How To Lower Cortisol – The Fat Loss Enemy! 

July 15, 2020

By Troy Adashun


Slow metabolism and cortisol are two of the biggest factors contributing to a slowing down in weight loss. Knowing how to lower cortisol is extremely important if your goal is to shred fat.

What Is Cortisol?

Cortisol, the stress hormone, is produced in the adrenal glands. It is also known as the fight-or-flight hormone as it controls the environment your body is placed in. Here is how it works to preserve human life: 

  • Cortisol is responsible for managing the use of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates in the body.
  • It plays a vital role in keeping inflammation down.
  • Blood pressure levels are all controlled by cortisol.
  • Glucose - blood sugar - levels are also increased or decreased.
  • Your sleep cycles are maintained with cortisol.
  • Cortisol boosts your energy levels during stressful situations and helps restore balance once the stressful situation has passed.

Cortisol is needed in almost every aspect of your life, from stress management to regulating how your body copes with food. If you don't see any fat loss results and are on track with your diet and training, high cortisol levels might be the cause. 

The Effects of High Cortisol

woman on scales checking her body fat

High amounts of cortisol in your system can have a negative impact on your weight loss. As cortisol shuts down functions it deems unnecessary in stressful situations, the first to go is your metabolism. This impacts how you digest carbs and store fats. No wonder it has such an impact on your weight.

Chronic stress leads to a state of permanently high cortisol levels. This stressed state can have a drastic impact on your life. High cortisol levels lead to several physical changes:

  • Storing fat and weight gain, especially in the upper back and belly areas
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Heart disease and cardiovascular issues
  • Insomnia and fatigue
  • Inability to manage inflammation is vital to recovering from training; when your cortisol is too high, your body cannot properly recover after a training session 
  • Memory problems such as brain fog
  • Increased appetite
  • Weakened immune system
  • Long-term high cortisol levels are contributing factors in obesity, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and diabetes

If it is natural, why is it bad?

Too much of a good thing is not always good. Cortisol might play a vital role in regulating your body and how it responds to stress; when you are in a chronic state of stress, it throws all your summer body goals by the wayside.  To reach those goals, you will need to reduce cortisol levels in a healthy, manageable way without placing too much stress on your body. 

Understanding that life and health need to be balanced is the key to burning fat for good. Here are the top five ways to lower cortisol levels.

#1 Don't overdo it in the gym

Troy Ab Exercises rest

Short and intense is the way to go. Overdoing it in the gym can cause cortisol to rise in response to physical stressors. Running marathons and training for hours on end is not going to help you reach that desirable summer body. Maximizing your gains is easy and attainable if you simplify your training. 

The balloon method allows me to keep my workouts short and intense and see fast results!

- Troy Adashun

  • Keep it short and sweet. Try sticking to a routine of 40 - 60 minute weight training sessions 4 - 5 times a week - it's just the right amount of time you need in the gym. If you are working out any more, that places physical stress on your body and can cause inflammation. You do not need hours of cardio after every gym session to look great. 
  • Intense - Intensity is the key ingredient to get the best gains without adding to your stress levels. Short and intense workouts such as a quick 15 - 20 minute HIIT class or HIIT Sprints are ideal twice a week. These quick and intense workouts shred fat, combating weight gain. 

Recovery is essential; as cortisol levels play a role in maintaining your inflammation, your recovery days are crucial. Make sure you have at least one full day's rest a week. Give your body time to cope and recover properly. Don't overdo the cardio if you are in recovery from weight training.

#2 Try not to overdo alcohol and marijuana

having to much to drink increases cortisol levels

Central nervous system depressants like marijuana and alcohol might be a way for you to kick back and de-stress. However, they have the opposite effect on your cortisol levels; instead of maintaining an even level, they shoot straight up. A few rounds at the bar might lower your chances of getting that body you are looking for. 

Marijuana directly after a workout increases circulatory cortisol; this triggers your body into fat storage mode.  Muscle protein synthesis is also another factor to consider, as smoking after a workout can trigger it. Meaning all that time in the gym was in vain. The same goes for drinking in excess after a day of working out.

That doesn't mean you cannot indulge. You absolutely can enjoy yourself; just make sure you do so in moderation and not close to your workouts.

#3 Beating cortisol with your diet

Post Workout Meal - Sushi

Carbs are friends, diet is king. There is evidence that states that your diet is just as important as your training in every aspect. From gains to shredding what you eat, your diet is the cornerstone of internal health. When you get the proper nutrients, your body responds appropriately and functions better. 

High carb foods are actually great post workout to lower cortisol levels. My go to is sushi.

- Troy Adashun

The base of every healthy diet is full of clean and fresh food. Foods like whole fruit, vegetables, lean meat, eggs, potatoes, legumes, and oats are all needed to get the best out of your health and reduce your cortisol levels.

Fruit and veg

These fruits and veg are all excellent at helping reduce the levels of cortisol in your system. Be sure to include them in your diet. 

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Bananas
  • Pears
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Bell peppers
  • Kale and leafy greens
  • Tomatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Asparagus 

Lean meats

Healthy, quality lean meats are essential sources of protein.

  • Pasture-raised beef 
  • Liver
  • Chicken and turkey
  • Mackerel 
  • Salmon

Grains and legumes

Complex carbs are an excellent choice for a post-workout meal that can help lower cortisol levels.

  • Brown rice
  • Fresh sushi
  • Quinoa
  • Whole grains
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Whole-wheat pasta

Hydration station

Dehydration is a cortisol fiend - couple it with intense exercise, and you have a recipe for disaster. Your cortisol levels will skyrocket. Here are a few excellent beverages to include. 

