Excessive Cortisol – Why it destroys our weight loss and muscle building potential

Cortisol has its good and debilitating points — when it comes to our bodies. We all need a certain level of stress in our lives; it’s something we can’t escape or avoid. When it gets to a certain amount and causes many negative issues, we need to pull back to discover the root cause. Considering the worldwide pandemic, working longer hours and deadlines coming at us from every direction can all become a huge problem. Most of us cover the surface of this by consuming more coffee, perhaps adding alcohol or any other stimulus to the list. Pushing ourselves above and beyond our capacity in the gym is another challenge as well. If you combine these situations in a person, you have a recipe for disastrous health complications. Stressors from all aspects of our lives cause damage because our bodies are constantly in survival mode. This situation makes it extremely difficult to lose weight, train harder, or even put on muscle mass. It also has a profound effect on your mental health — which is quite troublesome in our world today. 

How to fight the effects of cortisol and regain control of your physique

Unfortunately, cortisol is catabolic, inhibiting protein syntheses, making it harder to build muscle. Muscle is also a lot more susceptible to being burnt as energy when under stress. Imagine putting on weight and losing muscle mass — it’s a recipe for weight gain.The best plan of action is to have a nutrient-rich, post-workout meal. Use a good serving of carbs and protein according to your goals.It’s also a good idea to examine the stressors in your life. For example, what’s causing the most grief for you and what are some things you can do about it? Finally, I recommend some form of meditation, or a therapeutic outlet, like writing or something creative. The more you switch off, the easier it will come to halt cortisol’s adverse effects. As hard as it is not to push yourself some days, it’s essential to be aware both mentally and physically when stress gets out of control. Plan your recovery phase well. That may mean more rest, sleep, better nutrition and maybe just taking a day out for yourself. 

Stress and its effects on recovery time and injury

Microscopic tears are created in your muscle fibres when you lift weights or do aerobic exercise. When in recovery, our bodies repair the damage making muscles bigger and stronger. High cortisol levels can lead to prolonged muscle tension, reduced blood flow, and lactic acid build-up. You may also have noticed it takes longer for your body to recover from a workout. This makes muscles less elastic and limited in their movement and growth. Now, some levels of stress become anti-inflammatory and promote healing. However, chronic stress levels constantly circling your system, lowering your immunity, making you more susceptible to getting sick, and making a recovery less efficient. To improve this, use supplementation, rest, nutrition and sleep to rebalance the excess cortisol levels. 

Be aware of your cravings when stressed.

Cortisol is known to stir your appetite in the worst possible direction. Fat and sugar are triggers for dopamine in the brain, causing intense pleasure. People tend to eat to counteract negative feelings that come from stress. Sometimes, you can also trigger this with healthy food. However, exceeding your caloric limit every day on either good or bad food can still cause weight gain. I believe sometimes we shift the game psychologically so we can feel less guilty about the choice we make. Stress and exhaustion can decrease our willpower, increasing our chance of eating things we wouldn’t otherwise have. But, on the other hand, indulging too often for too long might cause us to become resistant to insulin, leading to type 2 diabetes and obesity. Plan of action; Don’t wait until you are ravenously hungry to eat. That will put you in a position to eat a lot more than you need. Using your weekend wisely to meal prep accordingly is a perfect option. Eat a nice balance of protein, carbs and fats to help your blood sugar become a lot steady during the day and eliminate the potential for any of those 3 pm slumps. A combination of stress, lack of proper nutrition, sleep, and rest can all diminish our gym efforts. I would hate for you all to put in so much effort with so few returns. We don’t have to be super perfect in planning our goals, but we must be aware of things moving towards negative returns. It’s essential to keep an eye out for any signals you experience and take the initiative to nip them in the bud before they get out of hand.

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