• Jeff Black

Stress - Part 2: The Stealer of all

Recently I wrote an article on stress and from that article came to the idea to further expound on some concepts related to stress and health. 

In order to paint a better picture of stress and your body, I want you to think of stress as a leaky water faucet. One that drips says every 30 minutes for perspective. So slow that you don’t notice it on your monthly bill.

Now think of stress as that water sped up. Slowly over time, the faucet drips faster and faster. Your bill goes up each month and subsequently, the money in your pocket dwindles down. Think of the bill as your body trying to fight stress and the money you are burning through as your hormones, sex and thyroid, and your neurotransmitter. Their levels as what you have saved up that are quickly dropping. 

Now with impaired hormones and high cortisol come insulin resistance. What this means is cortisol is in your bloodstream sending the signal to keep making glucose to fuel a threat. This is what stress is telling your body, that there is some threat somewhere to be prepared for. As a way to help glucose be utilized, your body raises insulin levels to help shuttle the glucose where it is supposed to go, but because you are not actively running or moving from the threat, your cells are not receiving the glucose which means they build up in your bloodstream. This causes inflammation, conversion of glucose to triglycerides for fat storage, and insulin resistance.

One way you see stress and fat gain correlate is those under chronic stress hold fat or store fat in their belly area more so than anywhere else. Fat cells in your belly have a higher love for cortisol than anywhere else. And since you are eating all those carbs and they have nowhere good to go they go towards fat storage. Combined with a hormone known as HSD which your fat cells release as cortisol *

And to top it off all the extra fat storage can mean excess estrogen and offset hormones because fat cells can convert testosterone to estrogen creating more estrogen which in turn creates an estrogen dominant state inside your body and an impaired hormone panel.

Another point to introduce is stress in relation to neurotransmitters. Stress gobbles up neurotransmitters which are essential for mood and drive along with staving off depression and anxiety. Neurotransmitter imbalances are linked closely to Autonomic Nervous System (ANS - Fight or Flight/Rest and Digest) dysfunction along with adrenal dysfunction. Cortisol and neurotransmitter issues are woven together which further illustrates the brain, ANS, and Adrenal gland's tight relationship with each other.

What are some stressors you might be asking? Well let me spit a few at you: Psychological stressors, physical stress, poor sleep or not enough sleep, nutrition deficiencies, heavy metal toxins, environmental toxins, and food allergies to name a few. Heart Rate Variability (HRV) gives insight into the impact of stress on your ANS and your adrenal gland. HRV, in my opinion, is going to be the next big in the fitness industry space in the next 5 years. I have been using various devices to track my HRV and so far have felt the best I ever have by understanding my data and making the various changes needed to keep my body feeling balanced and fighting off stress. I believe in this so much, I am writing a piece on HRV and the devices I utilize along with different ways to improve HRV based on what I have used with my clients as well and their data.

For example, when stressed, most of us tend to eat, specifically crave carbs. Why is this you might ask? Well, when your body wants carbs to create serotonin you are stressed you will crave carbs and this is because carbs are utilized to make serotonin.

Now cortisol is in play due to chronic stress and cortisol destroys L-Tryptophan and L-Tryptophan is needed to make serotonin. This means all the carbs you are eating are going towards fat storage because your body is in this stressed state where it thinks it must store for impending threats. This is just one example of how stress impacts your mood by stealing vital pieces to processes in order to feed the stress your body is under.

With all the stress we each face having a healthy liver is needed to detoxify your body and that also requires a lot of nutrients. The nutritional value of our food is on the decline while our needs for nutrition are on the rise. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies cause disease and illness while our body struggles to function without the essential tools it needs to keep your body healthy and thriving optimally. If you are a nutrient deficient you are impairing your detoxification process. Toxins that are not detoxified by the liver are stored in your fat tissue which in turn causes chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation caused by heavy metals (comes with the turf of a modern world) and environmental toxins can lead to your body always being in a fight or flight response if they are not removed from the body.

There are a number of nutrients needed for your body’s stress response. Some of them are the B Vitamin family, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, amino acids and minerals like zinc and magnesium are needed for the proper functioning of your adrenal gland and your nervous system. Without these vital things, your body is unable to produce adrenal hormones and neurotransmitters.

This is how chronic stress gets you. Low hormone levels, low neurotransmitters, and downward cascade begin. Because you are stuck in this fight or flight state, from a lack of being in a rest and digest state you are giving way to things such as insomnia, anxiety, and depression along with gastrointestinal issues along with an impaired immune system. Because of all these pieces involved, you have to understand in your fitness journey you can do all the right things and still be failing, this is where you have to understand what poor nutrition and lack of exercise for times on end took its toll on you. You didn’t have an outlet to burn the stress up because stress raises blood glucose levels. Stress eating all the processed foods didn’t help either as they leech vitamins and minerals to help neurotransmitters and hormones. Which means you don’t have the tools to rebuild your house. In literal terms, stress is not only aging you but is helping you towards pushing up daises sooner than you would probably like.

This is where working with a coach who has experience and understanding of how the big picture really is - not just eat less workout more. That is not working anymore for the majority of people I am working with when they hire me. A good coach has a comprehensive plan of attack to help you mitigate the stress response with nutrition and supplements. With that said if you are working out and doing all the right things on your own, I would suggest some blood work with complete hormone panels along with vitamin and mineral levels, and even an Organic Acids Test to assess environmental and heavy metal exposure along with food allergies.

As a takeaway note, stress affects longevity. If you are like most of us, you want to live a long and fulfilled life especially one with independence. Managing stress and giving your body the things it needs to help combat prolonged stressors is the way to turn the tide against the monster under your bed that stress is. All you have to do is be aware of it and work diligently with solid habits such as working out, nutrition, supplements, and things like yoga and meditation to help turn the tide in your favor of a life with minimal stress and maximal living.

In the next article on stress, I am going to discuss stress in relation to your gut health and thyroid.


About Jeff Black

Jeff is a nationally recognized health and fitness coach, public speaker, podcast host for The Excellence Cartel, owner of Iron House Strength & Conditioning, bodybuilder, and Osteogenesis Imperfecta Advocate. He is also a roundtable expert on IntenseMuscle.com.

Today, Jeff works collectively with some of the top coaches in the health and fitness space presenting to other coaches and individuals on health and fitness. He has a passion for leadership and serving others to help them be their own hero. He is recognized for his results, but above all else, the passion he has for the coach’s heart he holds dear. 

Now with impaired hormones and high cortisol come insulin resistance. What this means is cortisol is in your bloodstream sending the signal to keep making glucose to fuel a threat. This is what stress is telling your body, that there is some threat somewhere to be prepared for. As a way to help glucose be utilized, your body raises insulin levels to help shuttle the glucose where it is supposed to go, but because you are not actively running or moving from the threat, your cells are not receiving the glucose which means they build up in your bloodstream. This causes inflammation, conversion of glucose to triglycerides for fat storage, and insulin resistance.

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