How To Hack Your Hormones
Hormones are interesting because they often form a “mediational” pathway which starts as (1) biological route (such as ovulation or exercise) creating a hormone release, to (2) Psychological motivation (to increase sexual attractiveness or seek dominance), to (3) A behavior (to act sexy or flirt or exhibit dominant postures).
While hormones do not make people act in a certain way, they do guide people to make certain decisions and, usually, over the long course, their small effects tend to create our overall behavior and hence our personality.
Throughout this article, I plan to show you just how men’s and women’s hormones play on our behavior and what we can do to change them to make our life easier, more successful, and more pleasant.
A Primer On Behavior and Hormones
The primary sex hormone for men is testosterone, and for women, it is estrogen.
My contention, as I will explain, is that women’s power comes not from testosterone and dominance, but from estrogen and submission, and that men’s power, as expected, does indeed come from testosterone and dominance.
Women and men have some latitude in both regards, but keying in on our strengths will lead to greater overall success.
Studies have shown various ways that men and women can take advantage of their hormones, but in ways that are a little less obvious that it would appear on the surface.
As we work through the various themes, please bear with me, as hormones are small in size, but produce complicated results!
Doing The Amy Cuddy ‘Wonder Women’ Posture
Amy Cuddy and her associates published a paper where it was found that by ‘power posing’, that is, taking on an expansive posture by placing the hands on the hips, expanding the chest and tilting the head up, that testosterone levels were boosted while the stress hormone cortisol simultaneously decreased (1). Both good things right, but it turns out that it probably doesn’t tell the entire store.
She jumbled men and women together in her study which likely resulted in confounded results. Another study showed that by making a fist, men, but not women, feel more powerful (2). In another study, published before Cuddy, showed that men who stood upright rated their performance with more confidence than did women, and went on to perform better on future tasks (3). In other words, the women in this study actually performed more poorly and felt worse after ‘power posing.’
It is therefore my contention that power posing is not a good idea for women, at least not in the same way that it is for men.
From everything I’ve come to understand about nonverbal communication, dominance is more practical for men in achieving status, whereas submissiveness is more practical for women.
How Women Can Really Hack Hormones
In an experiment, 18 professional lap dancers were followed over the course of 60 days and 5300 lap dances (4). They were also tracked for their ovulation cycle. It turns out that there was a significant difference between those taking hormonal contraceptives and those cycling naturally.
Normal cycling women out earned the ‘pill users’ by $80 per shift. The normal cycling women earned $276 versus $193 in the pill users. The normal cycling women also earned much more in their fertile phase ($350) than their non-fertile phase ($260) as well as their menstrual phase ($157). Interestingly, at virtually no point during the month did the women on hormonal contraceptives out-earn those cycling naturally.
What does this tell us? It tells us that by cycling normally, women have an earnings advantage over those messing with their hormones (at least with respect to exotic dancing)!
Okay, but what does it mean for regular women?
The Benefits Of Hacking Normal Female Hormones
The lap dancing study just mentioned did not specifically examine the cause of the difference in earnings, but other studies have found significant changes that occur during ovulation and in a natural menstrual cycle.
Women nearing ovulation feel more attractive and desirable, act more flirtatious, put more effort into style and make-up (which is judged to be of better quality), wear more ornamentation including jewelry, wear more revealing clothing including the color red (as well as warmer colors), show more skin, tend to take part in more social events, and seek men more often. They also report higher sexual desire and walk more feminine.
Women also have improved body symmetry, as well as a more attractive waist-to-hip ratio, facial skin tone, voice pitch, a more attractive face (an ovulating face with a rounder appearance) which is rated more healthy, sexy, sociable, trustworthy, young and likeable than the non-ovulating condition. They are also judged to smell better than when not ovulating (full citation here: http://bodylanguageproject.com/articles/part-i-40-signals-that-a-woman-is-sexually-fertile-how-high-fertility-around-ovulation-affects-nonverbal-behaviour/).
