Lose weight despite hypothyroidism: Everything about the thyroid


Can you lose weight with an underactive thyroid? In today’s blog article, you will learn a lot about the thyroid gland as an organ, hypothyroidism, and hyperthyroidism, and how you can help your customers with a diagnosis! 


It is not uncommon for customers to tell us about their overactive or underactive thyroid during the consultation


At this point, as a professional fitness trainer, you should, of course, not have to ask too much about it but know the answer straight away.


In addition, customers often do everything right at first glance and according to their statements but still do not lose weight. We will find out today whether it could be due to the thyroid in this case.



Facts about the thyroid

The thyroid is located in front of the trachea and has a butterfly-like shape. The thyroid controls numerous bodily processes and serves as a hormone store. 

You can find out more about hormones in the relevant blog article (click here).


A disturbed thyroid function strongly influences somebody and organ functions. About three percent of the population in America is affected by hypothyroidism. 


That’s just under a million people. Significantly fewer have an overactive thyroid. 


In general, thyroid dysfunction is more common in women than in men, and the risk of thyroid dysfunction increases with age.


underactive thyroid


What happens with an underactive thyroid (= hypothyroidism)

In the case of hypofunction, too little triiodothyronine (T3) and L-thyroxine (T4) are formed. 


Both are hormones made by the thyroid. The thyroid and these two hormones are involved in many metabolic processes and are extremely important. 


Examples would be:


  • Development of the central nervous system
  • warmth
  • Heartbeat 
  • blood pressure 
  • glucose uptake
  • muscle functions
  • cholesterol reduction


Symptoms of an underactive thyroid  


Symptoms of an underactive thyroid

There are initially only a few or no symptoms in the case of a slight or latent hypofunction. 


However, this can also have consequences and should be treated. 


If there is a severe hormone deficiency, the symptoms or complaints become significantly stronger. 


Since the hormone deficiency affects many different functions, the possible symptoms are also very different. 


Typically not all appear. Here is a list of common symptoms:


  • fatigue
  • lack of concentration
  • muscle cramps 
  • Slower reflexes
  • worse mood
  • Lower heart rate (low blood pressure)
  • Worse cholesterol levels
  • arteriosclerosis
  • Decreased libido
  • restriction of fertility 
  • Common: Braking of metabolic activity


In this case, slowing down metabolic activity often results in weight gain without changing eating habits. You will find out what this means for us fitness trainers in the course of the blog article.


Externally, hypothyroidism can manifest itself as follows:


  • Thick Lips
  • hair loss
  • eye problems
  • skin problems


Causes of hypothyroidism


Causes of hypothyroidism

In general, the thyroid secretes hormones as follows: In the brain, the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland are responsible for controlling the production of thyroid hormones. 


The hypothalamus secretes the hormone TRH, which stimulates the pituitary gland to secrete the hormone TSH.

Building on this, the TSH triggers the production of the thyroid hormones (L-thyroxine/T4 and triiodothyronine/T3). 


As shown in the figure, the protein calcitonin is also released. However, this will not be discussed further in this context.


Errors can occur in all of these processes. This also results in the various causes of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.



Primary hypothyroidism (underactive)

The most common is the so-called primary hypothyroidism (underactive). Here the thyroid itself is affected, not the upstream processes. 


This can be congenital or acquired. In the case of congenital hypofunction, the thyroid gland is defective, absent, or hormone production is disrupted from the start. 


If the primary hypofunction is acquired in life, it usually occurs as a result of chronic thyroid inflammation



The body produces antibodies that attack its thyroid gland (autoimmune disease).



Furthermore, primary hypothyroidism can result from iodine deficiency or after treatment of an overactive thyroid gland.



If the overactive thyroid is overtreated, it can be an underactive thyroid.

In secondary and tertiary hypothyroidism, errors occur in the pituitary gland and hypothalamus. However, this case occurs much more rarely.


Diagnosis of hypothyroidism


Diagnosis of hypothyroidism

The diagnosis is, of course, made by the doctor. For this, for example, the complexion and palpation of the neck region are important. 


