For too long it has been assumed that diet and exercise were the only two components you needed to concern yourself with in regards to losing weight and staying fit. However, we are starting to realize that there is another component to the game, which is stress.
Stress could be that other piece of the puzzle, because stress can interfere with the production of your growth hormones and testosterone. Not only that, but stress could be taking you out of your “fat-burning” zone and triggering your metabolism to burn lean muscle instead of stored body fats. More specifically, it can keep you in that “catabolic” breakdown stage, instead of that “anabolic” re-build, growth phase. So take a moment and see if stress is part of your problem.
Symptoms Caused By Too Much Stress
Take the Stress Test below and see if stress is slowing down your fitness results, as well as affecting your overall health.
Do You Struggle With These Things?
- Fatigue and Lack of Energy
- Inability to Lose Weight (Test Your Metabolism – are you burning fat or lean muscle?)
- Cravings, Low Blood Sugar, Hypoglycemia
- Hormonal and Chemical Imbalances
- PMS, Night Sweats, Hot Flashes
- Digestive Difficulties, Heartburn, Reflux, Gas, etc
- Allergies, Sinus problems
- Depression, Mood Swings, Irritability
- Headaches, Light-Headedness
- Mid-Morning/Afternoon Slumps
- Inability to Concentrate or Focus
- Difficulty Sleeping, Insomnia
- Reduced Libido, Stamina, Desire
- Susceptible to Infections and Colds
- Difficulty Building Lean Muscle
If you answered YES to more than a couple of the above question, there is a good chance your body (adrenal glands), may be working over-time due to all the stress going on in your life. This could be affecting your ability to produce adequate levels of testosterone and growth hormones, which will hinder your ability to add lean muscle to your body.
The reason stress could be the cause to all of these problems is that cortisol and adrenaline, your primary stress hormones produced by your adrenal glands, are constantly signaling your body that it is in the “fight or flight” mode. It is in that “catabolic” breakdown phase and not the “anabolic” growth, rebuild phase we need if we are trying to add lean muscle.
These stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, are your basic survival hormones. You can’t live without them, which should tell you how important they are, because they will channel all necessary energy and resources to make sure you can run and fight as opposed to concerning itself with digesting a meal, relaxing, falling asleep or having a baby.
The constant production or surge in cortisol and adrenaline can:
- Throw off your metabolism
- Interfere with the production of testosterone and growth hormones
- Cause digestive problems
- Weaken your immune system
- Trigger your blood pressure and heart rate to go up
- Create hormonal and chemical imbalances
- Disrupt your blood sugar and cause insulin surges
And the list goes on. Don’t forget that exercise causes a huge spike in your stress hormones. The more intense the workout, the larger the spike! Also, you can eventually reach a point to where your adrenal glands can’t produce enough cortisol and adrenaline. Don’t get confused into thinking everyone’s cortisol is too high as many infomercials have tried to make you believe.
Stress is Cumulative
Your body can only handle so much stress in a day. Stress is cumulative! The more stress you pack on your body without adequate rest and nourishment, the quicker you deplete and exhaust your adrenal glands. This is commonly known as adrenal fatigue, which is an underlying problem to many of the health issues facing our society, one of which is overtraining or the lack of results from all the hard work you put in the gym.
Your lifestyle, all the stress in your everyday life, along with the stress from your workout regimen may reach a point to where your adrenal glands are constantly having to produce additional cortisol and adrenaline. This keeps your body in a state of “breakdown” not the repair and re-building phase you want after a workout.
Intense exercise spikes your stress hormones. The faster you get those stress hormones to drop back to normal levels after a good workout, the faster your body begins to start re-building itself. The workout is what tears down the muscle. It is during the rest and recovery phase that your growth hormones and testosterone do all their work, which is why it is important to get out of that “fight or flight” catabolic mode.
Bringing Those Stress Hormones Down
Those stress hormones don’t simply drop back to normal when you finish working out. It takes some time, maybe a good half-hour and that’s if you relax and give yourself some time. However, if you finish your workout and rush through a shower and quickly eat your meal in your car or while on the run as you hustle to your next activity, then those stress hormones aren’t going to drop back to normal anytime soon! They will stay elevated and keep your body in a state of breakdown instead of repair.
FYI – Cortisol and adrenaline trigger your metabolism to burn carbohydrates and lean muscle (proteins) instead of stored body fat. This is why Testing Your Metabolism can be helpful to see if you are burning fats or storing fats.
When it comes to adding lean muscle to the body, the name of the game is to make sure your body is releasing its growth hormones and testosterone so it can rebuild and repair itself. Simply swallowing more protein, glutamine or creatine isn’t going to address the problem. You need to examine the stress in your life. If you think your diet is correct and you are at a plateau, then maybe you need to investigate to see if stress and adrenal exhaustion is the culprit.
If you suspect adrenal fatigue is the problem and you didn’t do so well on the Stress Test above, you should look into having your cortisol levels tested through a 24-Hour Saliva Test. It is the most accurate way to determine if stress is depleting your body and having an impact to your overall level of health and fitness.