesis.

Progesterone - another female sex hormone that is involved with ovulation and pregnancy. It also affects metabolism, skin health, mood, bone strength, body temperature, inflammation and immune response. Progesterone can have a dramatic effect on mood - when progesterone levels drop before the start of the next menstrual cycle, that is when many women experience sharp changes in mood and heightened irritability (one known characteristic of PMS). Progesterone increases hunger - watch out for hunger when progesterone peaks the week after ovulation.

Testosterone - the main male sex hormone that is also present in women. It is an anabolic steroid - which means it promotes muscle growth. Testosterone usually stays pretty low in women, but we do get a small surge in testosterone around the middle of our cycle. Testosterone enhances libido, so that is something else you might notice in the days around ovulation.

Growth Hormone - stimulates growth, cell reproduction, and cell regeneration in humans - because of its ability to promote muscle growth and fat loss, it is used exogenously by bodybuilders, but it is a hormone that all humans produce naturally. Growth hormone is secreted in pulses throughout the day - with a big surge of it coming just before you wake up in the morning. Fasting and vigorous exercise both increase growth hormone, while eating food decreases it.

Erythropoietin (EPO) - is an essential hormone for red blood cell production and has been shown to dramatically improve athletic cardiovascular performance. EPO doping has been used by endurance athletes to boost performance illegally, but training at altitude can have similar effects on the body because the lower oxygen levels at altitude can boost natural EPO and red blood cell production.

Insulin - regulates blood sugar levels in the body. When you eat food, insulin is secreted to promote the storage of glucose in your liver, muscles, and fat. The glucose goes to the liver first and is stored as glycogen, and once that’s filled, goes to the muscles and again stored as glycogen, and any remaining glucose is stored in the fat cells as fat. Carbohydrates, protein, and fat all raise insulin levels in the blood, but to varying degrees - carbohydrates increase insulin the most, and fat increases insulin the least.

Glucagon - the fat-burning hormone. When insulin levels are low, glucagon increases and stored energy (in the form of fat and glycogen) is used to fuel the body. Fasting increases glucagon, and eating suppresses it. You can’t burn your fat for fuel if your insulin is always high, which is why people who are insulin-resistant - like those with diabetes - have a hard time losing bodyfat.

Ghrelin - called the hunger hormone because of its role in regulation of appetite. When ghrelin is high, appetite increases, as does food intake.

Leptin - the satiety hormone, when ghrelin is high, leptin is low and vice-versa. When leptin increases, the desire to eat decreases. People who are leptin-resistant (usually obese people) have difficulty feeling “full” or satisfied after eating, despite high levels of leptin (I think I had some degree of leptin-resistance)

Melatonin - a hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness. Melatonin is involved in the synchronization of the circadian rhythms including sleep-wake timing, blood pressure regulation, and seasonal reproduction. Known as "the hormone of darkness", the onset of melatonin at dusk promotes activity in nocturnal (night-active) animals and sleep in diurnal ones including humans. This is why it’s recommended to sleep in a darkened room (the absence of light helps to promote release of melatonin). During the night, melatonin regulates leptin, lowering its levels.

Vitamin D - known as a vitamin, but it is a hormone the kidneys produce that controls blood calcium concentration and impacts the immune system. Only a few foods contain vitamin D (such as mushrooms, egg yolk, or fatty fish). The major natural source of the vitamin is synthesis of cholecalciferol in the skin from cholesterol through a chemical reaction that is dependent on sun exposure. Synthesis of vitamin D in nature is dependent on the presence of UV radiation and subsequent activation in liver and in kidney. Vitamin D has a significant role in calcium homeostasis and metabolism. Vitamin D is necessary for bone mineralization, which should be important to any athlete (you can’t perform with a broken bone!) Additionally, VItamin D also has been shown to enhance muscle synthesis.

Season 7, Episode 5: It’s Happening

June 23, 2018

This week Meagan and Sue are going in depth on nutrition and strength training, and giving some tips and tricks for fat loss and muscle growth. 

