Did you know that by controlling your cortisol you can sharpen your senses, trim your waistline, and also prevent a cold? This great mechanism of survival was designed to protect our bodies when we experience stress, but as they say, sometimes too much of something good can ruin the whole mix. So that we can understand the difference between pros and cons of cortisol, it would be helpful to explore it further.
Cortisol is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands in the body and has the following functions:
- Proper metabolism of glucose.
- Regulating blood pressure.
- Release of insulin for blood sugar maintenance.
- Inflammatory response
- Immune function
- Quick burst of energy in times of fight or flight.
- Heightened functions of the memory.
- Boosting the immune system.
- Lowers pain sensitivity.
- Helps to maintain homeostasis in the body.
Cortisone levels in our bodies are normally higher in the morning when we require getting things done and lower in the evening when we relax for the days’ work. However, when we don’t get enough rest, our bodies will tend to produce an increased level of the hormone. An increased production of cortisol can cause further lack of sleep due to insomnia and other sleeping problems. When cortisol is produced it signals the brain to demand for high calorie foods as a survival technique to supply our bodies with more energy. This would be okay if you were faced with a flight or fight situation but not in a case of mental stress.
Cortisol is often referred to as the stress hormone because of its high levels released in the bloodstream when the body is undergoing a great amount of stress, too much cortisol can be problematic to your health such as:
- Increasing belly fat, which is associated with a greater levels of health problems.
- High blood pressure.
- Can impair cognitive performance.
- Suppressing thyroid function.
- Blood sugar level imbalances like hyperglycemia.
- Decreasing bone density.
- Decreasing the muscle tissue.
- A lowered immune system.
- Higher levels of cholesterol.
The key to managing cortisol production to a healthy level is relaxing. In fact, proper rest is essential to the well-being of the body. Sleeping for 8 hours rather than 6hrs can mean a reduction in cortisol levels of up to 50%. Other ways of reducing cortisol are:
- Praying and meditating can cut cortisol by as much as 20%.
- Listening to your favorite music can cut cortisol levels by nearly 65%. Take a walk as you listen to some new music from your iPod to lower stress and reduce belly fat.
- It turns out that enjoying an afternoon cup of tea has many health benefits such as reducing cortisol by about 45%.
- Attending church or other religious service can reduce cortisol by 25%.
- Doing something nice for someone once in a while reduces cortisol levels by 20%.
- Therapeutic massage can reduce cortisol levels by 30%.
- Hang out with fun loving friends and you’ll reduce cortisol by up to 39%.
· – Have a romp in the bed with your partner. Increased stress and cortisol apparently boosts your sex drive, so why not enjoy some love-making while you reduce stress and cortisol levels and also burning about 70 calories in 30 or so minutes. Regular exercising helps you regulate cortisol levels, lower blood pressure and also reduce stress. Take charge of your stress and learn how to control it. Life challenges can be tackled easily when we enjoy life and preserve our health and happiness. Knowing that, let’s see how body builders are affected by cortisol levels in their bodies. All bodybuilder have heard that you must keep your training sessions to less than 45 minutes because after training, cortisol levels kick in.
Based on a new study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, rise in cortisol levels may not be such a bad thing! Researchers examined 56 healthy and untrained young men who participated in a resistance-training program for 12 weeks.
The researchers then measured levels of testosterone, IGF-1 growth hormone (GH), and cortisol concentrations at the end of the program. If an increase in testosterone and GH were the only variables for increased muscle growth, then those men with the highest levels should have made most improvements in muscle mass, but they did not. The biggest variables appeared to be study GH and cortisol.
Lifters with the largest post-workout spikes in cortisol levels were associated with a gain in type-II muscle sizes but also it was the only hormone that was associated with greater gains in lean body mass.
If keeping training programs to less than or 45 minutes to reduce cortisol was the key to growth of muscles, the group with the biggest increases in testosterone should have been the obvious winner, but shockingly the group with the biggest post-exercise increases in cortisol made bigger improvements
in muscle gains.
According to the lead author of the study, Daniel West “The notion that you can or should base your entire exercise training programs on trying to manipulate testosterone or growth hormone levels is not true. There is no evidence to simply support this concept.”
It is necessary that bodybuilders learn how to manage their cortisol levels to keep making the best gains. For competitive serious athletes, it may be essential to have cortisol tests done on a regular basis. Some conditioning and strength coaches insist on it. For an average trainee, as long as you know of the factors that produce excessive cortisol and are keen to keeping it in normal levels and healthy ranges, testing is not so necessary.