The relationship between stress, Cortisol, and being overweight or obese is well researched and yet often forgotten. A great diet and diligent exercise routine are never wasted effort, but chronic high cortisol level can put a serious damper on the benefits you should be getting from your healthy endeavors.
Cortisol has long been termed the “stress hormone,” It is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It’s designed to help the body cope with stress and survive. It is normally released in response to events and circumstances such as waking up in the morning, exercising, and acute stress. Cortisol has the power to increase blood pressure, blood sugar level and decrease immune responses, which is part of the body’s fight-or-flight response that is essential for survival.
Additionally, it is directly linked with the functions of liver. Under stressful conditions, cortisol provides the body with glucose by tapping into protein stores via gluconeogenesis in the liver which causes increased production of glucose, leading to increased blood sugar levels. Continually, high blood glucose levels along with insulin suppression lead to cells that are deprived of glucose. But those cells are crying out for energy, and one way to regulate is to send hunger signals to the brain. This can lead to overeating. And, probably the unused glucose in your body will surely being stored as body fat. So when your stress and Cortisol levels are high, the body actually resists weight loss. Your body thinks times are hard and you might starve, so it hoards the fat you eat or have present on your body.
When your body is constantly producing an abnormally high amount of cortisol, your normal cortisol production can be disrupted. Cortisol levels can impact your weight in that it changes how food is used within the body; too much cortisol is a key contributor to body fat. Stress makes a person fat primarily because of an excessive secretion of the cortisol, along with a reduced secretion of key anabolic hormones, such as Dehydroepiandrosterone, Epinephrin, testosterone, and growth hormone. Like cortisol, growth hormone counterbalances the effect of insulin on muscle and fat cells. High levels of growth hormone cause resistance to the action of insulin. Moreover, Epinephrine also promotes the breakdown and release of fat nutrients that travel to the liver and that are converted into sugar and ketones. For this reason, excessive cortisol levels can wreak havoc on the body, making it hard to lose weight, replenish cells, encourage the growth of new cells, and form new youth-building collagen.
When you first get stressed, these hormones kick into gear. If the increase in cortisol level remains same for a period of several months or years, you will start feeling the negative impacts. cortisol over time can lead to increased abdominal fat, irritability and full-blown depression, bone loss, a suppressed immune system, fatigue, and an increased risk for insulin resistance, diabetes, and heart disease just to name a few things.
Ever wondered why all those hours in the gym is failing to bring you results?
Now we all know that testosterone helps us to build muscle, well Cortisol does the opposite! It is a catabolic hormone that reduces protein synthesis and prevents tissue growth. Obviously, this is bad from a muscle breakdown perspective; however, the body is simply trying to preserve carbohydrate stores and deliver energy when it’s needed most. High cortisol levels indicate that there is high demand for glucose in muscles/organs, and/or low supply from food digestion & fat burning.
Losing muscle, and storing fat? High stress increases Cortisol, which limits muscle gain and promotes fat gain. Cortisol gives signals to the body to store fat because the body thinks it will need it after all. The body then, directs fat storage in the abdomen, around the organs, where there are more receptors for Cortisol and a greater supply of blood.
With excess aerobic activity comes the increase in the hormone Cortisol. As this rises so does your body’s blood sugar, in a sense you are actually going to start creating more insulin because of this. More insulin means more insulin resistance. More insulin resistance means more fat storing down the road.
Keep your Cortisol under control, and keep your exercise under control or suffer the consequences. The more training you do, the better your body will become at dealing with physical stresses and decrease the need to release Cortisol.