Having Trouble Reaching Your Fitness Goals? Avoid These Common Mistakes to Get Results
Fitness experts tell you to eat less and exercise more in order to stay healthy, but this lifestyle is difficult to maintain and not always effective. Frustration and discouragement set in when salads and cardio don’t deliver the results you expected.
So if you’re doing everything right, why does this happen?
Learn From Your Ancestors
When you look at weigh loss from an evolutionary perspective, it’s easy to see that the eat-less-move-more fitness philosophy is far too simple. Yes, excess calories and lack of physical activity do lead to weight gain and disease. But calorie restriction and over-exercise also cause their fair share of problems.
Cortisol is a stress hormone released by the adrenal glands during times of stress. Annoying bosses and final exams boost cortisol levels. Working too much and arguing with your spouse also sets your adrenals into overdrive. But there are also other issues that cause a stress response in your body.
Thousands of years ago, quick weight loss and a lack of calories in meals sent messages to the body that food was scarce. Running for long periods of time indicated that there was something dangerous to run away from. Even after all these years, too few calories in the diet combined with long-term aerobic exercise send the same messages to the brain and elicit the same stress response.
Know Your Fitness Enemy
Elevated cortisol levels work against your fitness goals in several ways. Cortisol’s first job is to boost blood sugar (glucose) levels. Long ago–before the days of gyms and running shoes–this surge gave the body a necessary burst of mental and physical energy.
A spike in blood sugar was crucial. It gave a person enough energy to get out of danger, or it provided sustenance until the next meal could be hunted or foraged. These situations usually lasted short periods of time. Once the threat disappeared, the body recovered, allowing it to come back into balance.
Today, frequent hunger and hard cardio keep cortisol levels high. In turn, blood sugar levels also remain high. When this blood sugar isn’t burned, it’s stored in the body as abdominal fat.
As if that weren’t enough, high cortisol also breaks apart muscle. Proteins break down into amino acids, and aminos are converted into blood sugar. This leads to insulin resistance, belly fat, and reduced muscle mass.
More Cortisol, More Problems
As cortisol levels increase, your body wants help getting those blood sugar levels up. This results in intense carb cravings. Carbs boost blood glucose levels even higher, increasing insulin production and insulin resistance. Those love handles you’re trying so hard to work off soon become a permanent fixture.
High cortisol affects your body in ways other than reducing muscle mass and adding belly fat. A continual hormone imbalance and blood sugar roller coaster lead to insomnia, anxiety, shakiness, headaches, and nausea. Your long-term memory may even suffer as high cortisol levels damage the brain’s hippocampus.
If you’re having trouble reaching your fitness goals, hard work and willpower might actually be working against you. Consider cutting yourself some slack by focusing on strength training rather than cardio. Also, try adding more nutrient-dense foods to avoid hunger. These changes will help bring cortisol levels back into balance for optimal results.