The net effect is that women feel more attractive and desirable – likely, because, they actually are more desirable.
It is this desirability that gives women a natural advantage over other women as well as in their influence against other people, men included, as they seek success.
Natural hormones in women also lead to more prosocial behaviour including flirtatiousness and submissiveness and overall warmth including a plethora of nonverbal signals. Although, women do tend to become more catty and critical of other women and tend to rate their attractiveness higher during ovulation, this speaks to their desire for competition and their felt confidence.
Research bears this out. In one study, women’s estradiol levels were measured and recorded in light of their ‘power motivation.’ (5) They found that the primary factor for power, was a women’s level of estradiol which peak during perceived power. In other words, the women with the highest estradiol also scored higher on the power scale. Interestingly, women not in committed relationships also tended to score higher. Presumably this also lowers the overall power motive because women in relationships aren’t competing with other women for the dominant men.
However, the key finding, as always, was that women taking oral contraceptives scored much below those cycling normally. The paper concludes, as I do, by suggesting that women’s power comes not from high testosterone, but from high estrogen and to game high estrogen, one should kick artificial hormones.
Advice For Women
‘The pill’ has often been dubbed the “divorce drug” – and for good reason. It handicaps women, not only against the relative attractiveness and constructive behavioural qualities of other naturally cycling women, but also by dulling their own natural urges and desires. The pill tricks women’s bodies into thinking that they are always pregnant through the artificial addition of (exogenous) estrogen and progesterone. It serves to flatten out moods, but also reduces feminine qualities of attractiveness and also perceived attractiveness – a source of female power. In other words, if the body thinks it’s already pregnant, it operates on an entirely different level!
Women at around ovulation tend to spike in preferences for masculinity in men and will prefer men with dominant characteristics including face shape, body size and even masculine scent. This might seem unimportant, but if women are to have positive constructive long-term relationships with men, hormones that are conducive to matching women’s desires, with maleness and men, is highly important. In fact, it is just as important, as we will see, that men have dominance via testosterone dependent characteristics to appreciate the femaleness of women.
So the advice I give women to hack hormones, is to key into natural femininity by avoiding unnatural hormones. Seek alternative forms of birth control such as condoms. In committed relationships (it can’t protect against STI’s), a copper IUD (non hormonal) has been shown to be as effective as having the tubs tied.
How Men Can Hack Hormones
Men can hack their hormones in a much more proactive way. It turns out evolution has favoured and rewarded men, who, rather than passively wait for offers from the opposite sex, and the world, take charge and claim them.
Boosting testosterone is key to achieving dominance for men and dominance will afford men first rights to women and the resources necessary to attract them.
As already mentioned, using dominant expansive postures such as keeping the chest erect, arms akimbo, and chin held high are few ways that the body will naturally spike testosterone. Any way that the body can use space should trigger a sense of power including tossing an arm over the chair next to you or even use ‘non-reciprocal’ touching (touching that is not given back) on other men.
Men have also been shown to benefit, unlike women, from dominance competition such as competitive sports – but only if you win. At least one recent study, however, has challenged this idea (6) After winning events, men have been found to have a spike in testosterone. Men also benefit from low rep, high intensity, high weight training lasting less than 45 minutes. Longer exercise serves to increase stress released cortisol which diminishes the testosterone effect. Stick to the big muscles lifts like squats, bench press, chin ups, shoulder press and sprinting, and away from long-distance running and endurance. Also, keep a lean body mass.
Making sure you have enough zinc, vitamin D (from the sun) and good cholesterol such as that from eggs, avocados, and nuts after exercise and especially before bed. This will give your body the right ingredients to make testosterone. Avoid sugar, as the spike leads to an insulin response affecting the testosterone response. The advice is the same for men as it is for women, keep overall stress down as cortisol blocks the effects of testosterone. Do experiment with intermittent fasting as this has been shown to help in the production of testosterone. Avoid alcohol as much as possible – it also interferes with sleep quality, not to mention overall health.
