Cortisol is often referred to as our “Stress Hormone.” The primary role of this hormone in natural production are anti-stress and anti-inflammatory, meaning that it causes the body to respond positively to stress by becoming a soothing mechanism, which helps to alleviate both physical and emotional pain.
Different forms of stress, including emotional and exercise-induced, can trigger the adrenal glands to release cortisol in large quantities.
Some of the benefits of our natural cortisol production include assisting the liver to enhance its detoxification potential, increasing mental sharpness and short-term memory, as well as boosting our immune system by working synergistically to regulate the blood sugar levels. It can optimise our energy, increase our mental focus, and control our emotionally connected food cravings.
The trouble is, chronically elevated cortisol levels can exhaust our adrenals, leading us to feel lethargic and putting us at risk for mood disorders. Elevated cortisol levels can also lead to excessive fat gain, especially in the stomach area.
Like all hormones that are naturally produced by our body, there is potential for positive effects and potential for negative effects, depending on the way we treat our mind and our body. We must understand the functions of cortisol and respect the fact that WE ARE IN CONTROL of the way this hormone affects our body and our mood. With this information, you can become better equipped to use it to your advantage.
In a natural daily cycle, our cortisol levels are most elevated in the morning. This is one of the reasons why skipping breakfast is not recommended.
Whenever people tell me that they are having a hard time losing stubborn body fat, I explain to them that there are two primary reasons why this particular area of fat is being ‘stubborn’. Possibility number one is that they are simply not challenging their metabolism in a demanding enough way for their body to validate releasing the extra fat.
Possibility number two is that the stubborn fat is caused by an imbalance in hormones. In this case, no amount of dieting or exercise will specifically reduce that particular stubborn fat, because it is being controlled by a hormonal abnormality, and this can only be remedied by repairing the hormonal imbalance.
Cortisol issues mixed with carbohydrate abuse is the number one reason why people—even people with a balanced diet and active lifestyle—have a difficult time losing fat from their stomach and waist area. If I look at all my past and present clients who started our training with disproportionate amount of fat stored in their midsection, I can observe a definitive trend in their stress levels, sleep patterns, and lifestyle habits. People with disproportionate belly fat, whether it is five extra pounds or fifty, generally have a greater amount of stress in their lives. They also tend to snack on carbs between meals.
Cortisol can be managed through both supplements and diet, but the most important step in controlling this hormone is achieving a calm mental state and making healthy lifestyle changes.
In order to best control your cortisol, here is a list of do’s and don’ts.
- Get at least 7+ hours of quality sleep each night.
- Unplug all WiFi in your house each night, sleep far away from your mobile phone and computer, and make sure that your bedroom is completely dark.
- Have a high-protein shake or meal within an hour or so after waking up.
- Have a high-protein shake or meal within one hour after exercise.
- Practice relaxation or meditation time regularly—especially as a positive ritual before sleep and upon waking up.
- Smile more and play more. Go explore the outdoors and connect with nature more often. Socialise with positive people more often, and do more of what you love.
- Don’t stay up late watching TV or using your computer.
- Don’t skip breakfast (unless it is during a scheduled intermittent fasting period).
- Don’t drink alcohol late into the night. If you do, be sure to hydrate with at least one litre of water, and eat a small meal containing protein with healthy fibres and fats before you go to sleep. If you have access to fresh coconut water, it’s a great idea to drink this as well.
- Don’t hang out with negative people.
- Don’t stay mad at yourself for more than a few minutes. Whatever it is, just let it go.
- Don’t sweat the little stuff. Life is too short to allow stress to rule your life. Save your sweating for the weight room!
We must respect the power of the mind, and acknowledge that our emotions can raise cortisol as well. Stressful situations, negative relationships, and even negative thoughts can raise our cortisol levels. Guess what else negative emotions do: they make you crave sugar! Guess what eating sugar does: it slows us down, and it easily gets stored as body fat.
The best things that we can do to manage our stress hormone is to smile more, exercise more, and eat less sugar. Now go practice this and enjoy your sexy new life.