Cortisol Control: Weight loss has you stressed out
Trying to lose weight for most of us is stressful the way it is and the last thing we need is another thing to worry about. Whether your goal is just to reduce your body fat level or you are getting ready for a show, we all seem at times to hit a plateau.
Always looking for ways to improve on this, outside of cheating, I started researching. Seems one word kept coming up time and time again, cortisol.
There are hundreds of research articles about the effects of having high cortisol levels and how it not only impacts our weight loss goal but overall health. For me health comes first and foremost and some of what I hope you take from this is another way to improve on it.
The added side of effect of improving your health is hopefully a new way to make your fat lose goals a little easier and stress free.
First a quick look at what exactly cortisol is and why it is consider a catabolic hormone.
(1)”Cortisol, also known more formally as hydrocortisone (INN, USAN, BAN), is a steroid hormone, more specifically a glucocorticoid, produced by the zona fasciculata of the adrenal gland.
(2)It is released in response to stress and a low level of blood glucocorticoids. Its primary functions are to increase blood sugar through gluconeogenesis; suppress the immune system; and aid in fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism.
(3) It also decreases bone formation”. Cortisol is released by the adrenal glands when stress is high or the body is going through extremes, working out being one of those. With the reduction of protein synthesis, assisting is process turning protein into glucose, gluconeogenesis, and lowering or halting tissue growth it is easy to see why cortisol is considered a catabolic hormone. When cortisol levels are elevated for a long time concerns for an individual’s overall health then become a major issues.
Some side effects from long term elevated levels are:
- Reduction in anabolic hormone production; testosterone, growth, and IGF.
- May cause osteoporosis
- Reduction in overall muscle
- Increase in visceral fat, abdominalDeduction in memory and learning, more dominate in older people
- Reduction in glucose, glycogen, utilization
- Depresses the immune system
- Counters the activity of insulin
- Stimulates high than normal gastric acid secretion
Looking at the list one has to wonder if any good comes from cortisol and what exactly it does with all these negative effects.
Here are some of the positives and why we need cortisol.
- Helps reduce inflammation
- Makes sure sodium is not lost
- Increases short-term memory
- Removes toxins from liver
- Tendons and ligaments require cortisol to say healthy
Cortisol the evil catabolic hormone does have great benefits and is extremely important for us in many ways.
Obviously having an excessively high level longer term can cause major health issues. There are some easy ways to help us maintain a level that is good for us though. While being able to maintain healthy level will not only help us for our long term health it will also help us for our goals in the gym. Plus some of the ways used to maintain our cortisol levels will also lead for some a better mental and emotional well being. Seems like this is a win, win situation!!!
There have been so many studies out there about cortisol and weight loss that it is extremely hard not to believe there has to be some truth that elevated levels will hinder weight loss. There are supplements, diets, articles after articles, and tons of research papers. Unlike most things in the fitness world where you can find a split on almost everything, there are very few researches out there that go against all of this. Especially when aging this will become more of a concern since the older we get the more cortisol our body produces.
Here are some non-supplemental ideas you could try to help maintain your cortisol levels and also by doing some of these it will also help you for overall health.
1. Sleep. This is an easy one but in today’s world for most of us it is hard at times to come by. We all heard about the 8 hours of sleep but there are some studies that go further into detail and say on average we need around 8 ¼ hours a night. This is also important for muscle recovery too.
2. Limit Workouts Duration. Numerous studies out there say around 45 minutes to 60 minutes tops is the most our bodies can handle in one session. This is true for numerous reasons besides just our cortisol release and levels.
3. Caffeine. Limiting the use of caffeine can help us maintain our cortisol level since over use of this has been shown to increase the output. Also consuming caffeine later in the day may inhibit our sleep.
4. Limit Cardio. For a long time I feel into the cardio trap when trying to lose body fat and seemed like I was getting no where. Now that I educated myself more seems for me less cardio is equal better fat lose gains. If you are on a low carbohydrate diet to begin with once your glycogen stores begin to deplete your body will start to release cortisol faster into your system.
In some research it has been shown that LISS, light intensity steady state, cardio can actually lower your cortisol level.
I would suggest if you have to do a lot of cardio, at times it will be necessary, to break it up in multiple blocks. Instead of one 60 minute session do two 30 minute session instead.
5. Relax. One of the hardest things probably for most of us to do but will pay off not only in your fat lose goal but overall well being. Read a book, yoga, meditation, or pray. Whatever helps you relax I would encourage trying to make a little time each day for this. Just before you go to bed at night would be a perfect time to find a way to unwind and relax.
As far a supplements go here are few things you could add that would help maintain your cortisol levels.
1. Vitamin C. The most cost effective way and there are already huge benefits already from this vitamin. Various researches have shown that taking 1 gram of vitamin C three times a day will help in reducing your cortisol levels. Again, three times a day is the key since you body will only process so much of this at a time before the rest just because waste.
2. Glutamine. Another of the cheaper supplements and already glutamine has a bonus of being a muscle preserving amino acid. Glutamine will help in protein synthesis, glycogen replenishment, and many other great benefits. Taking 5 grams three times a day is suggested in various researches.
3. Omega 3 fatty acids. These already should be in your supplements since for your overall health it has been proven time and time again the importance of them.
4. Phosphatidylserine. This actually is used for treatment of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Here are some of the overall health benefits; strengthen memory, increase attention, boost learning, increase in mental acuity and concentration, and decrease in stress. There are numerous researches out there but most tend to agree taking post workout at 600 mgs will help lower your cortisol levels. Personally I taking it three times as day because I am looking more than just the effects for my fat lose but overall health.
5. Ashwandha Root. Used for its stress releasing properties and used in treatment of depression and anxiety. In a study it has showing to decrease cortisol levels by up to 26% and a decline in blood sugar levels and also improved lipid profiles.
6. Intra Workout Drink. We all think about pre/post workout but it has shown that taking carbohydrates during your workout will help slow the release of cortisol in your system which is especially true for older individuals, 40 years. My personal drink contains amino acids, 20 grams of carbohydrates and 20 grams of protein.
Cortisol is one of those hormones were just having the right amount is good for use but if we are not careful and normal levels rise it could have a profound effect on all aspects of our lives. Not only physically but emotionally and mentally having high cortisol levels can affect our lives.
Unhealthy levels have a dramatic effect on how we function. Since cortisol is very important for use the object is just to maintain healthy levels and try and control when and how often if gets released for use. Following these steps should help you not only maintain healthy levels but take a little stress off you weight loss goals.
A little stress in life is always a huge positive!!!
2. Scott E (2011-09-22). ”Cortisol and Stress: How to Stay Healthy”. About.com. Retrieved 2011-11-29.
3. Hoehn K, Marieb EN (2010). Human Anatomy & Physiology. San Francisco: Benjamin Cummings. ISBN 0-321-60261-7.
4.Cortisol Fireball, Jerry Brainum. Top 6 Bodybuilding Cortisol Reducing Strategies, Hugo Rivera
5. Stress Cortisol Connection. L. Kravitz Ph.D. Unpublished study, 2005. NutrGenesis, LLC.
Author: William J Sucik | Website: William’s Transformation Story
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