Cortisol is a hormone that is induced by stress. It is commonly known as the fight-or-flight hormone which is triggered when your body perceives to be in immediate danger.
For example, if you were walking around town and a bear appeared in front of you, your cortisol levels would immediately skyrocket.
Cortisol is a very natural hormone response in our body.
In fact, your Cortisol increases naturally as the sun rises which keeps you active and energized. As the sun sets, your cortisol levels decrease. This is part of the natural circadian rhythm. However, some people with poor sleep patterns have cortisol levels increase in the evening rather than the day, leading to non-sleepless nights.
Small amounts of cortisol is good for you, and is what allows for muscle growth as well as provide for:
- Quick bursts of energy (now you can see why it’s known as the fight-or-flight hormone)
- Lower sensitivity to pain
- Improved memory functions
When is Cortisol Bad?
A study conducted at Yale showed that cortisol secretion was consistently higher in women with more fat.
In a nut shell: higher stress = higher cortisol = more fat
The reason this occurs is because cortisol leads to an increase in insulin resistance, and therefore more fat deposition – especially around the midsection.
In addition, stress has also been linked to overeating, which consequently leads to fat gain as well.
A lot of people promote cortisol suppression supplements, but it’s not the most effective method because stress is the real root cause of the problem.
In order to combat fat gain, you’ll need to reduce stress levels.
How to Decrease Stress
Exercise – Going to the gym is a great way to decrease stress, but ONLY if you have the energy. If you got little sleep the day before and show up to the gym the next day, this puts added stress on your body and will only hinder your results. It’s up to you to train smart – know when you should be going and when to take a rest.
Nutrition – A lot of people who want to lose weight tend to starve themselves. This can sometimes work against them because it puts stress on your body, which in turn increases cortisol levels. Prevent this from happening by ensuring your nutrition is optimal and your body is constantly fueled.
Sleep – By getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep every day, your mind and body are rested, lowering your stress levels.
Stress Management – Work and family life often put lots of stress on our mind and bodies. Go out and do something you enjoy, whilst keeping your mind off of the stressful things in life.