Stress: The Real Enemy of Your Gains
You know the feeling when it hits. Stress visits everyone in some way throughout the day, whether you’re stuck in rush hour or your boss is getting on your nerves. Constantly stressing out can take quite the toll on your body, ruining all of the hard work that you put in while you’re at the gym. Let’s take a look at what stress can do to you and how to fight back.
WHAT DOES STRESS DO TO MY BODY?
Stress releases a hormone called cortisol. It’s the same hormone that spikes your adrenaline to get you ready to “fight or flight.” Cortisol is a necessary hormone but too much of it can be a really bad thing. A constant flooding of cortisol creates a catabolic environment in your body. This type of environment promotes muscle breakdown and increases the risk for illness. (1)
TOP 4 WAYS TO COMBAT STRESS
If you’re like most people, you stress more than you realize. Here are the best ways to de-stress and protect your health.
It’s easy to roll your eyes when someone mentions meditation but research is proving just how beneficial it can be. Meditation can help to alleviate anxiety, improve your mindset, and, most importantly, reduce stress! (2)
You don’t need to sit in silence for an hour a day. Many people have reported benefits after meditating for only 5 minutes per day. Try to do it as soon as you wake up to set the pace for the rest of the day. If you’re a beginner, jump on YouTube for helpful videos. You can also download a number of guided meditation applications on your phone.
- The Right Nutrition
If you’re no stranger to the weight room then you probably already have a general notion of what you SHOULD be eating. A healthy diet of fresh produce, lean meats, seeds, nuts, oils, and super foods should make up the foundation of your diet.
If you want to avoid extra stress on your body then you need to know what to not do. Processed foods with artificial preservatives, flavors, and sweeteners are only going to work against you. Bad social habits such as eating fast food, smoking, and drinking will also take your gains away. Keep it clean and dedicate yourself to staying the course.
- The Right Exercises
If you’re a gym rat, you need to know when to hit the brakes. Although it might seem like a good idea to put in an all-out effort 365 days a year, any veteran lifter or bodybuilder will tell you that a de-loading period is essential. If you don’t stop to rest, you’ll inevitably wind up overtraining and that can have serious consequences for your gains.
That doesn’t mean you have to sit on your couch for a week. Try lower impact exercises that promote cardiovascular health. Yoga, kick-boxing, and dance classes are all great options. Do this for one to two weeks then return to your normal routine.
- Get enough sleep
This is the most important rule for fighting back against stress. Sleep is when the body shuts down to take care of repair and recovery including everything from cellular repair to waste removal. Sleep is also when the highest levels of growth hormone are released.
Growth hormone is important because it supports fat burning and muscle building. A lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain and muscle breakdown. Want to avoid that? You should be sleeping between 7 and 9 hours per night with 9 being ideal. (3)
Now that you know what stress can do to your body, it’s important to take the right steps to avoid it or alleviate it. Do you have any methods that you use to fight stress? Tell us about them below!
- Boudarene M, Legros JJ, Timsit-Berthier M. Study of the stress response: role of anxiety, cortisol and DHEAs. Encephale. 2002 Mar-Apr;28(2):139-46.
- Fadel Zeidan, Katherine T. Martucci, Robert A. Kraft, John G. McHaffie, and Robert C. Coghill
Neural correlates of mindfulness meditation-related anxiety relief. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci 2014 9: 751-759.
- Gina Shaw. Sleep Through the Decades: How sleep changes with age, once you're an adult. N.D. http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/adult-sleep-needs-and-habits