However, if it is a problem you need to keep reading. Cortisol has an erratic past and has long been a misunderstood hormone. Some refer to it as the “King” of all the hormones. Still others take its name in vain because of its ability to mess up your sleep cycles and add unwanted inches to your tummy.  Regardless where you fall, whether you love cortisol or you hate it, you need to understand it and how it affects your health and life in general.

So what is cortisol?

This “King” hormone cortisol is created in your adrenal glands and its primary purpose is for regulating sugar with in your bloodstream. Cortisol helps to metabolize carbohydrates, protein, and fats. When you eat food, it helps your body digest macronutrients and make sure they go to the right places at the right times. Cortisol also plays a huge role in managing your stress levels, which is huge.

During times of stress your cortisol levels rise. When your cortisol levels rise you get a quick burst of energy, plus it helps improve your memory, and it to desensitizes you a little bit to pain. Obviously these benefits are extremely important and they are natural functions of cortisol.  Cortisol gives us the ability to deal with stress in our day-to-day lives.

However….if the stress doesn’t ease up, neither does the cortisol. Yes, in small doses cortisol is a good thing, but it can become dangerous over an extended period of time. If you are constantly in a state of stress, your cortisol levels remain high. When your cortisol levels remain elevated for an extended period of time it  can lead to adrenal fatigue. If you’re interested in learning about more adrenal fatigue click the link (http://winstonsalem.justyoufitness.com/always-tired-adrenal-fatigue/ ) and you can read a post I wrote about previously.

These are the three things that often occur if your cortisol levels remain elevated.

  • You will struggle to sleep. Which, if you remember from yesterday’s post is also extremely harmful.
  • You will crave foods that are high in sugar and fat. Which will not help out your health or your waistline for that matter.
  • And maybe worst of all you’ll gain fat specifically around your stomach area. Which dramatically increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes :-(.

The delicate dance of cortisol and the Circadian rhythm.

This is kind of off topic, but I am going to tell the story anyway. I was first introduced to the Circadian rhythm back in graduate school when I was studying to be a chaplain/counselor and when I first heard my professor talk about the Circadian rhythm I thought it was a dance at first…Thank goodness I didn’t raise my hand and ask for more clarification. Yes, there is such a thing as a dumb question :-). And I almost asked it.

Anyway, the Circadian rhythm is our natural cycle of sleep and wakefulness. Our bodies produce chemicals during the day and during the night that assist and control our sleep, energy, and are mood. This cycle is called the Circadian rhythm, and no the Circadian rhythm is not a dance.

 

When you think of the Circadian rhythm, I want you to think of a clock.

When our body is under normal circumstances, the clock, circadian rhythm, largely determines the flow of cortisol. For most people, your cortisol levels tend to be higher in the morning. This is triggered by the emerging sunlight, as your cortisol rises your body gets an extra boost of energy so that you can give 110%. Or if you’re like my daughter it empowers you to get up at 5:30 in the morning and come ask daddy for a snack and juice.

Now, as the day goes on, your cortisol levels generally go down, this helps calm you down and prepares you to sleep well at night. Which makes me think my cortisol levels are on point, because my little behind falls asleep in a blink of an eye.

Now the exception to the above, is if you are in a constant state of stress or if you’re suffering from adrenal fatigue, in which case, your cortisol may remain elevated.

If they remain elevated and stay that way you will not feel sleepy. Ironically enough, you’ll feel tired, but not sleepy. Plus, you’ll have a hard time being able to relax and fall asleep. I suffered from that symptom a lot when I was an assistant principal and athletic director. I constantly was worrying and stressing about things and couldn’t sleep well.

So how to fix your “clock”, also known as your circadian rhythm.

If you suspect that this is your problem I have some solutions for you. The intent of my advice is so that you can hopefully reset your clock and start sleeping better as well as waking up and being more refreshed, which will also have a positive effect on your fat content around your middle.

Here are my five tips.

  1. Try to eat the bulk of your calories early.  If you eat most of your calories early on in the day, it is easier on your body to recalibrate your circadian rhythms because you cortisol levels will do down as well. When you consume food your body releases cortisol remember? The more cortisol you have in your body the less sleepy you will be, that’s why you don’t want to eat at bedtime. Or at least one of the reasons you don’t want to eat at your bedtime.
  2. For the most part, try to avoid naps.  Now this advice is for people who think their circadian clocks are off. If it’s not, naps are okay, but if you think you can’t sleep well and your cortisol levels are high stop napping. Taking a nap can actually make it more difficult to fall asleep at night. So try to resist your clock by NOT taking naps.
  3. Use light tactfully. Remember, your circadian clock is partially regulated by how much light you interact with. This means, if your room is dark it will enhance your ability to fall asleep. So, at night time, make sure your room is dark, then in the morning make sure there’s a lot of light streaming in. It’ll help you get up. This once again will help reset your circadian rhythm.
  4. Consistency is key. This is going to sound like your mom, but you need to get up and go to bed each day at basically the same time. This is why they call it a circadian rhythm, it’s because it has a rhythm. If you’re waking up and going to bed at random times you don’t have a rhythm, which will increase your stress levels. And as we talked about earlier, the more stress that you have in your body the more out of control your cortisol levels will be. So try to slowly get your body into a sleeping schedule.
  5. Last, reduce your stress. I know this is easier said than done. But here’s the thing, nine times outta ten, our stress levels are directly related to how we respond to stressful situations. The stressful situations aren’t the things that are jacking up our stress. It’s how we are responding to those situations that are causing our stress levels to rise. And the higher your stress level are the more out of whack your cortisol becomes.

All of those are ways that you can help regulate your circadian clock, which will reduce your cortisol levels, which will help you lose body fat specific to your waist with the added benefit of sleeping better.

Now, you should have all this extra sleep and a slimmer waist line. It is now time that you come to me and start working out in a private studio solely focused on Just You. I will customize the program to your goals, your desires, and your needs. I will fully support you and keep you accountable to reach your maximum potential. If that sounds like something you want let me know.

 

Regardless, go be awesome!

KELLEN LAKE – My cortisol levels are high just from typing this lol.

PS – Try a free session on me, discover the VIP experience you never knew you were missing :-). http://winstonsalem.justyoufitness.com/


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