Consistent high levels of stress can lead to increased blood sugar levels, risk of insulin resistance, diabetes, loss of muscle and increased fat storage. This can result regardless of the food you eat or the exercise you undertake. Though eating badly and not exercise makes it worse. So managing your stress is vital for your health and any body transformation goals you might have.
Stress in the body is caused by a number of different things in life including, but not limited to, work, school, moving house, new job, bills, illness, an injury, medication, drugs, smoking, alcohol, lack of sleep, poor quality sleep, traffic, screaming children, an argument or confrontation, house work, being hungry, eating inflammatory food, eating something you are intolerant to or allergic to, eating high levels of sugary food, eating processed food, under eating, over eating, too much coffee, energy drinks, certain things you see or read on social media, the news….
As you can see we live with stress every single day of our lives, so it is vital we learn how to limit, change and manage these stressors to reduce their negative impact on our lives and bodies.
When the body is stressed it responds by elevating cortisol levels. Traditionally when humans got stressed in the early years it was a fight or flight response. That means you were either trying to fight a tiger or run away from it. The body secretes cortisol, which in turn releases glucose through a process called glycogenesis. That is a process where the liver converts stored proteins into glucose and releases it into the blood stream for instant energy so you can either fight or flee. As such insulin then elevates to stabilise blood sugar levels and avoid them getting too high. That puts added pressure onto your pancreas. All of this puts added pressure onto your adrenal system.
Everything is connected and affects each other creating a cyclic effect of disaster. Allow me to explain.
The increased levels of glucose in the blood leads the body to secrete insulin whose job it is to shuttle that glucose out of the blood stream off to the liver for storage as glycogen into the cells. If you have a high consumption of carbohydrates and sugars in your diet, these glycogen stores are therefore full. So instead of converting the glucose into glycogen the liver then coverts it to fat and stores it as either visceral fat (the dangerous fat around your organs) or subcutaneous fat (the fat found around our body that is used when we exercise).
Let’s go back to the start of the process for a second; initially due to the stress response your liver broke down protein to secrete sugar. Then, it coverts it to fat and stores it again but not as protein, this time as fat. So now you have lost productive vital building blocks that help repair and recover your cells and you have lost muscle tissue and added fat to your stores. Now if you need muscle tissue to break down fat, clearly that fat burning is not exactly going to be very productive, if at all!
But wait there’s more. And no it’s not steak knives.
If the pancreas is constantly secreting insulin it is getting over worked and struggling to keep up with demand. So now you have a glandular organ that is over worked and under paid, so to speak, and loses the ability to regulate, leading to the risk of insulin resistance and diabetes.
Now if the pancreas isn’t working properly it is then making the adrenal system struggle to keep up with demands because it too is struggling with knowing what hormone to secrete when, because it too is over worked and under paid! Now your hormones are all being secreted at irregular levels and intervals leading to fabulous effects such as fatigue, sleepiness and irritability. Your ability to cope with stress goes down and you start to struggle day to day.
Your stress levels go up and your body craves sugar so that you have more available at easier access to cope with the stress loads. So you increase your sugar intake to give yourself some energy. You are sleepy in the middle of the day so you pump yourself with coffee and energy drinks which stress the adrenal system, which stresses the body which makes you crave more sugar.
You are under so much stress now, you are over tired. You struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep. You find yourself waking around 2:00am-3:00am every morning to go to the toilet, a sign that your liver is struggling to keep up with the demands that have been placed on it. You wake up tired and need a coffee to wake up. Hello adrenal system. You crave sugar because you are so tired so you reach for that biscuit or chocolate bar adding more stress onto the body.
And now you are well and truly in, hook line and sinker, into that cyclic disaster of stress, sleep, sugar, hormones, fat storage, illness etc. and feeling like absolute crap. And on top of that you are beating yourself up mentally and emotionally wondering why on earth you can’t stick to your bloody diet or have the energy to turn up to training. The emotional chaos then starts so you want to make yourself feel better. You reach for that biscuit or chocolate bar; uhoh! Here we go again!
Time to go back to basics. Time to start with eliminating some of your stressors, or at least putting things in place to reduce their effect.
Start by making a list of every single little thing that could possibly be putting stress on your body. Go through your list and be brutal. What can you stop, delegate or change? Start implementing changes immediately. Just doing this exercise is going to start reducing your stress effects!
Once you have fine-tuned all of your stressors, it is time to start including things that will trigger your parasympathetic nervous system (the system that tells your body to relax) to start reducing the effects of any remaining stressors.
Things that trigger the parasympathetic nervous system include going for a walk, having a bath, meditation, reading a non-fiction book, colouring in, catching up with a friend, making love, hot shower, massage, infrared sauna, getting your hair done, listening to music, gardening, and anything else that helps you relax.
As you can see, stress plays a bigger part in your life than you think. If you value your health, have a desire to lose fat, want to tone up or build muscle, get fitter or get stronger, you really need to manage your stress as your number one priority. Failing to do so, prepares you for failure.
Become stress free today and stop that cyclic disaster!
I trust this has helped you understand that you are not a bad person or a weirdo for not being able to stick to your diet and exercise regime. You are but a mere human. And now you are an equipped human who can change things to make you feel better. Move forth and conquer!
Until next time, train hard, eat well and hug someone you love.
- Terri Batsakis