Does Stress Impact Weight?
~ Coach Kasha, Registered Dietitian
𝗜𝘀 𝘀𝘁𝗿𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗺𝗮𝗸𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗴𝗮𝗶𝗻 𝘄𝗲𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁?
Well, this gets pretty science-y but let's break it down so we can better understand the effects stress may be having on achieving fat loss goals.
Cortisol is a steroid hormone that works in the body as a stress response and is often measured in research as an indicator of stress. It is produced from cholesterol in the two adrenal glands.
Cortisol plays a large role in nutrition science by regulating energy, and when chronically elevated, cortisol can have harmful effects on weight, the immune system, the gastrointestinal track, and chronic disease risk.
When we experience stress in our lives our bodies go through what is often called the “fight-or flight” response & has a temporary increase in energy production. In short, in the event an individual faces stress, our bodies release cortisol from the adrenal glands. This process produces 𝗴𝗹𝘂𝗰𝗼𝘀𝗲 as an immediate energy source to our large muscles which then 𝗶𝗻𝗵𝗶𝗯𝗶𝘁𝘀 𝗶𝗻𝘀𝘂𝗹𝗶𝗻 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝗱𝘂𝗰𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 in an attempt to prevent glucose from being stored.
Epinephrine (aka adrenaline hormone) increases the heart rate which then results in the hormone levels returning to normal after the individual resolves the problem.
So, can chronic elevation of cortisol from stress have a negative impact on weight gain and fat loss? The answer is YES!
Chronically elevated cortisol can gather triglycerides from storage and relocate them to visceral fat cells (abdominal fat that surrounds the internal organs). In layman terms, cortisol can quite literally create fat storage around your belly.
Increased cortisol levels effect cravings for high-calorie foods & increased appetite. Multiple different studies have shown a direct association between increased cortisol levels and calorie intake in populations of women.
Seeing how cortisol increases the production of glucose, frequent high blood glucose levels along with insulin suppression sends hunger signals to the brain, which can result in overeating.
So, what can we do?
Well, for starters, we can improve stress management and optimize our diet and lifestyle.
Some strategies for stress management may include:
Optimize diet by increasing anti-inflammatory foods such as whole foods, fruits and veggies & limiting pro-inflammatory foods & lifestyle factors such as:
In summary, stress can cause difficulties when it comes to reaching our weight loss goals, but luckily, there are many things you can control & improve from a nutrition standpoint.
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I'm Paul Leonard, CEO & founder of PLT Nutrition.