Is stress holding your fitness and weight loss back?
Have you ever been training really hard and watching what you eat but couldn’t seem to lose body fat?
There are many reasons why some people find it hard to burn fat but possibly the most often missed is the S word – stress!
Stress comes in many different forms:
- Physical from exercise or manual labor.
- Emotional from personal issues etc.
- Mental from work and problem-solving.
- Internal from poor diet or allergies to certain foods.
In such a fast-paced connected world stress is becoming more and more of an issue and one of the leading reasons why as a population we’re becoming more and more overweight.
Why is it bad?
Our main stress hormone is called cortisol, so when you’re stressed your body releases this hormone to give us a spike in energy and alertness. Unfortunately, our bodies are not designed to deal with constantly elevated levels of cortisol and when we’re chronically stressed (for long periods of time) it can do some damage.
When it comes to weight loss, prolonged elevated levels of cortisol make it hard for our body to burn fat and also affect our hunger hormones. Ever been super hungry when you were stressed or craved sugary foods? So not only will you not be able to burn fat but you’ll crave sugary foods and lots of them! Not a great recipe for weight loss success.
Here are 5 tips on reducing stress levels.
- Test for allergies. You might be slightly intolerant to some foods but not aware of it which can cause a lot of stress to your body. The most common are gluten (which comes from wheat) and lactose (found in dairy) but there are many. You can try removing certain foods from your diet e.g.: bread & cereals if you think you might be intolerant or you can see a specialist doctor who will be able to test you and find out for sure.
- Sleep. This might sound overly simplistic but sleep is one of the best ways to regulate your body’s hormones. If you have a stressful period be sure to balance it out with some rest and prioritise sleep in your schedule. Better to perform optimally for 16 hours a day than poorly for 18.
- Be grateful. Studies have shown something as simple as writing down each morning 3-5 things that you are grateful for can significantly reduce stress levels. When you’re stressed – you tend to focus on what’s stressing you out, this then makes you more stressed and so the cycle continues. Focusing on gratitude breaks this cycle and lowers cortisol levels.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise metabolizes (burns up) stress hormones. This is why you have that calm, I feel so relaxed feeling after a workout. It’s especially important to incorporate resistance training into your program because that helps your cell’s receptiveness to certain hormones that regulate the burning of fat and your hunger.
- Eat well. Again it sounds simple and it is but food is medicine if used correctly. One of the main issues with stress is the inflammation it can cause our cells which then leads to that not-so-good feeling we have in our tummy, stiff joints, etc. Anti-inflammatory foods can have a significant impact on how our body can deal with the stress we put on it – things like green leafy vegetables, omega-3 fats, turmeric are all great things to incorporate regularly into your diet but especially during times of stress.