Stubborn Weight Loss

Written by Emily Schromm | Photo by Jaclyn Wolf

How working out too much can limit your results.

How many of you have been here before: you’re cranking up your fitness efforts, the dumbbells are moving, sprints are happening, macros are being calculated, but the measurements? Stagnant. You’re doing everything you can in and out of the gym but oh-my-gawd, where are the results?

Guys, we need to talk about cortisol. The hormone released by our adrenals that tells the body to adapt to stress and run away from scary situations can easily go haywire in this hectic, chronically stressful day and age. Physiologically, cortisol is an incredible tool that signals your body when it’s low on glucose, the fuel that is required to run from a predator, increase focus and heart rate, and do whatever is necessary to survive.

But here’s where things get complicated. During a short, intense workout, this hormone is released. During long, steady-state workouts, this hormone is released. When we skip breakfast then work out, this hormone is released. When we get into an argument with someone, experience tragedy, have a bad day at work, or even get stuck in traffic, this hormone is released. Seeing a pattern?

We are constantly tapping into our adrenals and our cortisol. This amazing adaptation technique that our body is equipped with is being overused, the consequences of which can include chronic injuries, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, belly fat, hormone disruption and yes, the inability to lose weight.

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So what can you do about it? Try these steps that have greatly helped me and my clients deal with excess cortisol and the cycle of high stress:

1. Eat before you exercise.

Early morning workouts, especially intense ones like HIIT, require proper fuel, otherwise, you’ll be producing extra cortisol to survive them. Even a small bit of food 30 minutes before your workout will make a world of difference.

2. Don’t overtrain.

The whole “train smarter not harder” thing? It’s legit. Make sure to build in rest and active recovery days, and include post-workout nutrition in your routine.

3. Don’t go crazy on the carbs.

We need just enough to maintain muscle growth and anaerobic function, but not too much where we cause our body to constantly crave sugar.

4. Listen to your body.

If you have a headache or you slept poorly the night before, get outside and walk up a hill a few times instead of a full-on workout that will take you a day to recover from. If you’re really unwell, just take a rest day, and don’t feel bad about it.

5. Don’t obsess over the scale.

Set goals to crush that are strength or performance based. Constantly worrying about the number on the scale only adds more stress to your already stressed body.

6. Chill out on the caffeine.

Have your morning coffee, but sip water and herbal tea throughout the day.

7. Supplement properly.

Certain supplements, such as adaptogenic herbs, vitamin C, and phosphatidylserine, can help lower cortisol and emotional stress (talk to your doc or a naturopath before taking them though).

8. Practice relaxation.

Set aside time to destress, whether it’s through meditation, taking a walk, going to yoga, or using essential oils and flower essences.

Stop letting stress be your limiting factor, and finally see the results you want!