Desserts. Stressed. If you ask me that’s no coincidence. I alluded to this topic last week when I reached out and admitted that the reason I made this Pumpkin Cookie Dough was because I was stressed. Let’s just say my life is crazy right now! I am in my last year of a BSN nursing program and working full-time. Yesterday I left my house at 7:00 am and didn’t roll back home until almost 10 pm. Somewhere in between then and my 9:00 bedtime, I needed to write 2 papers, study for an exam, set up some class interviews, and work on client programs. Needless to say that kind of schedule brings along some stress with it, and my body is letting me know. Whether your day is jam-packed or not, there are guaranteed to be times when you are stressed. Some people handle it effortlessly, no matter the reason or size of their stress, and others shut down at the mere thought of a stressful day. If you are one of the latter, read on. If you are one of the ones that handle it effortlessly, please call me and share all of your wisdom.
Cortisol is our body’s natural response to stress and it can be a good or a bad thing. To put it simply, cortisol is a hormone released from the hypothalamus in your brain ( a gland that connects your endocrine and nervous systems), pituitary gland (an endocrine gland at the base of the hypothalamus), and your adrenal gland (an endocrine gland on top of your kidneys). All three of these glands work together as an axis while utilizing other hormones and precursors to make and release cortisol in times of stress. Cortisol is released to get our bodies back in sync and maintain homeostasis. Just like any other hormone, there is a delicate range of how much our bodies can handle; too little or too much and things start going haywire. Too much stress in your life keeps the cortisol pumping and can have negative effects on your body, mind, and physique. For fitness competitors or those just trying to stay healthy and look good, this can be a critical factor that you haven’t thought of yet. Here’s some of the things you need to know about too much stress:
1. You don’t sleep well (which leads to weight gain) :
Cortisol naturally works with your circadian rhythm, it is low at night when you are sleeping and increases when you wake up to get you moving for the day. When you place your body under stress for a significant period of time, you produce a lot of cortisol. The excess cortisol is shown to cause sleep disturbances, like insomnia. It no longer follows the rhythmic diurnal nature, and remains elevated throughout the night. So if you are having trouble falling or staying asleep, or you wake up tired, your cortisol levels may be to blame. It is well-known that poor sleep leads to increased appetite, weight gain, and more stress!
2. Your thyroid doesn’t function well:
Your thyroid gland is the master of your metabolism. If you are dieting down for show, or just to lose weight in general, you are already affecting the gland. It is well established that the longer you diet, your thyroid hormones will decrease, and therefore your metabolism will slow down. This is why we stress Reverse Dieting to safely heal your metabolism. Stress and high cortisol levels also take their toll on your thyroid and are very closely linked. This can add an additional issue to those who already have some metabolic adaptation after dieting for long periods of time.
3. You crave sweet, high calorie foods:
Cortisol also helps to regulate your blood sugar and insulin levels. Higher levels of cortisol make the tissues in your body less responsive to insulin (insulin resistant) which leaves all of that sugar circling in your blood instead of being used efficiently by your body. This itself causes many problems, but research also shows that higher cortisol levels directly relate to more calories eaten, and in the form of sugary and carb laden foods. It seems that not only does cortisol affect our sugar levels, but it also may directly effect our appetites and choices of foods!
4. You store more fat, and its all in your stomach:
Cortisol directly affects fat storage, and it makes it even harder to get that beloved six-pack! Visceral fat (the fat around your stomach and organs), produces enzymes that convert cortisone to cortisol. In obese individuals, it has been shown that there is a significantly greater amount of these enzymes in the fat tissue and therefore more cortisol at the tissue level. We can’t spot reduce our fat, but unfortunately it seems are body can put it on in certain areas!
5. You get sick:
Stress and cortisol also directly affect your immune system. Too much cortisol increases inflammation and lowers your body’s ability to fight off infections. If you’re sick all of the time, your training and overall well-being are going to be..well.. crappy. And crappy training= crappy results.
The research is out there, stress stinks. What you know now is that the stress is not only affecting you emotionally, but physically as well. If you have goals of stepping on stage, dropping those last ten pounds, putting on some muscle, or just feeling the best that you can, then you need to pay attention to your stress levels. Ask your doctor to run a cortisol test for you if you think your levels are high. Then go take a walk, practice yoga, or listen to some music and try to chill out. Your FITsique will thank you 🙂
What stresses you out?
What do you do to keep your stress in check?