Stress, the Killer of Fat Loss
Updated: Aug 22, 2022
I hear it all the time. A person claims to be doing everything right. They track their calories, weight and measure their food, do their workout program to the letter, but still can't seem to lose body fat. It makes them feel frustrated, defeated, and down right angry. The truth is that yes, calories and exercise are the backbone of changing your body, but it is also possible that stress is killing your fat loss.
It is possible that stress is killing your fat loss.
Did you know that fat loss is partly controlled by hormones? This is significant because this means that fat loss is systemic. When you exercise it releases hormones that travel all throughout your body, signaling your fat cells to breakdown the stored body fat to be used as fuel. Since these hormones get released into the blood stream, they travel throughout the entire body. This is the main reason why "spot reduction" doesn't work. You cannot do a bunch of "core" exercises and expect to burn the fat right off your stomach. Body fat is reduced throughout the whole body, some places more than others. In short, you can't control where you burn fat. This process of fat metabolism is referred to as beta oxidation.
Another hormone that tends to get a lot of attention in the health and fitness realm is cortisol. Cortisol is generally thought of as a stress hormone, and although it does have a roll in long endurance activities, this particular hormone can reek havoc on your fat loss progress. I wont go into all the molecules and enzymes but to put it simply, stress releases cortisol and cortisol inhibits beta oxidation which blocks your ability to burn body fat.
Cortisol is also released when we lack sleep. SO..... if you are burning the candles at both
ends, stressed with work and family life, AND lacking sleep, your body is going to have a hard time building muscle and losing fat. Another thing about cortisol, it makes us crave carbohydrates. Ever have a late night and then feel strangely hungry all day? That lack of sleep causes cortisol to dump into your body.
When you eat carbohydrates your body releases insulin. Insulin is a hormone that signals your body to take in and store fuel. This signal is really good if you just completed a workout - your body will take up the material it needs to start rebuilding and recovering. However, if you are sedentary, and release a bunch of insulin into your system, your body will still take up all the sugar and fat that you just ate. And since it has no real use for it right now - it's going to be stored as body fat. In addition, lack of sleep can also cause you to eat more throughout the day, putting you into a calorie surplus, which your body will also store those extra calories as body fat. So if you are lacking sleep and over stressed you will have high levels of cortisol, you will be craving carbs, eating more, and have a very hard time losing fat.
So what can I do?
Step 1 De-stress
Focus on breathing, and relaxing. Go for a light walk outside. Research has shown that walking is proven to decrease cortisol levels in a single bout. Walking in a forest environment decreased average cortisol concentration from 9.70 to 8.37 mmol/L.
Step 2 Get Better Sleep
Are you getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night? Try to schedule your day so that you can get 7-8 hours of sleep. Once you have accomplished that, we can work on quality.
To help with quality of sleep, eliminate caffeine 5 hours before bed. Studies show that caffeine can effect your sleep up to 5 hours after that cup of coffee. Reduce light in the room you sleep in and before getting into bed. Light helps us regulate our internal clock. Too much light late at night will effect your ability to fall asleep.
Step 3 Eat more Protein
Lets say you had a stressful week and your sleep has been off. Now you are craving those carbs! But don't do it! Those carbs will inhibit your fat loss. The best thing you could do is aim for high protein. Studies show high protein meals decrease cravings for simple carbs. The protein will also be good for your recovery and muscle mass.
This is one of the things I like to focus on as a personal trainer, the mindset and the process. I understand that sometimes it is not as simple as calories in calories out, and many of my clients have experienced the fat loss benefits of mindset coaching and better sleep step by step.
If you're ready to change your life and your body, contact Kyle now so he can make a plan that fits your busy life and budget.
If you're looking to get into a deeper level of fitness and need some one-on-one attention check out my virtual coaching option. We will start with a 1 hour complimentary strategy session to discuss what you need.
Lets work on a deeper awareness of our health and fitness together!
Kyle Cook M.S.