How Does Cortisol Affect Athletic Performance?
How much stress can we handle in one day without noticing the difference between the two?
Physical stress can add up quickly by spending hours on your feet, but mental stress also takes a toll.
When we're stressed, our cortisol levels are high. Cortisol - a hormone produced in response to stress - can have many detrimental effects on health and wellbeing.
It can affect sleep, mood, sex drive, bone growth, ligament strength and cardiovascular health. This could lead to fatigue and inflammation.
Its primary function is to increase protein breakdown, inhibit glucose intake, and increase lipolysis.
In moderate amounts, cortisol is necessary for healthy metabolic function.
Elevated cortisol levels can negatively affect your health, mood and performance.
It is part of why almost every one of our nutrition plans includes stress management because you're just not going to reach your lifting and body composition goals in the same manner if you're under a high level of chronic stress.
Mental or physical stress levels can cause the excretion of cortisol.
The higher the cortisol level is, the fatter protein and carbohydrates will be used to act against the source of the stress.
The body reacts with what is called the fight or flight response. Our bodies produce several hormones when we experience stress, including epinephrine and several others.
When epinephrine is secreted, the body releases other hormones as well, and we can take quick action.
This process makes the hormones cortisol and adrenaline increase while at the same time testosterone and Dehydroepiandrostone decrease.
Adequate cortisol levels are necessary for muscle recovery, immune function and overall good health.
If they're at a healthy level, you'll have fewer injuries, a stronger immune system and better performance.
Without a chronically elevated cortisol level, problems like injury and reduced performance will never surface.
Elevated cortisol can lead to a weakened immune system, respiratory infections, and low testosterone levels in the body.
As a result, you'll be in a catabolic state to break down muscle while storing fat.
Low testosterone levels mean suppressed recovery, leading to anxiety and a weakened immune system.
Aerobic and Anaerobic muscle fibres must give time to recover after use.
Elevated cortisol and lower testosterone levels can slow your performance gains, so it's good to know how this process may have affected you.
Studies have shown that cortisol levels are elevated with glycogen deficiency and increase a myopathy-like state (muscle weakness) in skeletal muscle.
Here are some tips to combat Cortisol:
- Breakfast is a significant part of any workout regimen, as studies have shown that it can help regulate blood sugar and hormones like cortisol before beginning.
- Further studies have demonstrated that the ingestion of carbohydrates during exercise modulates many endocrine hormones, including cortisol. To be sure your glycogen stores are not depleted, include carbohydrates in your exercise routine and make sure to recover with a high-quality drink. Drink one after exercising to help replenish the body's glycogen stores. In other words, endurance training should not be attempted if you are on a high protein and low carbohydrate diet.
- Studies have shown that a high dose of B vitamins and calcium can regulate precisely the hormones needed to control cortisol. You may add 4+ grams of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’s) and 6+ grams of the amino acid glutamine following exhaustive exercise can help lower cortisol.
- Another study showed that taking an extra gram of vitamin C daily can improve your testosterone to cortisol ratio by 20%. A decrease in cortisol levels can lead to increased muscle hypertrophy. The tissue healing and hyper-recovering after training lead to more muscle mass.
It is advised to mitigate those stressors and improve your resiliency to stress so you can successfully reach your goals.
Share with a friend who is always stressed out!