Quit Stressing, It’s Making You Fat!
Alright, here it is. This is one thing you NEED to know about with any fatloss efforts.
We are going to break down the science of Cortisol, what it is and what the stress response is to help you gain a better understanding of what to do to counteract high stress levels.
What is Cortisol?
Cortisol is a hormone that is released in response to stress. It Governs Hunger, cravings, digestion, blood pressure, sleep wake cycle, physical activity and capacity to cope with stress.
It belongs to the glucocorticoid family, this means it can raise your blood glucose. This is it’s main function, thereby providing energy to the body.
What sets off the cortisol response?
Any form of perceived stress can set off a cortisol burst. Originally we were programmed to receive a hit of cortisol in the morning, around the time we awoke, this would get us up and about and started on our day. Cortisol would slowly taper off through out the day as we wound down into the evening. The only reason more cortisol would be unleashed is if we found ourselves to be in a stressful situation, such as an encounter with a wild animal, or running out of food.
In modern times cortisol may be released continuously throughout the day, the reason for this, is that the response to stress is exactly the same be it from a physical problem such as infection, an accident, a food intolerance, prolonged cardio, or the response could trigger from an emotional/mental issue such as having a argument with your friend, running late for work, being stuck in traffic.
The key that matters with our emotional response to stress is how we perceive it. Take for example 2 people stuck in traffic. One could be running late for work, the other simply listening to their favourite radio station. Or two people watching a horror movie, one could be freaking the fuck out releasing tidal waves of cortisol, whilst the other sits calmly beside them.
Our perception to different situations creates the level of stress response we receive. The good news is this is almost completely up to you in the way you deal with and handle situations. The more worked up you get about things, the more cortisol you produce and the more stressed you become, leading to a nasty cycle.
The Cortisol Connection – How it reacts with our body.
As mentioned earlier cortisol is made to get you to react to stressful situations, allowing you to get away from danger or fend it off.
Our eyes will dilate, allowing us to take in more info, our blood pressure and heart rate will increase improving blood flow to the working muscles, our digestive capabilities will slow down as they are deemed unnecessary.
How Does High Cortisol Hinder Fat Loss?
Increases appetite, this is due to the demand for higher glucose, due to the presence of stress. This incites sugar cravings, so you have more fuel for stressful situations.
Decrease in muscular mass, cortisol, takes glycogen from the muscle along with amino acids and fats to try to make glucose, it does this by breaking down muscle tissue to free up amino acids to convert to glucose. Higher levels of muscle mass fuel a higher metabolism.
Cortisol will break down fat, however it will primarily do this from your extremities, it will increase visceral (abdominal) fat.
Decreases secretory IGA, this is your bodies first line of defense against infection through the gut lining. This means a weakened immune system often leading to infection and therefore higher levels of cortisol creating a negative feedback loop.
The above examples are just some of the ways in which cortisol will reduce your ability to effectively lose fat.
How Can I Keep It Down?
Find those stressful situations recognise them for what they are and find a way to better deal with and manage them.
Practice yoga or meditation, these have both been shown to reduce the cortisol response in studies.
Supplement daily with 2-4g of Vitamin C.