When palpating, he tries to assess the size and condition of the thyroid gland. 


A blood sample is then taken to determine the TSH value. 


From this, it can be concluded how much the thyroid must be stimulated to produce enough hormones. If the thyroid gland is underactive, the TSH concentration would be increased.



As a reminder, TSH triggers the production of the thyroid hormones (L-thyroxine/T4 and triiodothyronine/T3)


So if more TSH than normal is needed to produce enough T3 or T4, one can conclude that the thyroid gland is underactive.



An ultrasound scan is also done, which gives a more accurate picture of the shape and size of the thyroid gland.




Treatment of hypothyroidism

Once hypothyroidism is identified and diagnosed, replacement therapy is initiated. That means you usually take hormone pills for life. 


That sounds worse because if dosed correctly, the quality of life is no longer restricted, and it is very easy to live with hypothyroidism.


If you recognize the thyroid function too late, possible consequential damage could already have occurred.


L-thyroxine (T4) in drug form is used for replacement therapy. Accordingly, this has a similar mode of action and replaces the body’s own hormones. The body can then also partially convert it into T3.



Since it is still unclear where the acquired hypofunction comes from in the course of the autoimmune disease (antibodies attack the thyroid gland), it cannot be prevented in this case.


Hypofunction acquired through iodine deficiency can be prevented by a diet rich in iodine in the form of iodized table salt and fish. 




As already mentioned, hyperthyroidism is less common and is the opposite of hypofunction


In this case, the thyroid produces too many hormones, and the metabolic processes are accelerated.


Here, too, the symptoms are varied. Possible symptoms are:


  • mood swings
  • Excessive sweating
  • Weight loss despite high-calorie intake
  • cravings
  • eye problems




There are various reasons for this as well. Often, however, autoimmune disease is behind it. 



The treatment is mostly drug-based. However, in contrast to hypofunction, the drugs can often be discontinued again. If the medication doesn’t work, an operation is performed.


If hypothyroidism is detected too late, this can promote cardiac insufficiency or osteoporosis.


lose weight with an underactive thyroid


Is it possible to lose weight with an underactive thyroid?

Whether you can lose weight with an underactive thyroid is an important question for us fitness trainers. Since the metabolism runs slower in hypofunction, weight problems are more common. 


The basal turnover decreases in this case. In addition, it can happen that with an underactive thyroid gland, more water is stored.


But don’t worry: of course, you can still lose weight with an underactive thyroid and lose the weight gained through the underactive thyroid again. It is important to discuss medication intake with your doctor. 


Over time, the hormonal balance adjusts, and losing weight becomes easier again.


But don’t worry: it is, of course, still possible to lose weight and lose the weight gained through hypofunction. It is important to discuss medication intake with your doctor. 


Over time, the hormonal balance adjusts, and losing weight becomes easier again.


In addition, of course, nutritional education and targeted strength training make sense. 


Training large muscle groups (e.g., full-body training) increases calorie consumption.


As a fitness trainer, if you have a customer with an underactive thyroid in front of you, it is important to make it clear to him not to be too impatient. 


Once the hypofunction has been recognized and the medication started, it takes a certain amount of time for the hormonal change. It’s also important to emphasize strength training for long-term weight loss success.



In the case of hyperfunction, the weight levels off on its own with the right medication and normal eating habits. 


However, there is nothing to be said against nutritional tips, and strength training is always an advantage anyway.


Exotic New Vegetables



Of course, not everyone who is struggling to lose weight has hypothyroidism. 


But in fact: A subfunction can be the reason for lack of success in losing weight! 


If you have the feeling that you are not losing weight despite an increased calorie deficit and a well-thought-out training plan, it cannot hurt to be examined for hypothyroidism.


If hypothyroidism is not present, then the other, and more likely, factors need to be monitored more closely. 


Examples include calorie intake, exercise, and sleep. You can find everything about sleep in the associated blog article (click here)!