Weight Gain and Cortisol

There is a definite correlation between weight gain and cortisol. If your body tends to produce high levels of cortisol as a result of high stress levels then it is likely that weight gain will result.

Cortisol is produced by the adrenal cortex of the adrenal glands in response to stress. It is the body's most powerful catabolic hormone and as such must be kept relatively low if optimum health and weight loss are desired. However, it does have a range of essential functions in the body so it important that it isn't lowered as much as possible.

It also is a powerful antagonist to many of the hormones in the body, like growth hormone and testosterone. Testosterone, in particular, is opposed by cortisol because it blocks its anabolic action along with reducing the production of it in the body because both hormones come from the same source, pregnenolone.

Weight Gain and Cortisol

When a person's blood sugar level falls too low, for example, when they skip meals, the body perceives this as 'stress' and reacts by releasing cortisol into the blood stream from the adrenals. Not only does cortisol break down muscle tissue to be used as an energy source but it also promotes bone loss as well as well as the release of glucose into the blood stream from liver glycogen stores.

To make matters worse, cortisol may also promote insulin resistance. It does this because of the glucose being released into the blood stream. When this occurs over an extended period of time body cels eventually become resistant to insulin's action.

Regular meals throughout the day may lower cortisol levels by keeping your blood glucose stable as well as minimising insulin production. This explains why there is such a strong correlation between weight gain and cortisol.

Water is also important in that it keep the body's cells well hydrated. Well hydrated cells are kept in an anabolic state whilst dehydrated cells become catabolic. Hypohydration (lack of water in cells) can induce cortisol production, resulting in a catabolic state.

Cortisol levels also increase when people become intoxicated but are unchanged when alcohol is consumed in small amounts. It is possible that in small amounts alcohol may indirectly support anabolism by lowering cortisol through its de-stressing effects.

High volume aerobic exercise may increase cortisol levels substantially, resulting in a reduction in muscle mass. Therefore, it is important to only perform a moderate amount of aerobic exercise of no more than 3-4 hours a week. Consider the physiques of elite-level long-distance runners. Their bodies look emaciated and weak as a result of excessive cortisol production! Whist it is obvious that weight gain and cortisol has not impacted their bodies, the cortisol production certainly demonstrates the impact this powerful hormone has on muscle gain or at least muscle maintenance.

High intensity exercise also promotes increased production of cortisol but it tends to be much less when compared to the amount produced as a result of high volume aerobic exercise. Cortisol levels tend to rise immediately post-exercise and may remain so for up to 15 hours after the completion of the exercise. This rise in cortisol can be reduced by good nutritional habits post-exercise, improving the quality of sleep, minimising stress, using certain supplements, and by increasing your fitness level.

During the second half of nocturnal sleep the body's production of cortisol starts to rise substantially. Therefore, it makes sense to consume a meal as soon as possible after waking to stop the catabolic effect that occurs in the body at this time. Of course, if you're exercising and taking a thermogenic in the morning before breakfast to promote greater fat burning in your body then it may be worthwhile simply having some branched-chain amino acids to help prevent the possible muscle breakdown.

Skipping breakfast and putting on weight is a well-known phenomenon. Perhaps the weight gain and cortisol relationship is partly to blame!

Depression may also lead to an increased production of cortisol, which then causes a weakening of the immune system and degeneration of some parts of the brain. This may then cause further depression.

Recent research shows the intimate relationship that exists between all systems of the body. Rather than working independently, all the systems work in co-operation; the mind-body connection. Consider the mortality rates as a result of immunosuppression in the surviving spouse of a recently deceased person.

If you suffer from high levels of stress and you think that the weight gain and cortisol relationship affects you, then you may want to consider taking a natural herbal supplement to help your body deal with the stress more effectively. One of the best herbs to use is Rhodiola. It is an 'Adaptogenic Herb' and have been studied extensively, demonstrating potent stress-relieving benefits.

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