You’ve got the diet down, you’ve got the exercise routine down and you’ve even been putting in extra hours at the gym. You step on the scale, fully expecting that you had to have dropped at least 5 lbs. To your surprise, the digits either haven’t moved, or haven’t moved enough. The likely culprit? Cortisol. You might be shocked to learn that stress and weight loss work against each other in a big way.
What is Cortisol? Stress and Weight Loss
Our adrenal glands are responsible for regulating the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol is released when we are under stress. These stresses can be triggered by:
- Not Enough Sleep
- Poor Diet
- Emotional Stress
- A combination of all of these
What Does Cortisol Have to Do with Stress and Weight Loss Problems?
Elevated levels of cortisol within our bodies will trigger us to hold onto fat, particularly in the abdominal region. Not only will we struggle to lose this weight (and possibly gain) but stress can also mess with leptin; a hormone responsible for making us feel full and satisfied. This means that when we are chronically stressed, we are likely to consume more calories than we need.
How Do I Reduce Stress and Lower Cortisol Levels?
- Go to Bed – Get plenty of sleep each night, between 7 and 9 hours is ideal. Some people may need more. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try a zinc and magnesium supplement like ZMA or ZMA-5 (with 5-htp which helps promote better sleep.)
- Eat Right – Eat a natural, nutrient-dense diet void of processed foods. Reduce or eliminate caffeine consumption and drink more water.
- Self-Care – If you’re dealing with emotional stresses, schedule time for self-care or seek help from a trusted friend or counselor.
- Cut Back on Your Workouts – Exercising more than 50-60 minutes at a time releases cortisol. There is nothing wrong with pushing hard for a few workouts, but if you’re doing this every single day and not seeing the losses you expect for that hard work, you may need to consider that you’re over-training. Take a rest day as well.