  • Oolong - a herbal tea from Asia that helps speed up the metabolism and has cortisol-reducing effects. Make sure you drink plenty of water as well.
  • Green tea/ Matcha Green tea - is a cortisol killer; it reduces your cortisol and helps speed up your metabolism at the same time.
  • Water- you need at least one gallon of clean water every day. Make sure you are getting it in, as dehydration is not ideal for weight loss.

Avoid overindulging

There are a few things to avoid or exclude from your diet if you want to keep it clean and get your cortisol levels under control. These foods act as a stimulant for cortisol levels. They slow your metabolism down or contribute to inflammation. Overall limit or avoid these in your diet.

  • Fruit juice has a lot of hidden sugars, these spike your insulin levels and are not ideal for any diet. Stick to infused water or have a smoothie instead.
  • Vegetable and seed oils
  • Trans fats
  • Sugar
  • Caffeine can cause dehydration if you are not careful. For every cup of coffee, you should drink at least one glass of water. Another downside to caffeine is that it stimulates the central nervous system as well as cortisol. Try to avoid it or limit your intake.

A note on chocolate: Dark chocolate is an excellent cortisol reducer. A block or two is ideal even on the strictest of diets. Yes, chocolate can help reduce stress. Stick to 70% cocoa or more, with no added sugar

#4 Mind over matter

woman in panic and stress chores apartment is mess and dirt

Your mind has complete control over your bodily functions. Your mental health and state of mind is the number one factor in elevated cortisol. Health and wellness come from healing the mind and the body. Stressful lifestyle changes such as moving, new children, and intense work spaces all impact your cortisol levels. 

Keep these in mind if you are stressed:

  • Deep breathing exercises - These are excellent for grounding and centering yourself.
  • Taking it one day at a time - Stressors don't always go away overnight, it is a process, and you've got this. So take it one day at a time. 
  • Getting a good night's sleep - You should aim to get a solid 7 hours of sleep a night. Sleep has an important role in your health; you need the reset to keep your body rested, recovered, and functioning on all cylinders. 
  • Spending time with friends and family - Everyone needs a break, sometimes all you need is to get out and spend time with those you love. They can help relieve some of the weight on your shoulders. 
  • Keep a journal - Make notes of how you feel and where you are mentally; this will help you cope with your stress in a Superhuman way. More often than not, people overthink and complicate their issues if they don't get it out on paper.
  • Relaxing and restorative exercise - These are quite fun. Take up a tai chi class or a yoga session. Even the toughest men can do with a yoga session every few months; it helps naturally lower high levels of mental stress while training the body to help deal with it.

#5 Supplements for better health

Superhuman Supplements

There are a few supplements you can take that can help you lower cortisol or keep cortisol levels balanced. Adaptogens are well known in the supplement world as natural solutions to help your body cope with stress. 

  • Ashwagandha - More than one study proves the benefits of ashwagandha and its ability to kick cortisol levels down. The recommended dose is 200mg daily for the best results.
  • Rhodiola - Other studies have shown promise with Rhodiola Rosea as another powerful adaptogen that can give you a little energy boost and lower your cortisol levels.
  • L-Theanine - This supplement can help you get a good night's sleep and relax at the same time. Try 200mg daily alongside ashwagandha for the perfect combination.
  • Vitamin C - It is one of the essential vitamins you can add to your regime.
  • Maca - The bodybuilding adaptogen. Maca is well known for its bodybuilding benefits and its ability to manage cortisol. The Peruvian manual laborers use this root to keep them going and keep them strong for long hours. It is the ideal companion for physical stress management. 
  • Superhuman Armor - a supplement with all the good stuff in from vitamin C to basil - a critical ingredient that contributes to lower cortisol levels.

I take Superhuman Armor because its loaded with Vitamin C, and also loaded with testosterone boosting zinc and a blend of innovative ingredients that boost your immune system and help your body defend itself from stress easier.

- Troy Adashun

Remember that supplements will not lower stress levels; they help support your body and help your body cope better in a stressful situation. Quality over quantity is essential. A supplement does not remove your need for a healthy balanced diet. It is only there to enhance your health and give it a helping hand. 

Reasons for high cortisol

Now that you know how to reduce it, is important to understand why you might have too much cortisol. There are several factors that you should consider. 

  • Lifestyle - Stressful lifestyles of no rest, with high-intensity exercise, poor diet, and work stress, contribute to high cortisol levels. It is crucial not to burn the mind and the body out. Pushing yourself into overdrive is not helping your cause.
  • Physical stress: Physically draining jobs and working out like you are deranged does more harm than it does good. Your body needs to recover; working out and pushing yourself while you are still in a recovery state will not help you get your dream body.
  • An emotional stressor - Many people experience emotional stressors that can create a lot of problems with the production of hormones. While you cannot avoid these, it is good to keep them to a minimum and have emotional coping mechanisms. Talking to someone you trust can help more than you know. 

If your life is in balance and none of the above reasons strike you as a reason why your cortisol levels might be high, check in with a doctor. There are a few medical reasons as to why your cortisol might be elevated. A 4 point cortisol test can pinpoint the amount of cortisol you are producing throughout the day. Tumors on the pituitary gland or the adrenal gland can cause a steep rise in cortisol.

Change starts one step at a time

Cortisol is not the end of the world for athletes, but it might be one of the most overlooked factors when it comes to weight loss and getting in shape. The hormone is a testament that your mind and body are intrinsically related. 

The science is clear; stress is not healthy for anyone on a physical level. Your beach body is attainable; think of it as a challenge to get both your state of mind and body to the best fighting form. Your body is a machine, and you can fine-tune it to perfection. 

What are you waiting for? Go get your heart rate pumping, let off some steam to lower stress and cortisol, and don't forget to have a little fun!

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