Having enough sleep is also very important as testosterone is made during deep REM. Most testosterone is made in the early hours which is why men with normal amounts of testosterone end up with morning erections. Naturally, sleep deprivation leads to a drop in testosterone. Both men and women also seem to benefit from having sex at least once a week, but it is likely that having it more often leads to higher testosterone production.
Being near attractive available women also seems to boost testosterone.
Keep in mind that testosterone is highest in the morning and diminishes to their lowest levels late at night. Having sex pre-noon, is a great idea!
Finally, looking at sexual images, as does the anticipation of sex (in both men and women) does temporarily boost blood testosterone levels but a more profound effect comes from sexual abstinence. While masturbation does not lead to a noticeable decrease in testosterone, abstaining for 6 days leads to a seventh day spike of 46% (7). Also, long periods of abstinence creates greater arousal increasing drive and ultimately satisfaction during sex (8).
Furthermore, research has shown that when men see women who act pro-socially (flirty or available), even on video, rate their current partners as less attractive (9). While this may seem benign, imagine the long term effects of looking at pornography on male desire. In the long run, it diminishes the perceived attractiveness of real life women making the overall presence of women far less enjoyable. In other words, our minds were not designed to be subjected to thousands of attractive women. So, consider hacking your sexual desire by abstaining from masturbation and porn.
Why Men Should Hack Their Hormones
Boosting testosterone will also boost dominance in a cause and effect relationship. It will make men take up more space naturally, feel better, increase libido and well being.
Men who are deficient in testosterone due to age or health, frequently suffer from low mood, various physical paints and ailments, loss or low sex drive, loss of muscles mass and gain fat, loss of ambition, less desire to take risks, even a loss of passion for things they used to find enjoyable.
In many cases, a sever drop in testosterone can lead to severe depression.
Men Versus Women And Overall Conclusions
Women have not been shown to be as easily able to modify their testosterone levels proactively, though they do get a spike near ovulation as well as when around attractive men or when they anticipate being near their partners after a long absence (10). In one study, exercise and anticipation for competition also boosted testosterone, but again, testosterone is not the dominant sexual hormone, and as I have argued, and for good reason (11).
However, long term training does boost muscle and possibly raises testosterone from their base level, still, women’s levels of testosterone are 3-7 times lower than that of men. The result of high estrogen and low testosterone makes women more feminine and desirable, playing directly into their strength. However, women, like men, can put to use the testosterone they do make by reducing cortisol. The hormone is created through stress and works as an antigen against testosterone and its positive effects.
Thankfully, like men, women seem to only need a specific and finite level of testosterone to function normally.
In men and women, testosterone, with respect to sexual drive works on threshold. As long as it reaches the baseline level in men and women respectively, sexual drive and normal behavior ensues. Artificially raising testosterone, while creating raw muscle mass, only serves to create irritability, which often results in aggression.
It should be noted that men and women both make testosterone in different parts of their body. Men primarily produce it in their testes and to a lesser extent in their adrenal glands and women produce it in their adrenal glands and to a lesser extend in their ovaries. Estrogen, on the other hand is produced in the ovaries. Seeing as how men and women produce testosterone in different parts of their body, it is unlikely that they work similarly in each gender.
Hopefully, I have successfully illustrated my point of view; gaming our biological hormones, in gender-consistent ways, leads to positive outcomes for both men and women respectively. At normal and natural levels, the hormones of men and women create positive effects. Boosting their levels, or normalizing them when out of sync with what nature intended, produces positive behaviours and outcomes.
Christopher Philip is author and creator of www.BodyLanguageProject.com. Visit the site to read the free online book The Only Book On Body Language That Everybody Needs To Read. Body Language Project is the world’s most comprehensive source for body language.
Image Credit: MattysFlicks
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