How stress affects muscle mass, and how to lose weight

Learn how stress exposure affects muscle mass and how the weight loss process.

Adequate nutrition, regular physical activity (exercise) should lead you to achieve your goals, whether your primary goal is to increase muscle mass (bodybuilding) or to strive to lose weight, ie. loss of fat deposits. However, what if you still do not achieve significant results or the results are completely absent? The culprit for this could be longer and / or greater exposure to stressful situations in everyday life. To what extent stress exposure will reduce your progress is a very individual question because not all people react equally to stressful situations, but in any case exposure to stress has a very negative effect on your results which would not be missed or would be far better if you were not exposed to this almost inevitable occurrence.

Stress is a normal part of everyday life and, no matter how hard we try, we cannot avoid it. What you should control is the amount and type of stress and how a particular person copes with the stress. In other words, if it is impossible for you to avoid stress, then he must master the way you react to it, that is. you have to learn to deal with it. A special problem is long-term repetitive stress, which inevitably leads to poor fitness results.

Stress relief should be the first step in the process of losing weight or in the process of increasing muscle mass (muscle hypertrophy).

How stress affects the possibility of weight loss (fat loss)

Recent research has confirmed that stress and obesity go hand in hand, and the mechanism behind it is known. Clearly, there are always hormones behind everything. Chronic stress causes hormone imbalances and slows metabolism. Stress provokes the secretion of the hormone cortisol, which in turn stimulates the endocrine system so that there is discomfort in the stomach, which can be somewhat improved if food is constantly consumed. Such a “better feeling” in the stomach has a high price in the form of the formation of fat deposits. In conclusion, stress causes a “false” feeling of hunger. And not only do you eat more often, but you also eat far more than is enough to get full. Hormones are also responsible for hunger signals. Ghrelin is the hormone responsible for the feeling of hunger, and leptin is the hormone responsible for the feeling of satiety. When you are under stress, the body reduces the level of leptin and increases the level of ghrelin. That is why you eat more and do not feel full. The result is that you take in a lot more calories than you need, which is why you gain weight. Chronic stress not only causes the feeling that you are constantly hungry, but also causes a craving for foods that are rich in fat and sugar. Stress causes intense cravings, which is why many then eat more unhealthy foods that grow fat. High levels of cortisol that the body secretes when you are under stress can have a number of harmful side effects. One of them is the storage of fat in the abdomen. If you are in a state of stress for a long period of time, it can change your blood sugar level – which can cause mood swings, fatigue and other diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. When we are under stress we tend to store more fat ie. high levels of stress may be associated with higher levels of abdominal fat – which may be associated with e.g. heart disease.

The vicious circle can be broken by avoiding stress, changing lifestyle, choosing the right foods, training, etc.

How stress affects the possibility of increasing muscle mass

Very negative! Stress hormone ie. cortisol is released by the adrenal gland under the influence of mental and physical stress and high fever. Unfortunately, this hormone destroys muscle tissue and has the exact opposite effect from testosterone, growth hormone and insulin. Potentially, one of the biggest factors that can affect the release of cortisol in the body is exposure to stress. When you are under a lot of stress, whether it is caused by problems at work, relationship problems, or financial issues, etc., and even when that stress reaches a very high level, the body will start releasing significantly more cortisol. Therefore, the release of this hormone must be controlled if we want to build muscle mass – cortisol in itself is not a problem for bodybuilders, the problem is its increased secretion. The biggest dangers for the body from the increased secretion of the hormone cortisol (stress hormone) are: reduced effect of testosterone and growth hormone, osteoporosis, decreased muscle mass and increased fat deposits in the abdomen, weakened memory and learning ability, weakened immune system, etc. The task of cortisol is to preserve glycogen in the muscles – carbohydrate sources of energy. In an effort to preserve the remaining glycogen, cortisol converts muscles into carbohydrates for energy and thus destroys muscle tissue and acts catabolically.

Let’s explain this hormone in a little more detail on a pictorial example. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands so that the body can cope with stress. Namely, every stress, whether physical, emotional or mental, requires the organism to adjust, which is exactly what the action of the hormone cortisol enables. As long as stress lasts, this hormone is secreted. Imagine you are in the woods and suddenly you see a big bear. This is undoubtedly a stressful situation and cortisol is released almost instantly to prepare you for the fight against stress, that is. in this example, escape from stress, ie. bears. This requires quick thinking, quick reaction and very fast legs. Cortisol leads to the release of glucose into the bloodstream and an increase in blood pressure in order to create better blood flow to the muscles. Also, the nervous system is stimulated to think better and respond faster, and the immune system, on the other hand, is temporarily shut down in order to save energy for other important activities in order to adapt to stress, that is. run away from the bear. Since energy is needed very quickly in this situation, cortisol empties the nearest energy sources – glycogen from muscle and triglycerides from adipose tissue. In an effort to preserve the remaining glycogen, cortisol converts muscles into carbohydrates for energy and thus destroys muscle tissue and acts catabolically. The effects of cortisol, although perfectly necessary in meeting a bear, are perfectly unnecessary and harmful in meeting the sources of stress from everyday life (problems at work, financial problems, etc.). Today’s sources of stress do not require too much physical readiness from us, and yet the events in the body are the same as if we were planning to save our own lives from a deadly situation.

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