What has stress got to do with fat loss?
Stress is both essential and damaging to the body! We need a certain level of stress in our lives to make deadlines, help us with heavy lifts and be competitive (we all are, not everyone will admit it)! However, chronic stress, which is low grade stress stimulated constantly can compromise immune function, increase body fat and create inflammation through your body.
The stress hormone, cortisol, requires a precursor to androgens (think testosterone and oestrogen) to be developed which is counter productive to weight lifting as this limits protein synthesis (essential for growing muscle tissue).
Cortisol by nature also increases blood sugar through various mechanisms and blunts the role of insulin. This can be reversed through the correct nutritional and training approach, however, requires a more patient approach to fat loss.
You will have experienced poor sleep at some point recently, this can be directly linked to cortisol! Scrolling through social media, watching TV, working late or general stresses of daily life can effect your circadian rhythm and reduce the hormone melatonin, which impacts sleep quality! Your performance, recovery and adherence to any training or nutrition programme will be impacted when your sleep is not in line with your needs!
What do you do when you haven’t slept well but inevitably have a high pressure day ahead? Enter stimulants in the form of caffeine! Coffee is an excitatory stimulant that can increase adrenaline and cortisol. The amount produced will depend on the circumstances surround the intake, for example, getting stuck in a traffic jam and missing your morning meeting, will increase the amount of cortisol produced alongside caffeine ingestion! Consuming coffee or energy drinks reinforces the detrimental effects of low grade stress and further inhibits performance in relation to training, increasing lean tissue and losing body fat.
My 6 ways to manage stress to lose fat will enable you to learn to notice stress, manage it and avoid exacerbating its negative response!
- When I work with my clients, we spend a lot of time developing a clear picture of their lives, work and lifestyle habits, to deduce stressors and understand where they stem from. We are never going to be able to avoid stress, but knowing what causes an adverse reaction in us is half the battle!
- Dealing with stress can come in many forms! Some people find high intensity exercise and weight lifting therapeutic. Which of course, most exercise is! However, this is not always the best tool to use when trying to reduce stress, especially if your sessions last for hours and you are not managing other areas of your life very well, namely reliant on caffeine or poor sleep! So I recommend you limit exercise windows in times of excess stress to no longer than 40 minutes, try to incorporate cardiovascular work into your plan to improve your aerobic fitness!
- Place great emphasis on sleep! Develop a sleep hygiene routine that works well for you! Think of your bedroom as a room for sleep only, avoid electronic devices, artificial light or too much noise in the bedroom! Every individual will have their own specific sleep needs and sleep cycles, so it is important to find a pattern that suits you. I use sleep data from apps or smart watches to help my clients improve their sleep quality and develop habits that enable them to wake up feeling recovered and refreshed!
- Nutrition clearly plays a very important role in stress management and fat loss. Eating in a calorie deficit to lose fat is a given! However, being mindful of the food sources is what enables my clients to feel more energetic, improve their mood and progress in the gym whilst losing fat! Stress and high cortisol depletes B vitamins, selenium, zinc and magnesium, being aware of this allows my clients to choose foods that will replace these valuable micronutrients and enable them to continue to improve their body composition along the way!
- When I ask a client to breathe, I often get the same reaction that you are thinking right now! Who is this guy to tell me to breathe?! Well getting in touch with your autonomic nervous system can help you switch from being in a parasympathetic (relaxed) or sympathetic (stressed) state! The more you can replace the sources of stress with positive behaviours, the easier the process of changing your body composition becomes. Using a gratitude journal is your first step to successfully changing your stress coping mechanism and will allow you to realign your actions with your goal!
- When under stress, with a lack of sleep, lots of exercises and poor nutritional intake, it is easy to mask how you feel with caffeine and stimulants. This can in turn enhance the stress response, making the process a vicious circle! Avoid further impacting your health and reducing your performance by focusing on the first 5 steps, use caffeine wisely, it is not something that should be relied upon to get you through the day!
If you would like to know more about how my online coaching helps clients eliminate stress to improve their results and increase productivity, contact me here for a free 15 minute consultation!