When More is Less

When you exercise, your body releases the anabolic hormones testosterone, growth hormone and insulin to help build tissue. However your body also produces catabolic hormone cortisol which has the opposite effect in that it reduces protein synthesis and stops tissue growth.

Cortisol is a hormone that is released from the adrenal gland when stimulated by stress, immune regulation or to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. The body perceives moderate to intense exercise as a stress and will release cortisol during a typical training session. Cortisol stimulates the production of glucose in the liver, inhibiting the action of insulin and preventing glucose uptake into the muscles. Controlling cortisol can help you minimize its muscle-wasting effects. Here are some points to consider:

1. The importance of quality vs. quantity when it comes to your gym time can’t be overstated. Spending more time at the gym may actually have the opposite effect that you intend, so keep your workouts shorter, efficient and effective.

 2. Manage stress by setting aside time for quality down time in the form of meditation or even a massage.

 3. Get your required 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Cortisol levels are lowest in the deepest phase of sleep.

 4. Make carbohydrates count. When your body runs out of glycogen – which it uses for energy – the increase in cortisol triggers a breakdown of protein (stored as muscle) to be converted to fuel. This can be avoided by eating first thing in the morning and consuming carbohydrates immediately after a workout. 

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