I’m sure you’ve seen it all over the web: “unbalanced cortisol levels lead to weight gain.”
This can be incredibly frustrating if you are in a deficit-related program trying to lose weight for a healthier lifestyle, or even if you have another goal (like an upcoming weight lifting competition).
What is a deficit? A caloric deficit is burning more calories than your body requires. Knowing how to manage, maintain and avoid your triggers will go a long way in helping you achieve your goals through nutrition and hormone maintenance.
So How Does Cortisol Tie Into All Of This?
Simply put, cortisol is a hormone released in the body via the adrenal gland. The adrenal glands are small glands located on the top of each kidney. They produce hormones that we cannot live without – one being cortisol.
Cortisol helps you respond to stress and has many other important functions. Your body’s cortisol levels increase when adrenocorticotropic hormones are released from your pituitary gland. Without getting into a lot of science, essentially, when a person is put under excess amounts of stress (whether it be physical or mental), the body produces more cortisol, attempting to calm you down.
How does this relate to nutrition? Another key purpose of cortisol is to help the body metabolize and use sugar and fat for energy. Having an excess amount of cortisol in the bloodstream and body can lead to weight gain, immune system issues, blood sugar imbalance, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, low testosterone in men and fertility problems.
How to Balance Your Cortisol Levels
It’s safe to say that we want to keep cortisol as level as possible! If you believe that you have chronically elevated cortisol levels, there are a few tips and tricks you can implement to help overcome this unwanted hormone excess. Lowering your cortisol can be accomplished relatively quickly.
Here are 4 tips that you can implement today to prevent cortisol crashing quickly and easily:
Up your magnesium intake.
Whether you get this through food or an Epsom salt bath, upping your magnesium intake will go a long way to improve your cortisol levels.
Get more sleep.
The obvious one – getting enough sleep helps your body restore and ensure you’re ready for another day of hard work.
Limit your blue light exposure.
Try to avoid blue light 1-2 hours before bed. Blue light comes from cell phones and televisions. Being exposed to blue light inhibits your body from creating melatonin, a naturally produced sleep aid, and can lead to getting less sleep, which is important for balancing your cortisol levels.
Eating frequent meals will help to keep your blood sugar level, even throughout the day. Make sure to grab a bite/healthy snack every 2 - 4 hours.
Sarah is a registered dietitian at FFC Lincoln Park. She is a credentialed professional who is inspired by the science of nutrition, passionate about advancing her knowledge in the field, and committed to promoting the RDN credentials.
She believes in the power of food, fitness, and having a good lifestyle balance. She aspires to serve as a guide to her clients & make positive differences in their lives. She loves to work out and be active, whether playing sports, rollerblading in the sun, or riding her bike to enjoy new delicious restaurants around the neighborhood.