Cortisol Levels – How Stress Hormones are Affected By Caffeine


What does a person’s caffeine intake have to do with the levels of cortisol in the body? Generally speaking, the more caffeine a person drinks, the higher the levels of cortisol are. What does this mean for your weight loss efforts and your overall health?

What is Cortisol?
Cortisol is known as the “stress hormone”. When the body is stressed or over-stimulated, the adrenal glands secrete it as a protective measure. When the body is stressed, through caffeine, other stimulants or other means, this hormone is released. It raises blood pressure and plays a key role in the body when properly balanced.

What is Caffeine?
Caffeine is a mild stimulant found in many coffees, teas, energy drinks and weight loss supplements. Thought to help burn fat, it may actually cause more harm than the benefit of fat reduction is worth. To get the most benefit from caffeine here, you must be exercising and the caffeine needs to be consumed before the workout begins.

The Effects of Cortisol
High levels of cortisol may lead to cravings for sweets and carbohydrate laden foods that will promote weight gain. Cortisol tends to cause the body to hold onto fat in the stomach area, where it is most dangerous to have a lot of weight. The most common and detrimental effect of cortisol is weight gain.

High levels of cortisol can also lead to harmful and potentially deadly health conditions such as Cushing’s Syndrome. Cushing’s Syndrome is most often characterized by having a large body with small or thin limbs.

If you don’t have enough cortisol, you could have Addison’s Disease. Addison’s Disease is caused by issues with the adrenal or pituitary glands, where the optimal amounts of the hormone cannot be released into the system.

The Effects of Caffeine
Caffeine may produce several different effects, depending on how much a person takes in every day and how often they use it. For those who are used to high levels of caffeine, sleep patterns may not be interrupted. Those who do not use it often may find they are jittery and have trouble sleeping. Caffeine affects more than the levels of cortisol in your body. It also affects the hormones adrenaline, adenosine, and dopamine. It will give you a boost and increase adrenaline, inhibit the adenosine from calming and relaxing you, and cause the dopamine levels to increase to give you a euphoric feeling. When it wears off after about 8 hours or more, it can cause you to crash and feel sad.

What This Means For You
Higher levels of cortisol are not good for the body, so you should abstain from caffeine when possible. A life without caffeine will decrease the levels of cortisol in your body and lead to a generally healthier overall lifestyle. If you do ingest caffeine, do it in moderation and never after 2PM in the afternoon in order to avoid sleep disruption.

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About Author

Daniela Vannucchi has written various manuals on weight loss, been featured in multiple magazines, and has created several fitness DVDs. She has received an honors degree in Biokinetics, plus CSCS and CPT qualifications from the NSCA. See my profile page for more information!

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