We all know what I'm talking about as its a normal part of life. The problem arises when stress becomes chronic or you experience stress over a prolonged period of time. Stress is the body's natural reaction to any change that requires a response. A response can be in the form of physical, mental or emotional.
Causes of stress can be from physical, mental, emotional, environmental, an event or your own thoughts. Your body responds to all stresses in exactly the same way. When you have a stressful day your brain instructs your cells to release potent hormones. You get a surge of adrenalin which taps into stored energy, getting you ready to fight or flight and you get a continued pump of cortisol while stress is present which tells your body to replenish that energy which can make you feel very hungry. Unfortunatley during these times we tend to crave sweet, salty and high fat food to release pleasure chemicals to release tension.
While your adrenal glands continue to pump out cortisol, testosterone production slows down. This is the muscle building hormone and with this drop overtime it can cause a decrease in muscle mass which means less calories burned. Remember the more muscle mass you have the more fat you burn. This is a natural process as you get older but high cortisol levels will accelerate the process. Another reason why cortisol is not your friend is it encourages your body to store fat in particular viseral fat. Viseral fat is the fat that surrounds vital organs releasing fatty acids into your blood, raises cholesterol and insulin levels making it very dangerous. This is also known as the tire around your stomach.
So what can you do to help relieve stress and decrease cortisol levels to ensure your weightloss efforts don't go to waste?
- Exercise. Helps lower cortisol levels by circulating your blood more quickly which transports cortisol to your kidneys, flushing it out of your system quicker.
- Decrease caffeine. Coffee raises cortisol levels so add that on top of already high cortisol levels it can be to much. Remember high cortisol levels lead to stress eating so during high times of stress I would cut down on the coffee even if you are used to drinking a few lattes a day normally. Try drinking herbal tea instead.
- Eat well. Deficiencies in B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, and magnesium are stressful to your body. These deficiencies lead to increased cortisol levels and food cravings. If you can keep you body healthy will allow you to deal with your stress better.
- Sleep more. Your body percieves sleep deprivation as a major stressor, getting less than 7 hours a night can increase cortisol levels, increase appetitie and weight gain. People who lack sleep tend to crave sweet and salty foods.
You need to find your own way to relief stress. Things that make you happy and relaxed. The more you can incorporate those things in your life the lower your stress levels will become which means decreased cortisol levels.
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