Stress: How Wreaks Havoc On Your Body

It’s obvious that our daily stress has changed greatly since the days of our ancestors. Today, stress comes from occupational issues, road rage and relationships to name a few! The problem is, the body cannot tell the difference. Your system cannot differentiate between "good" and "bad" stress. Whether in danger or pissed at the boss, your body reacts the same way. 

In actual “fight or flight” situations like falling into a tiger exhibit at the zoo, stress is good! Secretion of stress hormones (epinephrine, norepinephrine, cortisol & mineralocorticoids) during events such as this prepare the body for physical danger in a number of ways. Nervous system activity increases, heart rate and blood pressure rises, blood is diverted to the vital organs, and the liver releases stored glycogen into the blood for energy! This process is all well and good if it lasts for the duration it is needed, then returns to normal. However, this is rarely the case in our day and age. Chronic stress plagues most Americans. Most of you can imagine that having you body stuck in this heightened state for long periods of time is not a good thing.

Here are some ways in which chronic stress can negatively affect your health:

  1. Cortisol released from the pituitary gland decreases insulin sensitivity by receptor cells, lowering glucose uptake and keeping your blood sugar elevated. When needed this provides continuous energy to the CNS but if chronically elevated can cause insulin resistance and hyper-insulinemia, leading to weight gain.

  2. For your body to fuel this heightened metabolic state, it relies on glycogen and also protein stores.

  3. Cortisol causes “junk food” cravings!

  4. Cortisol inhibits protein synthesis, not good if you want a lean, muscular body.

  5. Excess glucose in the blood is stored in the midsection.

  6. Chronic stress decreases metallic rate, making it harder to lose weight.

  7. Chronically elevated cortisol can cause adrenal exhaustion, then leading to hypothyroidism.

  8. Loss of sex drive.

  9. Increased blood pressure.

  10. Causes sleep disturbances.

The above list isn't beneficial, however; this is not to say that stress doesn’t serve a purpose and that you should never be under stressed. The key is to have your body’s stress reaction turn on when its needed and shut off right when the situation is completed. For example; with weight lifting you want to raise cortisol during your workout to burn fat. Cortisol and the adrenaline hormones energize the body while training. However, immediately upon completion of your session it is a race to see how fast you can turn the “stress process” off so that the body can begin recovering. As cortisol lowers, insulin secretion will increase, driving nutrients from you post workout shake into your muscles.

Here are some tips for balancing your stress levels:

  1. Strength training regularly will help the body balance cortisol.

  2. Move on and do not dwell on the past.

  3. If you feel that your body does a poor job at managing stress, contact a trainer who is Biosignature certified (like we are here at The Gym of Avon). These trainers can perform body fat readings that link stubborn fat areas to hormonal imbalances.

  4. Keep your workouts to 45 minutes. Training any longer will stress the central nervous system and if done repeatedly the body will be unable to recover.

  5. Try purchasing a meditation CD/book.

  6. Look into yoga, it is a great de-stressor.

  7. Try taking Vitamin C or Restosterone post workout to decrease cortisol levels.

  8. Do not dose caffeine throughout the day, this can spike cortisol. 1 – 3 cups occasionally in the morning then cut it off. If you suffer from anxiety, avoid caffeine all together.

  9. If you’re the type of person who is “stress and wired” throughout the day, try a supplement such as Bliss or Serenity 2.0. These supplements aid your body in managing stress.

  10. Eat every 2-3 hours to avoid hormonal disturbances and excess cortisol secretion.