When you’re stressed, your hormones and adrenal glands become overworked and impact your ability to lose weight and handle cravings. Use these innovative de-stress strategies to fight back against body fat.
Stress is the basic cause of 60% of all human illness. Plus, 40% of stressed people overeat or scoff unhealthy foods according to The American Institute of Stress. It’s easy to see why it’s so closely yoked to bigger body fat figures.
Being aware of your total stress load is also important because you can only handle so much. You’ll be rattled by moving house – even if your new home could crack a Cribs episode. If you pile exercise stress on top of that, you could be left feeling even more strung out – even though you’re actually happy. It’s easy for your overall stress load to sneak up on you like a credit card bill from a night out, leaving you in a much poorer state.
Fortunately, you have built-in responses to help you adapt. Your body’s coping mechanisms are the same regardless of the type of stress you’re under and you can fix your woes with foods and supplements.
What happens under the hood
When you’re worked up you release adrenaline, a fast-acting hormone that mobilizes you for a fight, flight or freeze response. This increases your heart rate and blood pressure and energy is mobilized because sugar and fats are dumped into your bloodstream for immediate energy. Stressors also raise cortisol – a type of low-grade adrenaline, which can cause you to gain weight in the long term. That’s because if you’re dieting, your body looks for energy by releasing stress hormones. Ever felt shaky or irritated when hungry? That’s your stress hormones kicking in.
To mange them, balance your blood-glucose levels by eating protein with slow-release carbohydrates throughout your day. In a nutshell, avoid carbs with a high glycemic index (white breads, potatoes, sugary drinks, cereals) and eat proteins, vegetables and good fats (avocados, oily fish, chia seeds). Comfort foods don’t support you – they make it worse.
You can also moderate your how you feel by supplying the raw materials for your body to build more stress hormones. The amino acid tyrosine is a building block for adrenaline and noradrenaline: two key stress hormones. Depleting these hormones makes you less stress-resistant, but supplementation with tyrosine can improve that resistance.
You can get tyrosine from spirulina, egg whites, seaweed and cottage cheese – all of which are excellent muscle-building and fat-burning staples. You could also consider serotonin – your happy hormone – which helps you feel love and sleep properly. It’s built from tryptophan, an amino which is abundant in protein sources like turkey and cottage cheese. Supplementation with 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) can help you produce more serotonin and has been shown to help with cravings, which makes it a powerful dieting aid.
If you’re stressed, it’s vital to avoid too many stimulants because they can put your body into fight-or-flight mode. That’s useful before training, but using too much throughout the day is a recipe for disaster. Stick to one or two coffees each day and be prudent with your use of sports energy drinks. Herbs like rhodiola rosea and holy basil are known to reduce cortisol production, while BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) and vitamin C have strong effects on limiting excessive stress-hormone production during exercise.
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