Lately we have had a number of members who have been training the absolute house down, sticking to the meal plan, eating clean and healthy, but still feel as if they are putting on weight.
It doesn’t make sense right?
Well actually – it could be your cortisol levels that are causing you some grief.
AND IT SUCKS!
We know! We don’t want this to happen to you either!
Let us digress, give you some more information on what cortisol actually is, why its there, whats happens when theres too much finally and some ways that you can reduce the cortisol levels in your body.
In a nutshell – Cortisol is also referred to as the ‘stress hormone’, cortisol is what gets released any time our body is under some form of stress, whether it be physical, emotional or mental. It also has the power to alter our mood and control motivation, inflammation and blood sugar, just to name a few.
So what is cortisol?
Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands which sit on top of each kidney. When released into the bloodstream, cortisol can act on many different parts of the body and can help:
- your body respond to stress or danger
- increase your body’s metabolism of glucose
- control your blood pressure
- reduce inflammation.
Cortisol is also needed for the fight or flight response which is a healthy, natural response to perceived threats. The amount of cortisol produced is highly regulated by your body to ensure the balance is correct (read more).
Why does the body produce cortisol?
Cortisol production by the adrenal glands is regulated by the pituitary glands. The pituitary is a pea-sized gland at the base of the brain that is sometimes referred to as the “master gland” because of its wider effects on the body.
When you wake up, exercise or you’re facing a stressful event, your pituitary gland reacts. It sends a signal to the adrenal glands to produce just the right quantity of cortisol.
Sounds a bit complex right? Cortisol is an integral part of our overall health and wellbeing but when it’s unbalanced, it can do just as much harm as good.
What happens when you produce too much or little cortisol?
Symptoms of too much cortisol include:
- weight gain, particularly around the abdomen and face
- thin and fragile skin that is slow to heal
- for women, facial hair and irregular menstrual periods.
Symptoms of not enough cortisol include:
If you experience any of these symptoms, your doctor may suggest you have a blood test to measure your cortisol levels.
Not only does stress make you vulnerable to sickness, interfere with healthy sleep, and inhibit concentration, but it also can get in the way of our fitness goals. Increased stress can inhibit your body’s ability to lose fat and build muscle efficiently. While lifestyle decisions are some of the most important steps you can take to minimise stress in your life, they’re easier said than done. Stress reduction products can help during those times when you have to suck it up and stick it out. By combining a mix of useful vitamins, minerals, and extracts, stress reduction products are designed to lift your body’s spirit so you can take on the day, every day. Check some out here Stress Supplements.
When Do You Feel Stressed?
One way to know if we are stressed is to keep track of our sleeping patterns. In the event that we experience difficulty falling asleep, wake frequently in the middle of sleep, stir frequently during the night, or experience the reluctance of getting out of bed in the morning, stress might just be the culprit. When it is difficult to stop our days basically on the grounds that the lights have gone out, and your mind is as active as during the day.
Another way to know if we are stressed is if we are encountering the assortment of physical symptoms that seemed to take place suddenly to you. Hypertension, stomach issues, chest torments, increased heart rate, cerebral pains, lowered sex drive, etc… In the event that we are encountering at least one of these symptoms persistently, it’s advisable to see your doctor; listen to your body, it is trying to tell you something.
Emotional manifestations is another way to know if we are stressed. Having episodes of low morale, the inability to focus, losing control of emotional surge like anger, anxiety attacks, and a loss of interest in your usual activities, could all be related to stress. To put it plainly, anything that varies from our normal behaviour or temperament ought to be observed closely (more).
For example, studies have shown that most women are more stressed than they truly know. In today’s modern economy, where women are becoming more likely to branch out on their own and start their own businesses, female entrepreneurs are often faced with multiple stress levels:
- Child care,
- household finances,
- peace of mind,
- shared financial obligations with the spouse,
- and other such obstacles are creating more stress for women who own businesses.
Some Symptoms Of Stress Include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Lack of energy
- Lack of concentration
- Eating too much or not at all
- Higher risk of asthma and arthritis flare-ups
- Stomach cramping
- Stomach bloating
- Skin problems, like hives
- Weight gain or loss
- Heart problems
- High blood pressure
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Neck and/or back pain
- Less sexual desire
- Harder to get pregnant
Recent research has identified some of the following ways in which stress influences the course of illnesses linked to viruses, ageing or the body’s misguided attack on its own tissues.
Physical or mental stress can take an enormous and sometimes deadly toll on the heart. It increases blood pressure, narrows blood vessels and causes blood to become stickier and more likely to clot, increasing the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke (physical mental stress).
What are you going to do about it?
Let’s look at the best ways to balance your cortisol and make sure this powerful hormone is working in your favour.
Eat A Diet Rich In Whole Foods
A poor diet high in sugar, caffeine, alcohol and processed carbohydrates will have your cortisol levels completely out of whack. An anti-inflammatory diet high in nutrients and fibre is one of the best possible ways to ensure healthy cortisol levels that are benefiting your mind and body. If you’re drinking multiple cups of coffee and relying on sugar to get through the day, chances are your cortisol levels are not what they should be. Focus on eating fresh, low GI fruits and vegetables at each meal, partnered with low GI carbohydrates and lean protein.
Focus On Sleep
When it comes to balancing cortisol, sleep is absolutely essential. So often people diet and exercise and wonder why they’re not losing weight even though they’re killing themselves in the gym. A common reason for this is unhealthy cortisol levels, which means the body goes into a constant state of stress making it nearly impossible to lose weight. If you’re constantly on the go and exhausted, make it a priority to sleep more, even if this means foregoing the gym for a couple of days. It just might be the key to getting your cortisol levels back on track. Make sure you are getting at least 7 hours of quality rest each night.
30-60 minutes of exercise most days will help you manage stress, balance hormones, speed up metabolism and ensure a better night’s sleep. The benefits are endless but when it comes to cortisol, the key is not overdoing it as this can cause your body to release more cortisol. Make sure the exercise you’re doing makes you feel good. If you’re constantly feeling fatigued and upset after exercising, you could be overexerting yourself so give it a rest for a couple of days.
Manage Stress And Breathe
Stress is cortisol’s worst enemy as your body has to fight so much harder to return to normal. Be aware of your stress levels and always make time for yourself with no phone and no outside influences. This is one of the most powerful ways to achieve calm in the mind and body and achieve true balance. This will have a major impact on achieving your weight, health and fitness goals.
Visit your GP
If you believe that this could be you, we do suggest that you visit your GP and get your bloods tested, that way you know for sure. Everything we know about can be managed, its just a matter of finding it out!