Stress has a massive impact on how we function and it shouldn’t be overlooked as a major contributor to poor health and even body composition.
When you are highly stressed whether it is work, lack of sleep, road rage, “over training” (otherwise know as under recovering), you are in what is known as the sympathetic nervous system.
The sympathetic nervous system is the body’s flight or fight mode and therefore deals with stress in any way possible.
It is responsible for increasing your heart rate, heightening your senses and increasing anxiety, putting a halt on your digestion, and more.
When we are in this state, our body releases sugar from the liver for us to use as energy if needed.
If these sugars aren’t used up as energy a vast majority of them will be laid down as adipose tissue (body fat).
Other ways stress affects your body and health:
- Reduced testosterone (yes, females do need to consider this too)
When you are highly stressed you produce a lot of the hormone cortisol. This hormone gets priority over the raw materials, such as cholesterol, that it takes to create testosterone. This means that your testosterone takes a back seat, which is never ideal if you want to improve your body composition and train harder.
- Poor digestion
Stress plays a big role in digestion because when we are stressed our body will move a lot of our blood away from the gut and into the limbs. This means that we are more likely to absorb toxins from our food and not as likely to obtain all of the nutrients our food contains. The main trigger for Irritable Bowel Syndrome is stress.
- Drains Vitamin C resources
When we are producing high quantities of the stress hormone cortisol our body attempts to neutralize this with our stores of Vitamin C. Vitamin C is very important when it comes to repairing tissue, in particular keeping blood vessels and arteries strong, as it is a substrate for collagen (a structural protein). Therefore lower levels of Vitamin C can lead to impaired cardiovascular health.
So how can I reduce stress?
The simple way to reduce stress is to spend some more time in the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which is essentially the opposite to the sympathetic.
The PNS calms you down, slows resting heart rate and reduces cortisol output.
1) The likelihood is you need to sleep more/increase quality of sleep. I know that is easier said than done, but little things can improve this like not using your laptop or phone 30mins before you go to sleep, sleeping in a pitch black room and writing tomorrow’s “to-do list” before bed to clear the mind.
2) Improving your diet will also reduce the stress your body is under, by eating less processed foods and foods with higher nutritional value. Make sure you follow the nutrition guides in our W10 Nutrition Made Simple section.
3) Focus on the positive. I don’t want this to come over all “hippie”, but feelings of gratitude and contentment arouse the PNS.
4) Try Yoga. Controlled breathing and mobility work have been shown to activate the PNS as does yawning. Next time your boss catches you yawning tell them its part of your new stress relief routine.
5) Finally include more foods rich in Vitamin C, such as dark green leafy veg, peppers and berries, in your diet.
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