Is Stress Getting in the Way of Seeing Results?

When it comes to working out and achieving results – it helps to have each and every variable in place. Whether it be workouts, diets or hydration, all components need to be locked in in order to optimize peak performance and abilities. However, stress is often times one of the most overlooked variables when it comes to health and nutrition.

Did you know that more than 75% of the American population has experienced some level of physical or mental stress in the last month?

Minimizing stress is a critical factor when it comes to maximizing muscle gains, increasing muscle mass, and improving performance. In this piece, we’ll dive into how stress impacts your performance in the gym and ability to build muscle.

What is Stress?

Stress isn’t technically a disease, but it can have everlasting effects on an individual’s mental health. The body responds to external stressors and can affect us physically, mentally, and emotionally. Whether it be professional, personal, or emotional – stress can impact each of us individually at any time.

Perhaps you’re going through a breakup or relationship struggles. Maybe your boss has been giving you tight deadlines at work. Whatever the case may be, chronic stress can contribute to a number of health problems and systemic physical issues.

What Causes Stress?

When the body faces a perceived threat of any kind, stress levels rise and hormones such as cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine are released causing increased alertness, tense muscles, and heightened blood pressure. Short term, stress can contribute to depression, anxiety, and trouble sleeping. In the long term, chronic stress can even lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety disorders, and gastrointestinal disorders.

Over 80% of the US population experiences stress on the job to some degree or capacity. Chronic stress levels can impact the body tremendously. Stress releases a hormone known as “cortisol” which causes a fight or flight response which in turn manages blood pressure, reduces inflammation, boosts blood sugar, and controls protein, fat, and carb storage. 

How Stress Impacts Your Physique 

Stress and the release of cortisol impacts your body in various physical and mental ways. When it comes to your physique, here’s how stress can affect your body negatively.

  • Stress impacts your metabolism: Cortisol is part of a distinct group of hormones known as ‘glucocorticoids’ which increases blood glucose levels. It promotes the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats and taps into existing stores to free up energy during severe periods of stress. Excessive cortisol dumps most of the energy as dangerous visceral fat.

  • Stress increases hunger: Many people struggle with a phenomenon known as “stress eating.” Cortisol is a steroid hormone and all steroids directly stimulate appetite. Many people tend to counteract negative feelings stemming from stress when it comes to food choices and portion control. Chronic stress can damage your cells – thereby increasing your hunger hormones. 

  • Stress affects recovery time: If you’re overly stressed, higher levels of cortisol can lead to prolonged muscle tension, reduced blood flow, and a build-up of lactic acid. The resulting impact can cause your muscles to be less elastic – thereby limiting your movement and growth. 

  • Stress makes building muscle harder: The impact of stress on cortisol is catabolic, causing a breakdown of molecules that can slow the rate of protein synthesis. The body will find it harder to build muscle – thereby accelerating the breakdown of protein into amino acids. 

  • Although it is not possible to eliminate all forms of stress from your life, individuals can use stress to their advantage as a motivational boost to perform physical activities that can reduce the risk of potential stressors in your life. Taking the proper steps necessary to recover mentally and physically is the key to successfully managing stress levels.

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