FACT: Human studies have demonstrated Cortisol (the body’s stress hormone) directly effects fat storage and weight gain. In a clinical environment cortisol injections, have been closely linked with increased appetite, cravings for sugar and general weight gain. So then, is all cortisol bad and how do we manage our stress levels to ensure our personal body composition goals are not hindered by excess cortisol?
In a clinical environment cortisol injections, have been closely linked with increased appetite, cravings for sugar and general weight gain.
Cortisol has gained a bad rap in recent times due to it’s links to weight gain and muscle catabolism (where the body breaks down muscle for energy), however cortisol production is an essential hormone for the body’s energy production process. BUT when it comes to cortisol, timing is critical.
If cortisol is too high for a short period of time, you may experience symptoms such as increased appetite, emotional eating, sugar cravings and water or weight gain.
If cortisol is chronically high (for an extended period of time), sometimes weeks or months, you may experience all of these symptoms and force your body into a state of adrenal exhaustion or maladaptation, whereby the body’s natural cortisol patterns are disrupted and key physical functions begin to deteriorate. Such as:
If you are in a state of cortisol conservation (a type of adrenal maladaptation) you might feel a little like this… sluggish in the morning, brain fog all day, excessively fatigued, waking up with pain that gradually reduces, needs coffee to get going, craving sugar or salt, maybe you’re a shift worker or a mum, perhaps suffering from fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue.
If you are in a state of elevated cortisol you might feel a little like this… Fluctuations of anxiety, feeling wired or agitated, suffering from feelings of sadness, or feeling “flat”, possible sleeplessness or insomnia.
The body’s natural cortisol patterns are disrupted and key physical functions begin to deteriorate.
Below is a rough sketch of what a “normal” cortisol pattern should look like. Cortisol spikes in the morning, helping to energize you & wake you up with a spring in your step. By the evening (bedtime) cortisol falls by roughly 90% into a deep trough (during sleep) where the body can perform all of its healing physical processes to fully rest and recover.
Of course, with our busy lives we can always expect some small spikes in cortisol throughout the day, but more often than not the body should have the ability to adjust back to its normal pattern. See alternative “normal stress” pattern image below.
If you are on a goal driven journey to change your body composition often these “various” stressors can build up and elevated cortisol may slow your progress. Stressors are very common and are defined as anything that may increase the release of your body’s stress hormones, ie. Cortisol, and include things such as:
These are the steps we recommend to take to reduce the impact stressors have on your cortisol levels and fitness results. The rule of thumb we like to give is to “Relax, Sleep and Nourish” your body back to its natural pattern.
1 – Relax
Deep Breathing and or Meditation have close links with reducing Cortisol, stress and anxiety. They also help with slowing the heart rate, improving immune health, improving general mood and EQ (emotional intelligence). This practise doesn’t take long and can be as simple as taking 10 deep breaths just before you nod off to sleep or taking 5-10 minutes to meditate first thing in the morning and just before bed. The most important thing is incorporating these relaxing moments into your life as a regular daily practise, especially in times of acute stress.
Some other great ways to help your body and mind relax are to:
2 – Sleep
Sleep really is the number 1 thing you should be doing to look after your cortisol and your body in general. A good night’s rest (7-8hrs) will do wonders for reducing your cortisol levels as well as improving your physical and mental well-being.
If you are in a current state of elevated cortisol and are experiencing sleeplessness or insomnia, we recommend using a sleep aid with a blend of herbal and homeopathic ingredients such as BPM Labs Delta Zone to help encourage your body towards a deep nourishing sleep.
3 – Nourish
In a world full of stressors our body is seemingly always under pressure from elevated cortisol. If you are currently in a calorie deficit, an intense training phase or a state of adrenal maladaptation we highly recommend eating a wide variety of nutrient dense foods and supplementing with vitamins and high quality herbal products that will help to balance Cortisol levels and nourish your Adrenals system.
On the supplements side, if you are on a strict nutrition or training plan or are experiencing some level of adrenal maladaptation we recommend increasing your nutrient intake with some high-quality greens such as Prana On Super Greens (to nourish your immune and adrenal systems), adding some vitamin C post training (to reduce Cortisol) and adding a daily adaptative herbal remedy such as ATP Science Cort RX (to balance Cortisol back to “Normal” function).
Dont forget if you have any questions about supplementing to manage your cortisol levels please do not hesitate to contact our expert team with any queries you have. We promise to give you the most attentive, well informed service and guidance we can to make sure you have the best experience possible with your fat loss journey!
Continue to work hard burners and reach for your fitness goals, just don’t forget to Relax, Sleep and Nourish so you don’t hit burn out!