Full Show Notes and Resources:

Always consult your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise routine

Diet protocols: IIFYM (If it fits your macros), Paleo, Keto, Vegan/vegetarian, Carnivore, LeanGains, Intuitive eating, or just plain old calorie counting, etc. There are ways to optimize virtually any diet, as long as you’re getting a minimum amount of protein & lifting

Boosting fat loss: substituting water for all beverages (especially cold water), adding in cardio (has diminishing returns but can be helpful), intermittent fasting, meal timing for insulin sensitivity (higher carb foods in morning when sensitivity is highest, lower carb foods in the evening), carb cycling based on workouts (because insulin sensitivity is higher after workout), green tea been shown to increase fat burning by as much as 33%, cold showers to boost brown adipose tissue (fat burning in stomach area), vibration therapy

Boosting muscle synthesis: protein timing (spread out throughout the day, about 20-40g per meal, Vitamin D & sun exposure promotes muscle synthesis, heat shock proteins improve muscle synthesis (sauna post-workout, heat exposure), SLEEP is imperative - muscles are broken down in the gym and re-built while you sleep - aim for at least 8 hours every night, post-workout massage has been shown to be effective treatment for DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), creatine has been shown to be effective and safe supplement for lifting performance - have to take it every day to see results, intermittent fasting has been shown to boost natural levels of human growth hormone

Weight plateaus: Check your current TDEE, check your menstrual cycle (water retention occurs during ovulation and again before menstruation), weight lifting can also cause water retention as does carbohydrate intake and salt intake. Increase in activity? Are you sleeping enough? Drinking enough water? Are you taking measurements, how are clothes fitting? Are you taking progress photos? Remember weight loss is not linear. You will have ups and downs, even while following a nutrition plan to the letter - there is a woosh effect, especially true for women! Check out the Libra app to see how weight trends over time.

Lifting routines:

  • Get a trainer if possible to show you the lifts and proper form
  • Learn the major compound lifts: Squats, Deadlifts, Bench press, Overhead press with barbells
  • Accessory work for hypertrophy (bigger muscles) - machines, dumbbells, bodyweight, kettlebells, etc
  • Beginner routines: Starting Strength, StrongLifts, Ketogains, Thinner Leaner Stronger, Strong Curves
  • Full body routines can be done 3x per week with rest day between each workout for beginners
  • Bodypart splits for intermediate lifters: Push-Pull-Legs (PPL, Day 1: Push, Day 2: Pull, Day 3: Legs, Day 4: Rest, repeat) or Upper-Lower Splits (Day 1: Upper, Day 2: Lower, Day 3: Rest, repeat)
  • Hit each muscle group at least twice per week, 4-5 sets of 3-5 reps on compound lifts, 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps for accessory work, Rest for 3-5 minutes for compound lifts, 1-3 minutes for accessory lifts
  • Rest is just as important to lifting as it is to running - it is during the rest period when the muscles grow!

Season 7, Episode 4: That Time of the Year

June 10, 2018

This week Sue and Meagan are talking about nutrition and weight management: how to lose weight, how to gain weight, and how to accomplish body recomposition.

Listen now: Episode 4: That Time of the Year

Full Show Notes

Weight Management - Basics of CICO

Always consult your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise routine

What are macros? Macronutrients: Protein, Fat, and Carbohydrate that give your body fuel to stay alive and for activity. Calories are the units of measurement for the energy supplied. One gram of protein supplies 4kcal of energy, as does carbohydrate. Fat supplies 9kcal of energy. Alcohol is kind of a 4th macronutrient - it has calories but isn’t really a usable fuel source. Alcohol has been shown to inhibit both fat loss and muscle growth because when the body processes alcohol, it can’t burn fat or synthesize muscle at the same time.

