Public enemy number 1, cortisol is one of our stress hormones. High levels interfere with our memory, lowers our immune system and bone density, increases blood pressure, cholesterol and risks of heart disease, hinders weight/fat loss and ages you prematurely.
High cortisol levels also increase the risk of depression and mental illness, especially in adolescents and young adults. It’s released by our adrenal glands in response to fear or stress as part of our “fight or flight” mechanism. If we find a way to “fight”, we can distress and the levels come back down but unfortunately, in this day and age of long working days and sleepless nights, we all too often opt for the “flight” and the cortisol builds up and wreaks havoc on our body and mind.
So, how does it elevate and how can we decrease it?
Increased cortisol levels are caused by:
. Long bouts of steady-state cardio
. Lack of proper deep sleep
. Severe trauma, stressful events or a highly stressful job
. Continuous consumption of alcohol
. High levels of adipose tissue (body fat)
. Severe calorie restriction
. Caffeine post-training
Decreasing cortisol is helped by
. Taking a magnesium supplement, especially post aerobic workout
. Taking omega 3 fatty acids
. Reducing your body fat levels through resistance training and interval training
. Music and massage therapy, meditation and yoga
Try to de-stress regularly. Make time for yourself and those that are nearest and dearest to you and don’t think that you can burn the candle at both ends for prolonged periods of time without it having a detrimental effect on you physically and mentally!