Are you frustrated with your lack of results? Maybe you spend several hours every day working out and doing cardio yet still can’t seem to improve your physique. Unlike many other areas of your life, when it comes to bodybuilding more isn’t necessarily better. In fact, training too hard or too often can result in a spike in your cortisol levels – otherwise known as the stress hormone. Your body naturally produces cortisol as a response to (you guessed it) stress. It is produced in the adrenal gland and acts as a jolt to your system to help deal with stress. Have you ever noticed how you are more alert when you are very stressed? That is the result of a spike in cortisol levels.
Cortisol isn’t all bad. As mentioned earlier, it helps make you more alert so you can deal with stressful situations. This is simply an evolutionary function of our bodies. Thousands of years ago humans would often find themselves in life or death situations (such as being attacked by a bear) and would need to be able to adapt accordingly. The only problem is that producing too much cortisol results in higher blood pressure and weaker bones which can present health risks.
The Impact of Cortisol on Bodybuilding
Because cortisol acts as a jolt to your system it is essentially diverting energy away from all non-essential functions and directing it towards dealing with the situation at hand. That means your body is no longer rebuilding muscle tissue. When it comes to your actual training routine, testosterone levels remain high early in the workout. At the one hour mark cortisol levels begin to rise. Since cortisol effectively reduces testosterone you will want to avoid having extended workouts. This is why most bodybuilders will lift for 20-45 minutes. Make sure you aren’t spending too much time in the gym socializing as this can extend the length of your workout and put you in that 1 hour + danger zone.
Cortisol and Fat Burning
There are two types of weight loss – losing fat and losing muscle. If you are doing the former you will look better. If you are doing the later you will actually look worse. A lot of people try to speed up the fat loss process by doing tons of cardio. After all – if they are burning more calories they will lose more fat, right? As it turns out, not necessarily. Extended cardio sessions have been proven to boost cortisol levels. As a result, your testosterone levels will drop and you will be more likely to burn muscle instead of fat. While doing cardio isn’t necessarily a bad thing, we recommend limiting your sessions to under an hour a few times per week, rather than running at a steady pace for hours on end. If you don’t believe us, just look at the physique of the average sprinter compared with the average long distance runner. One is lean and muscular whereas the other one is just… lean.
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Tips For Keeping Cortisol Levels Down
1 – Limit Your Training Sessions
For cardio, try to keep your sessions to under an hour. Don’t try and compensate for a lousy diet with tons of cardio as it will only amplify the problem. For resistance training keep your sessions under an hour so your testosterone levels don’t start falling.
2 – Fix our Diet
Rather than eating 3 large meals try having 5-6 smaller ones as studies show that these types of diets tend to be more effective at keeping cortisol levels down. Your cortisol levels tend to be highest in the morning, so we recommend starting out your day with a large, nutritious meal. It’s also a good idea to make sure you have a fast-digesting, high-protein meal right after you work out. Shakes with whey protein isolate are obviously a great option for this.
3 – Get Plenty of Sleep
Your cortisol levels are lowest when sleeping (after all, there’s not much to stress you out when sleeping). Also, your body is producing the most testosterone at this time. If you want to make sure you continue to produce testosterone throughout the day and limit those cortisol levels make sure you get plenty of sleep.
4 – Take a Testosterone Booster
As we mentioned earlier, when your cortisol levels increase your testosterone levels will drop. One way to make sure your testosterone levels don’t get impacted by cortisol spikes is to make sure your levels are as high as they can be. That’s why we recommend taking a high-quality testosterone booster that uses natural ingredients. These products will keep your testosterone levels as high as they can be so you continue to make those gains. Click here to check out our dedicated testosterone booster page for more information on the best products currently on the market.