If you are like everyone I know, you have some elements of stress in your life, some more than others. This article will help you understand just how important it is to tackle these problems, and not just accept it as part of every day living. Stress might be the reason you have been getting nowhere.
Stress. It can make you fat. It can make you physically ill. It can cause you an injury. It can eat away your muscles. How?
Firstly, what is it?
In medical terms it is described as “a physical or psychological stimulus that can produce mental tension or physiological reactions that may lead to illness.”
There are 2 main types of stress:
Good stress. It is that rush of adrenaline you get right before your do something awesome.
Bad stress. Stress accumulating from the body being unable to adapt to life changes or heavy routines e.g. work, relationships, family etc.
There are two types of bad stress: acute stress and chronic stress:
Acute stress is the type of stress that comes immediately as a result of those ‘stimulus’. It is an intense type of stress, but it passes quickly.
Ongoing stress through constant and ever present ‘stimulus’. Having a stressful job for example, demanding mrs, whatever..
Stress promotes the body to release cortisol, a hormone designed to regulate blood sugar levels by converting the body’s protein stores into blood sugar (sugar/energy). Excess glucose is then used for fat production (lipogenisis).
In small quantities cortisol is helpful. It’s anti-inflammatory, speeds tissue repair and controls excess immune cell production; we need it for survival. However, consider this: More ‘stimulus’ = more stress = MORE CORTISOL. And this is where the symptoms of ‘stress’ actually appear; when you have too much cortisol running through your body.
So how does it affect your weight and the rest? Looking at cortisols main functions:
- Dissolving the body’s PROTEIN stores into ENERGY. These two words shouldn’t really be associated. You do NOT want your hard earned protein (muscle) being robbed from you and turned into energy. That is why we have carbs and fat right? In technical tems:
- = Catabolism. Your body is virtually eating itself. Eating away at muscle, turning it into fuel, effectively lowered the body’s metabolism by eating the body’s metabolic tissue making it obviously harder to lose fat.
If that isn’t bad enough..
- = Fat. Whatever energy you do NOT use as a result of this process is stored in your body as FAT. This has been reflected in the findings of numerous studies.
- Controls excess immune cell production. Great! You definitely don’t want your immune system to be over-active. Again, too much of a good thing:
- = Sickness. During a period of raised cortisol, immune system cells disappear from the blood. The part of the immune system most sensitive to increased cortisol levels are the Natural Killer Cells. Immune system function will plummet. You are far more likely to contract an illness when stressed than when not.
A healthy immune system will only be minimally affected by small causes of stress, however that same system can be devastated by a big causes of stress e.g. the death of a loved one. Equally small causes of stress can be too much for a weak immune system.
Some studies have shown that stress and elevated cortisol tend to cause fat deposition in the abdominal area rather than in the hips. Abdominal fat deposition is strongly correlated with cardiovascular disease including heart attacks and strokes.
So I’ve given you mountains of problems, with no apparent answers.
The equation of: You + ‘stimulants’ = Stress seems easily answered taking away the ‘stimulants’, leaving only. You.
Not realistic. However attempting to minimise the ‘stimulants’ in whatever way you can, along with a great diet, filled with vegetables, nuts, fish and water would be a fantastic start; allowing you to get on with your fitness goals, and reaching them at lightning speed…. Or at least what seems like lightning speed when compared to how you were progressing with a body full of cortisol.