Recent insights, tips, and strategies I want you to know.
If you’ve noticed I’ve been quiet lately, it’s for good reason. This week, my team and I opened up our 3,400 square foot training space that needed LOTS of TLC to get up and running.
I spent lots of spare time away from Britt and the girls, and I’m happy to say it’s finally open.
Ain’t she pretty?
But here's the downside:
All those skipped workouts, grab-and-go meals, and lack of family time has accumulated in an excess of one particular hormone...
You’ve heard about cortisol. You probably have a rough idea on what it does, and how it can hurt your health.
For me specifically - feeling sluggish, tired, and about 5 pounds heavier.
Which brings us to today’s post.
It’s part 1 of 3 in a little mini-series about a few crucial hormones that can lead to successful fat loss. Today you’ll see...
...how cortisol can hinder your progress…
...how it can help your progress…
...and how you can tell if your own levels are high. (And how to balance them out.)
Because balanced hormones = optimized hormones = hot and sexy you
If you feel like you’re stuck, plateaued, holding too much weight in your midsection, or if you’re gaining weight, let’s dive in.
First off, cortisol is released anytime a threat is perceived to the brain. It can be any threat - whether physical, mental, or emotional.
Physical threats being obvious things like injuries and illness, but they can also intense exercise, allergies, or food intolerances.
Mental stress is when you’re worried about that looming deadline, you’re anxious about the upcoming performance review, or your boss asks you to stay late on a night when it’s your kid’s dance recital.
And of course emotional stress can be caused by relationship strains, self-esteem issues, or any other negative emotions you may feel through the day.
Do you experience any of those? Uh….yeah. Of course you do.
Stress is unavoidable, and you WILL experience stress in many forms no matter what you do or how hard you try to avoid it.
It’s just part of life.
Cortisol has some positive effects, too. When cortisol is released with other hormones like testosterone, Human Growth Hormone (HGH), and adrenaline - as is the case when you’re exercising - it will enhance fat-burning.
So it’s not all bad. Much like insulin. (More on that in the next post.)
here's why cortisol gets a bad rap:
Typically, life in North America goes like this: You wake up, eat a highly processed, high-carb breakfast, commute to work and sit at our desk for 8 hours, eat lunches and snacks with little nutritional value, then go home and sit around the rest of the night, eating more processed foods.
In this case, the combination of stress (elevated cortisol) from work, relationships, and physical environment pairs up with elevated insulin levels (from the processed foods) and low testosterone (from lack of activity) and this makes cortisol act more as a fat-storing hormone.
Constantly elevated levels of cortisol are no bueno.
Cortisol levels that are constantly unbalanced and outta whack will make your fat-burning efforts fruitless.
Studies have shown that chronically elevated cortisol levels can lead women to carry excess weight around the middle.
And unfortunately, cutting calories low and increasing exercise levels higher only increase cortisol levels.
so, how can you fix this?
Here's the first 2 steps to take so you can balance out your cortisol levels for optimal fat-burning:
step 1: get enough (but not more) intense exercise
I know, I know.
You're about to say, "But Brad, doesn't exercise help me lose weight, and I should exercise hard to burn lotsa calories??"
And you'd be kinda right. See, exercise, when done intensely, requires more oxygen consumption both during and after exercise. Increasing oxygen consumption has a benefit for burning more calories, so you can get more bang for your buck with hard training sessions.
However, sessions that are too long, too frequent, or too numerous will have a counter-productive effect on your goals, especially when paired with a big calorie deficit through nutrition.
Here's what to do: Strength train for a total of 3 hours per week. Do the math, and that's one hour 3 times a week, six 30 minute workouts, or four 45 minute sessions.
This will help you maintain lean muscle mass without over-training yourself and allowing for ample recovery time in between workouts.
Workouts that last about an hour or less can give you the fat loss benefits you're looking for, and help sculpt some newly visible muscle.
Stick with mostly multi-muscle, multi-joint exercises and finish off with higher rep sets of some of the smaller muscle groups of the shoulders, arms, and hips.
start with these:
TRX or Cable Row
And this awesome Plank variation
And, if you have some time to spare and want to work in some conditioning, or "cardio," 10 rounds of 10s (30s rest) with battling ropes or sled work sure will jack up the ol' ticker.
Now, cutting back on intense exercise is part of the puzzle. The next step is to tackle the energy coming in: Your nutrition.
step 2: start eating a bit more
The key words there are "a bit." See, low calorie intake will have effects on the various systems of your body; leaving you tired, sluggish, and with no motivation to get those short (but intense) workouts in.
Here's what to do: Eat certain types of foods, in the right amounts.
Where to start?
How about with the grocery list. Your goal is to get as many non-processed, whole foods into your shopping cart as possible.
We're talking lots of high-fibre veggies (anything green!), colorful fruits (think orange, blue, red), and high-quality protein sources - these would be chicken, fish, lean beef, wild game and eggs.
These foods will leave your body full of nutrients, while also keeping your stomach full and your mind off of cravings for things that are not on the list.
Now your next question might be, "Great! Now how much do I eat of these wonderful foods?"
This 'handy' little chart is a great place to start figuring out how big your portions should be. It's totally custom, because, well, it's you.
here's how much i'm talkin:
And for the men
Does that seem simple? Almost too easy?
Good. I want it to. Because it doesn't have to be some weird foods, restrictive portions, or crazy diet plans. Dialing down the intensity and bumping up your wholesome food sources can work wonders for a chronically stressed body (and mind).
But that's not all.
Here's just a few more things you can start doing RIGHT NOW to begin reducing your cortisol levels and getting your body back into balance.
Much more than you are now. Make time for an hour of leisurely walking each day, most days of the week. I don’t mean a speed walk or jog, I just mean throw some shoes on and explore the neighborhood or city. Just walk, ponder, and take a look around.
throw on google play or itunes.
Throw on a playlist of 10 of your favorite songs. They don’t have to be necessarily soothing nature sounds, but as long as they are songs that make you feel good, that make you happy, and boost your mood, you’re good.
hit the tub.
This one is really a no-brainer, but making yourself lay down in a relaxing bath, even for just 10 minutes, will cut stress levels down considerably. And a glass of wine at bath time is perfectly acceptable in this case.
set a 20-minute nap timer.
Another no-brainer, but sleep is of critical importance for stress relief, hormone optimization, and regeneration. Nobody takes sleep as seriously as they should, so you need to start!
This is one of my personal fave activities. Throw on a funny movie or TV show, think of a funny story that involves your old pals, or watch this video.
Seriously. Watch that video and just TRY not to laugh. I dare ya.
That’s going to give you some steps in the right direction when it comes to getting the ugly stress hormone back into balance.
Fat loss, and ideal body image, is impossible to come by without having a balanced metabolism, and the metabolism can’t be balanced without balanced hormones.
So eat some whole food, take a walk, and throw on your favorite songs. After that watch a funny show and run a bath.
Weight Loss Mini-Course