We all have different forms of stress that affect us every day. It could be related to your work, personal relationships, or other triggers. If you find that you are working out and strength training and not seeing that weight loss and muscle growth that you intended, take a good look at your stress levels. If you’re stress levels are high, they could be impacting your body’s ability to lose weight and gain muscle.
What happens to your body when you are stressed?
When you are stressed, cortisol causes the body to access your protein stores to make energy for you to fight or flee the stressor, but this mechanism causes increased insulin resistance because it blocks the effect of insulin. It does this so that there is energy available to be used by the muscles. This insulin resistance increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and blood sugar issues because the glucose levels in the blood remain high and insulin is not able to transport sugar to the cells that need it for basic bodily functions.
With weight gain, repeatedly elevated cortisol can cause stored triglycerides to be relocated to the visceral fat cells, primarily the ones in the abdomen and under muscle. It also causes fat cells to mature, which may result in increased amounts of cortisol produced at the tissue level. The insulin resistance is also hindering your weight maintenance or weight-loss efforts.
When your cells are not getting the needed sugar/glucose to fuel them because insulin is being blocked, your brain is signalled to eat more food. This leads to a desire for high-calorie foods, overeating and the resulting weight gain. Cortisol also can affect what you are craving and your appetite by influencing other hormones and stress-effected bodily processes.
So what can you do to relieve stress and reduce your stress and cortisol levels?
Effectively coping with stressful situations involves closely listening to your body. An important thing to do is to find which part of your body first feels pain when you are really stressed out.
When you start to feel these symptoms, recognise that this is a time to relax, unwind, and take action to fight it before it turns into a full-blown migraine, break down, or anxiety attack. Knowing where your body hurts will indicate to you – almost like an alarm – that anxiety could hit. Note that signal and take time to reduce it.
One very easy way to immediately reduce your stress levels when in a highly stressful situation that requires nothing but your breath and a watch/timer.
Spend 1 minute breathing.
Breathe deep into your diaphragm for 4 seconds and exhale for 4 seconds. You can use your watch or set a nice sounding timer to go off every 4 seconds on your phone.
Taking just a few minutes to watch your breath and calm yourself has an immediate impact on your current state and helps to bring the body back to homeostasis.
Meditation: This doesn’t need to be long just a few minutes a day, at a point in the day that works for you. There are a number of free app’s that you can use to help you with this if your new to meditation. I use an app called Headspace. It helps calm your mind. If you are often running around, forgetful or easily worked up this is a great tool to put in your tool kit.
So remember that the first step is to recognise when you feel your getting stressed, register it and take a moment to breath. How you react to situation will ultimately dictate your over all mood. if you can spend a few minutes calming yourself before reacting you will have a different outcome from the situation.