What is cortisol?
Cortisol is a hormone released by the adrenal cortex (kidney) in response to stress. It helps us to cope with stresses in our daily lives.
Function of cortisol
Cortisol is not a bad hormone. It performs important bodily functions such as regulating and mobilising energy, activating immune system and it’s an anti inflammatory.
However, too much of cortisol can be harmful to our health and fat loss. It is a catabolic hormone that breaks down tissues in the body and throws the body out of balance.
Stress is the main cause of high cortisol levels. Physical and emotional stress can arise from:
– excessive training (intense or long workout)
– not enough sleep or rest
– work, personal and relationship issues
– prolonged caloric restriction
– poor diet
Effects of too much cortisol:
– fat storage in the belly (abdominal fat)
– increased food intake in emotional eaters
– muscle loss
– elevated blood sugar levels
– reduced immune system
– irregular menstruation
– mood disturbances
– reduced sex drive
The link between stress and weight gain
High levels of cortisol are associated with weight gain as they:
– increase appetite and cravings for sugar and fat.
– increase fat accumulation in the abdomen (belly fat).
– increase leptin and insulin resistance.
– reduce metabolism from muscle loss
How to control cortisol for weight loss
Learn to take control of stress before it takes control of you.
1. Determine the cause of stress.
What’s stressing you out? If you can eliminate the cause of stress, that’s great. If you have no control over the source of stress, you can control how you respond to it. Either ignore it (why worry when the situation is beyond your control) or face it (getting stressed does not resolve the situation).
2. Avoid over training
Regular exercise and proper nutrition can improve heart health and help in weight loss. However, excessive exercise can cause stress and weight gain. Don’t work out for too long or too hard without enough rest. 45 mins to an hour per session, 3-4 times a week is more than enough. Make sure you get sufficient rest so your body can recuperate.
3. Good sleeping habits
Cultivate these good sleeping habits:
– Get 7-8 hours of quality sleep at night.
– Go to bed and get up at the same time everyday.
– Avoid consuming stimulants such as caffeine or alcohol before bedtime or in the later part of the day.
4. Mind and body solutions
These include meditation, breathing exercises, pilates, yoga, tai chi and hypnotherapy.
5. Other stress control techniques
Watch a comedy movie, listen to music, go for a walk, have a massage, go on a vacation and unwind with friends.
If you fail to lose fat even with exercise and diet, stress can be making you fat. A truly effective fat loss program should include control of cortisol for weight loss.
Long term stress is a silent killer as it leads to serious health problems such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. Stress management is not only crucial for fat loss, but also for achieving overall good health.
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