When you’re under stress the adrenal glands release the hormone cortisol. While this is a healthy, normal & necessary response in short bursts, chronically elevated cortisol can set the stage for very real & concerning health issues:
Increased belly fat, stubborn fat loss, increased hunger & carb cravings, digestive problems, poor memory, poor recovery, menstrual irregularities, to name a few.
Here’s how I help my stressed clients balance their hormones & continue moving towards their physique goals:
Dieting increases perceived stress and raises cortisol. If a client has been eating low calories for some time (eg during a comp prep) I will bump their calorie intake up to maintenance, reduce protein, double/triple carb intake & in some cases increase fats also. Opt for fresh, minimally processed wholefoods & eliminate inflammatory foods like gluten, dairy, soy, vegetable oils, alcohol & artificial sweeteners.
When you exercise, cortisol is released to signal the body to make new glucose from protein. In a healthy, balanced system, this is a good thing, but when cortisol levels become imbalanced, training will only add to stress loads. For these clients I’ll drop ALL cardio & reduce their training back to 2-4 days low volume workouts.
Meditation & Yoga
Replace all that cardio/training with more parasympathetic activities like meditation, yoga or guided breathing. There are tonnes of free apps with great meditation tracks to choose from – download one & use it for just 10 mins per day.
Caffeine is a stimulant that raises cortisol which is problematic for stress hormone regulation. A 1-month caffeine detox can lower stress load on the body & improve hormonal balance.
Correct Nutrient Deficiencies
Chronic stress depletes the body of vital nutrients. Consider supplementing with Magnesium, Vitamin C, B vitamins & Zinc.
Adaptogens are herbs & roots that help your body adapt to stress. Try Ashwagandha, Holy basil, Rhodiola, Schisandra, or Siberian ginseng.