What is Cortisol?
You might have heard this from a fat-burning pill commercial, or possibly from your doctor. Cortisol has been the scapegoat for many people’s inability to lose weight. And, it may very well be true, but then again, it may not be the foe we’ve framed it be afterall.
Cortisol is a Hormone
Cortisol is necessary for survival, but prolonged exposure to it due to stress or overtraining can have detrimental health effects.
It is a hormone secreted by your adrenal glands in response to stress. It then sends feedback to the brain to release more if necessary, when the body is under stress
Be it physical or mental, cortisol is the hormone that responds to stress, illness, infection or trauma.
What does that have to do with training? Well, the body perceives excessive training as stress. This is what happens when it is released:
- Accelerates the breakdown of proteins into amino acids
- Converts amino acids into glucose
- Can cause a loss of tissue proteins
- Can cause high blood sugar
Why would my body DO that to me?
What Cortisol Does to Your Body
Well, if you are truly under stress or trauma, it is beneficial. The increase in blood sugar provides energy you need to fight off illness, infection or trauma.
The intention of this stress hormone is to preserve glycogen stores and expedite energy delivery.
When the response is acute, cortisol can
- Pluck fatty acids from fat cells.
- Maintain blood pressure.
But again, the operative word is ‘acute’.
When the response is long-term—such as a response to continued stress or overtraining, then that’s when cortisol becomes your enemy.
Then cortisol can:
- Redistribute fat to the stomach.
- Prevent the use of fat as an energy source.
- Lower white blood cells (immune system strength).
- Causes muscle loss or other catabolic effects.
Because cortisol is a stress reactor, it can be extremely beneficial in flight or fight scenarios or after acute training. But ongoing, it can be harmful to your health and your weight loss goals.
What Excess Cortisol Can Lead to/Cause:
It can end up causing
- Cushing’s disease
- Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure (most common).
So if you’re stressed out mentally, talk to your doc. Meditate, try yoga, take a break. Try to train your brain new ways to handle stress. Your life depends on it. Literally.
Whoa, just got a lil dark on ya. Sorry, but the truth can be morbid.
If you’re overtraining—more than an hour of aerobic activity at a time regularly, then stop. It’s not helping—it’s hurting. Not just your weight loss goals, but your health goals, which in our opinion should ALWAYS be the primary objective of training.
Now you know—you gotta do something with that info. Change your life or someone else’s by sharing the knowledge.