How to Effectively Manage Cortisol Levels
Anyone who has been involved in fitness programs and weight training has probably heard of cortisol and its damaging effects on muscle tissue. Cortisol is a hormone that is released under certain conditions.
Cortisol, in turn, triggers the release of a protein called myostatin which breaks down muscle fibers and leads to increased water retention. This, of course, is contrary to muscle mass goals and understanding how cortisol works and how to effectively manage it is imperative to proper muscle development.
The Purpose of Cortisol
Cortisol isn’t an evil entity that lays dormant in your body waiting for a chance to be released so that it can wreak havoc. This hormone has an important function which is beneficial to your body under specific circumstances.
Cortisol is one of the main hormones used in controlling stress. Whenever you encounter stressful situations, cortisol is released to combat the effects. Without cortisol, you would quickly go into shock and even possibly die under traumatic conditions.
This key hormone is also beneficial when it comes to exercise. Cortisol releases fat which aids in the transformation of protein into healthy muscle tissue. Therefore, a small amount of cortisol release is desirable for post-workout recovery. The goal, then, is to manage cortisol levels so that beneficial amounts are released and levels which break down muscle are avoided.
When Are Unhealthy Amounts of Cortisol Released?
When it comes to exercise, high levels of cortisol begin to be released after 60 minutes of fitness training or aerobics. Therefore, exercise programs should be limited to this time period.
Large amounts of cortisol are also released when you over train. Overtraining places a great deal of stress on the body which hasn’t yet had time to recover properly and, in response, cortisol is released to offset the additional stress.
Long-distance runners normally have the highest levels of cortisol, but they are also less concerned about developing muscle mass than weightlifters and bodybuilders.
Cortisol Vs Newbies and Veterans
Contrary to popular belief, cortisol affects newbies more so than seasoned fitness veterans. Those who are just starting out with an exercise program place a great deal of stress on their system which isn’t used to the long runs, brutal aerobics classes, or crushing weightlifting sessions.
On the other hand, those who have a good amount of training already under their belt have become more accustomed to the routine. Therefore, the shock is less extreme and, as a result, cortisol levels are significantly lower at the end of a workout.
However, the main focus for increasing muscle mass is to constantly shock your body by lifting heavier amounts of weights and varying workout routines by using such methods as circuit training or supersets. So, even though cortisol levels may be lower in a seasoned vet than a newbie, they still have to properly manage the release of cortisol.
Ways to Combat Cortisol
There are several effective ways to combat the release and affects of cortisol and keep it from devouring your hard earned muscle tissue.
Smart Exercise Programs – We’ve shown how limiting your exercise routine to around 60 minutes will stave off cortisol production. However, in order to get the most out of your workout, you should also plan smarter. Utilize supersets and circuit training which will give you the maximum benefit in this time period.
Opt for Evening Over Morning Exercise Programs – Cortisol levels are highest in the morning and lowest in the evening so you can take advantage of this by opting to exercise when cortisol release is less. However, it’s best to work out when you feel most like it so don’t forfeit your fitness sessions based on this rule. Keep in mind that testosterone levels are also highest in the morning. If you manage your workouts well then you can keep cortisol levels down while taking advantage of the benefits of higher testosterone production. Cortisol management is key, however, because large amounts will depress testosterone and other anabolic hormones.
Get Plenty of Rest – Your body recovers from a grueling workout when you are resting and sleeping. Therefore, get plenty of rest and allow your body to fully recover before the next workout session. If your body hasn’t fully recovered then it will be more greatly stressed during the next workout which will trigger the release of more cortisol.
Consume More Protein – Consuming higher amounts of protein produces a faster recovery of muscle tissue. You should especially focus on getting more branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) since they go right to suffering cells and repair them more rapidly.
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Date Published : 2012-02-29 15:14:51
Written By : Rod White
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