With overloaded schedules, career needs, busy family life and even fitting into important healthy habits such as cooking and exercise, you have little time to rest and recover. This is the American way. We are filled with stimuli all day, from the moment we wake up, until our head touches the pillow. Moreover, we are proud to be busy and productive. Many of my clients tell me that they get rid of stress and even call self-service lazy, indulgent or just unnecessary. I am also guilty of breaking through and ignoring warning signs about too much stress. When I look more deeply at metabolic biomarkers for the same clients, I find that stress affects them the most. Even if they are emotionally resisting the pressure of life, their hard work tells a different story.
Our bodies are designed to deal with stress. In fact, stress is what allows our bodies to adapt and survive. We constantly respond to stressors in order to restore homeostasis. Think of it as a happy place in your body. During stress, our adrenal glands secrete the necessary hormones, such as adrenaline, adrenaline and cortisol. Cortisol is our main hormone “fight or flee” and functions to provide us with the fast energy we need to respond to the perceived threat, signaling the breakdown of glycogen (accumulated glucose) and muscles. It is released in the morning to help us wake up and feel cheerful, and by the evening should naturally decrease to ensure a restful sleep. It is also released during the day to respond to acute stressors, and quickly returns to its original state when the body returns to a state of homeostasis.
When we leave a minimum margin, even positive stressors, such as exercise, can take us over the edge. I had countless clients, because they seem to be doing everything right when it comes to nutrition and exercise, but it is still does not give results. They often respond by limiting further food intake or even diligently exercising, only to increase their symptoms. Think of it as a good stress that went bad. When we conduct further research and evaluate their daily work and laboratory work, we can identify the effects of stress and create a more individualized strategy.
We are all stressed. So what?
I looked at thousands of laboratory tests and personally saw the metabolic effects of chronic stress. Here are a few barriers that I usually see:
- Weight gain and belly fat: Chronically elevated cortisol levels lead to weight gain. Cortisol mobilizes fat from storage and moves it into this stubborn belly and visceral fat (deeper in the abdomen), which increases the risk of developing chronic diseases. In addition, stress destroys our appetite hormones, while increasing cravings for high-calorie or high-carbohydrate foods. Then we fight a losing battle, and willpower never wins.
- Digestion: When our body is in the “fight or run” sympathetic mode, it suppresses the “rest and assimilate” parasympathetic system. This reduces the production of gastric juice, necessary for the absorption of nutrients. Over time, it can also upset the delicate balance of bacteria in the intestines and promotes increased sensitivity of the intestines and food, which also contributes to inflammation and weight gain.
- Dysregulation of blood glucose: Cortisol not only increases blood glucose levels, it inhibits insulin release, and also makes cells resistant to insulin. It keeps glucose available for energy in the bloodstream. However, when the body stays in this insulin-resistant state for too long, it affects body composition, energy levels and the risk of chronic diseases.
- Hormonal balance: Chronic stress affects the production and availability of sex hormones for both men and women. Think of it this way: stress before sex; the body prioritizes the production of sex hormones in favor of producing the stress hormones necessary for survival. It also reduces the production of thyroid hormones and prevents the conversion of inactive into active thyroid hormones. These hormones are necessary for the functioning of each cell and determine our metabolic rate (that is, how many calories we burn).
Of course, the list does not end there – stress can also affect mood, brain health, and the risk of diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and dementia.
Create a routine for sustainability
Even seeing the effects of stress in their objective data and recognizing the corresponding symptoms, many of my clients still respond: “I understand … but I cannot change my STRESS.” Although many stressors are beyond our control, we can reduce the physical burden on our body by finding the right nutrition and exercise plan for our unique metabolic plan. If you think stress can slow down your efforts, look for tests to evaluate HPA axis dysfunction and hormone health. After evaluating your unique hormonal rhythm, we can guess the guesses and fine-tune the type of exercise, workout schedule, balance of macronutrients, stress management strategies and special supplements.
While testing is important for a more individual approach, everyone can benefit from simple strategies to increase cup space and increase resilience. Of course, I don't want stress management to be just another task, so I would like everything to be simple, moving on to our daily life.
Morning. Wake up gratefully. What is the first thing you do when you wake up? You may be opening your email, browsing the latest news headlines or browsing social networks. These automatic trends can actually trigger a stress response. Choose gratitude instead. Keep a gratitude journal in your notebook, on your phone, or even in applications of gratitude, and take only a few minutes each morning to record at least three things for which you are grateful. Need a little convincing that it's worth your time? Studies show that keeping a gratitude diary has a positive effect on sleep and mood, reduces anxiety, and supports immune health. 5.6
During the day. We all know that meditation is a good idea, but I often hear that the idea of meditating for 30 minutes reminds one more routine work. I think it’s better for me personally to concentrate on small breathing stops during the day. Stop and take 5 deep breaths in the stomach during transitions during the day – before you leave the car, go to the next meeting, eat every meal, etc. Place your hand on the lower abdomen and focus on raising and lowering when inhale. nose and exhale through the mouth. Think of it as pumping the nervous system throughout the day to activate the parasympathetic response. Breathing before and after workouts can also have a positive effect on recovery.
Of course, nutrition also plays a key role in increasing sustainability. Start by including at least part of the palm-sized protein at regular intervals throughout the day, which is especially important during stress to protect lean body mass. Balance protein with at least half your plate of multicolored, non-starchy vegetables with a source of healthy fats to help stabilize your appetite, reduce inflammation and provide key nutrients. Carbohydrates should be based on activity levels, and laboratory tests help determine the right strategy for each person. However, high quality multivitamins and fish oil are also crucial.
Go to bed with intent. Create a regime that reduces stimuli and maintains restful sleep. Many of us spend our day in the “fight or run” mode and expect to click the switch as soon as we fall asleep. However, we need to create a procedure that signals our body to switch to rest mode. Start by turning off all the electronics for 1-2 hours before bedtime. The screens emit blue light that can increase cortisol levels and suppress the natural production of melatonin. 7 Instead, spend time talking with loved ones. Social connectivity has a major impact on health and may even affect the production of cortisol. I also recommend magnesium before bed for most of my clients to help maintain a restful sleep. Stress and exercise can deplete magnesium, and this is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in the United States.
Ready to take action? If you have questions about which laboratory assessment is right for you or you want to contact a trainer, send an email to [email protected] to contact our dietitian team.
– Mandy Rother RD, LD, IFMNT Nutritionist, NASM-CPT – Life Time Assistant Program Manager, Laboratory Testing
This article is not intended to treat or prevent disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. The use of recommendations in this and other articles on the choice and the risk of the reader.