Contrary to what many people think, it’s not just about exercising more and calories in and calories out.
Calorie restrictions and low-carb diets can work great in the short-term but many actually relapse or plateau at some point.
From what I’ve seen in my private practice, a lot of people following these types of diets eventually become malnourished and severely nutrient deficient. This then leads to a host of other issues in the body…
Some people even add excessive exercise on top and this is a recipe for disaster because it starts to negatively affect your thyroid, estrogen to progesterone ratio, cortisol levels, etc.
We have to dive in deeper than that and realise that there is much more to it.
WHAT’S THE IMPACT OF STRESS?
Did you know that stress is one of the main culprits for dysregulated blood sugar?
High levels of blood sugar can lead to more body fat being stored because the body is not using it as a fuel source.
Remember, insulin is produced every time you eat because it “opens” the cells to take in the glucose from the blood and then use it for fuel.
Insulin plays a key role when it comes to blood sugar regulation as it helps control the levels of glucose in the blood.
The problem starts when your cells stop responding to insulin because glucose starts to build up in the blood stream. Your body then will store it in the liver, muscle cells and as body fat…
WHY ISN’T YOUR BODY BURNING FAT AS FUEL?
When you’re under high levels, your body will see itself in a survival-based state. This means that your body will lower its metabolic rate and that’s how we kept alive from an evolutionary perspective (in order to survive with less calories).
For example, if your basal metabolic rate is 1800kcal, stress might lower it to 1500kcal so if you eat anything over that, you will start to gain weight.
WHAT’S THE EFFECT OF CORTISOL?
1. It affects blood sugar
I’ve stated the three types of stressors in previous blog posts but they are: (1) physical stress, (2) chemical stress and (3) emotional stress.
When your body perceives any stress, it brings more glucose into the blood to give us energy to “fight or flee” for survival.
This means that you can actually spike your blood sugar even if you’re fasting and you will not burn body fat.
The same applies to coffee because it can increase cortisol secretion and thus spike your blood sugar. This means that if you’re intermittent fasting, having a cup of coffee in the morning might break your fast! You can test this by using a glucose meter at home.
2. It slows insulin production
Cortisol also slows insulin production which leads to more glucose circulating in the body.
A VICIOUS CYCLE
Cortisol mobilises energy by tapping into the body’s fat stores (in the form of triglycerides) and moving it into the visceral body fat (located in the abdominal area).
This is why it is very common for people that overexercise to have belly fat even if the rest of the body is lean… that’s the price you pay for higher levels of cortisol.
Visceral fat cells also have more cortisol receptors than regular subcutaneous fat (this is the visible fat underneath the skin) which then leads to more fat storage and thus more belly fat…
If you’re doing everything right and are still holding fat mainly in the mid-section, a saliva-based hormonal test is the way to go. It will measure your cortisol levels output throughout the day (upon waking, early afternoon, mid-afternoon and before bed).
Cortisol shouldn’t be the same consistent level throughout the day and this is why we need to test it at different times to make sure it is in tune with the natural diurnal rhythm and not out of whack.
It will also look at DHA and this hormone is an important balancer to cortisol for ageing and immunity.
Lastly, if you’re a woman, it will give a good indication of estrogen dominance if you run it between days 19-21 of your cycle.