If you have ever stayed up enough to start flipping through infomercials (who hasn’t?), you will for sure have seen at least one ad for cortisol-suppressing supplements. The sales pitch is rather simple: you are feeling very stressed out, the body in turn releases cortisol to counter the stress, and so what happens? Cortisol ends up storing water and fat in your body (especially in the abdominal region). What’s the solution? Super Cortisol Blocker 2000 and your belly will disappear! Sounds great, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, this will never work.
Let’s start at the beginning: what is cortisol? Cortisol is a glandular hormone, excreted in a fight or flight situation in your body in order to ensure the nutrient flow into your blood stream. Cortisol is the primary glucocorticoid, increasing the glucose levels in the blood stream. It is not a bad thing per se, it is needed to make sure the body functions properly (just like every other hormone in your system!).
The levels of cortisol can be elevated due to strenuous dieting, training, travel, anger, alcohol, consumption… the list goes on. And while cortisol facilitates the storage of adipose fat, it can only do that when provided with extra calories. This is because cortisol itself is calorie free, which is the very reason why POW inmates are so lean. Their stress levels are extremely high but their food rations aren’t. The results? Drastic weight loss. That being said, people that are overworked, over-caffeinated, and/or under-slept tend to eat unconsciously (snack) which then causes the weight gain.
It would go beyond the scope of this post to evaluate all cortisol-suppressing supplements, so let’s just say vitamin C and glutamine have shown some promise, but the effects are nothing to write home about. Here is a list of some other ways to lower cortisol levels in your body:
1. Try to relax as much as possible. Whether this is done through meditation, prayer, massage, or bird watching, I’ll leave that up to you.
2. Cut down on caffeine, try to stay away from drinking anything with caffeine after 3PM.
3. Establish a good sleep schedule by keeping the same bed hours, using no electronics one hour before going to bed, and making sure that the bedroom is cool and dark.
4. Keep your diet alkaline by adding lemon water, grapefruit and watercress to your diet.
5. Do not try to be perfect. Especially us New Yorkers!
Until next time,