  • Figure out your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) based on BW + activity level

How? Use an online calculator, use a fitness monitor, get a DEXA scan

  • To lose weight: eat at a caloric deficit

    • One pound of fat = about 3500kcal, so to burn one pound of fat per week, eat 500 cal under TDEE
    • Lifting weights will help to retain muscle on a deficit
    • Aim for about 1 gram protein per pound of body weight to prevent muscle loss
    • Fill the rest of calories with fat and carbohydrate to your preference
  • To gain weight (muscle mass)  - eat at a caloric surplus & lift weights

    • For women, muscle grows much more slowly than for men, about 1 lb per month under ideal conditions
    • You will not get bulky, but will get fit & toned 
    • To limit fat gain, keep your caloric surplus minimal - about 150-300 calories above TDEE
    • Again, aim for about 1 gram protein per pound of body weight to maintain muscle
    • Some people like to increase protein, and is generally safe to do up to 2g protein per pound of body weight, although studies show extra protein may or may not be beneficial (eating more protein than needed may not put on more muscle, but it may be more satiating than carbs or fats) - protein also has a higher thermic effect than carbs or fat (it takes more energy to burn the protein, depending on what type of protein you eat)
  • To recomp (body recomposition) - gradual increase of muscle and decrease of fat at the same body weight

    • Eat at TDEE for weight maintenance
    • Again, some form of resistance training needed to improve muscle composition
    • This is an extremely slow process
  • As your BW or activity level changes, you may need to re-estimate your TDEE

Your specific macro ratio (how many of each carbs, fats, proteins) can be tailored to your preference. As long as you are tracking what you are eating with a good app like myfitnesspal, loseit, or avatar nutrition, and measuring your food with a food scale, you should lose weight at a caloric deficit and you will gain weight at a surplus - it’s basic thermodynamics. It’s also important to remember that micronutrient density is important for optimal health. While you can lose weight on a twinkie diet, your health will probably suffer if you do so. So focus on eating nutrient-dense whole foods to support your body, and to feel good too.

Season 7, Episode 3: Not Really a Thing

May 11, 2018

Sue and Meagan are back after three months off mic, and change is in the air.

Season 7, Episode 2: The Girls Podcast

February 7, 2018

The girls are back in town! It's a new year and this week we are joined by our favorite Kentuckian, Katie, to talk about what we've been up to, our running, and our thoughts on the new year. 

Runner Girls Hotline: Fall 2017

December 1, 2017

On this edition of the Runner Girls Hotline, we get calls from Rebecca from California, and Becky from Run Becky Run. To share your run on the hotline, call our voicemail line at 207-200-3297. Thanks for listening, now go outside and run!

Season 7, Episode 1: Eat All the Things

November 4, 2017

This week Meagan runs the HiToms Home Run 5K and Sue runs the Loco Half Marathon and talk about their upcoming non-plans. 

Season 6, Episode 13: More Race for You

October 25, 2017

This week Meagan is running again, Sue is pumping iron, and we're talking about what's next for Runner Girls Podcast. 

Runner Girl Recommends:
Sue: Strong Lifts 5x5 App
Meagan: Stridebox

Runner Girl of the Week:
Marissa on Strava

Season 6, Episode 12: Like Soup

October 18, 2017

This week Sue and Meagan are joined by Evelyn from, and Sue shares her recap of the Smuttynose Rockfest Half Marathon.

Evelyn on Instagram

Runner Girl Recommends:
Meagan - Maple Pecan Latte from Starbucks
Evelyn - KetoConnect and HeadBangers Kitchen on Youtube
Sue - Smuttynose Rockfest Half Marathon

Runner Girl of the Week:
Liz M. on Strava

Season 6, Episode 11: Tuna Braces

October 2, 2017

This week Sue prepares for Rockfest, Meagan has a new plan, and we're talking about tune-up races in our coaching segment. 

Try Some Tune-Up Races on

Runner Girl Recommends:
Meagan - Make a plan
Sue - Bally Total Fitness Deep Tissue Massage Stick

Runner Girl of the Week:
Deborah on Strava