12. Stress will kill your Gains
There is already ample scientific evidence to suggest that the constant stress of our modern 21st century lifestyles are killing us. If that isn’t bad enough , it is also making us fat! All is not lost however. We will look at how we can balance our primary stress hormone , Cortisol, and get our bodies back to a healthy and lean state. First a little background on Cortisol and what it does in your body.
Cortisol is an essential hormone manufactured in times of stress to liberate stored glucose and fatty acids for energy. Cortisol levels naturally fluctuate throughout the day, being high first thing in the morning to give you a burst of energy to start the day and then it gradually drops down low at night to allow you to nod off. Due to our busy work schedules, our dependence on coffee and the general compexity of living in the 21st century most people’s cortisol release patterns are the opposite of how they should be. This contributes to being tired in the morning while being wide awke at bed time. Sound familiar?
Another thing we need to be mindful of is Cortisol’s interactions with Insulin. Cortisol and insulin block the action of each other by decreasing the sensitivity of their respective receptors. This means that over-eating is not the only way to become insulin resistant; stress can do it too. As a physique coach over the years I’ve noticed that some of the competitors deemed “too simple to worry about life” seemed to make stunningly fast progress while the faster thinking/worrying types struggled to lose fat even when ticking all the right boxes.
On a practical level this translates to 2 very simple behaviours
- The less you stress the faster you drop fat
- If you do stress, then reward yourself with extra food (binge eating), there is a good chance most of those calories will be stored.
Instead of binge eating go do some exercise to release some feel-good endorphins, followed by a sensible meal. Two steps forward/1 step forward works better than 1 step back….stop sabotaging yourself.
If that wasn’t enough, High cortisol levels also interfere with conversion of storage T4 thyroid hormone into your active t3 thyroid hormones. This translates into a having a sluggish metabolism with slow recovery rates and minimal fat loss. So that’s the bad news, the good news is that with some effort you can reduce Cortisol back down to beneficial levels.
Reducing Stress can be accomplished by actively increasing these activities in your weekly schedule. In no particular order
- Laughter/comedy routines/ funny movies
- Cut back on coffee
- Time with pets
- Adrenal Reset with Ashwaganda
- Time in nature
- Nude Twister (requires 2 or more participants)
The Benefits of all the activities above spread well beyond assisting your fat burning efforts. Try and squeeze at least 4 of these activities in each day.