Cortisol is a natural steroid hormone that our body produces as part of our normal sleep cycle and in response to stress. Cortisol has its purposes: it helps your body prepare for stressful situations by regulating your metabolism and other systems. However, when your body releases cortisol in response to non-life-threatening situations, it makes things worse by leading to weight gain, wounds, acne, and irritability.
Too much cortisol in your body can also impact your workouts. Cortisol’s goal is to protect your body for stressful situations by holding onto fat reserves, which makes losing weight difficult. Elevated cortisol levels also inhibit muscle growth.
If you’ve been feeling extra stressed and plateauing in the gym lately, elevated cortisol levels might be the culprit. Here are some ways to reduce your cortisol levels.
Get More Rest
People with trouble sleeping have higher cortisol levels, which has been linked to several chronic illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, and mental health issues. Prioritizing your sleep hygiene can help you reduce cortisol levels.
Sleep hygiene includes creating a bedtime practice that will help you fall asleep faster. Try to go to bed around the same time each day. Don’t use technology for an hour before bedtime and don’t exercise unless you have several hours before bedtime (workouts increase your short-term cortisol levels, making it harder to fall asleep).
Sometimes, just going to bed earlier and putting away your phone isn’t enough to help you get to sleep, particularly if you are suffering from chronic insomnia. Invest in a sleep supplement such as Hyber-Nite. Hyber-Nite is a supplement that uses natural ingredients to relax your mind and help you fall asleep. Reducing stressors and helping you to get to sleep both lower your overall cortisol levels.
There’s good news if you’re already hitting the gym regularly in an effort to build muscle—exercising regularly can help reduce your overall cortisol levels. If you’re already moving your body often but are still experiencing elevated cortisol levels, changes to your routine can help bring those stress hormones down.
One important change you can make is adjusting when you work out. Exercising increases cortisol levels in the body in the short-term because the body releases this hormone in response to the pressures of moving your body. Those hormones dissipate in a few hours and your cortisol levels will be lower overall, but if you exercise right before bed, you’ll have trouble falling asleep and regulating your cortisol levels back to normal.
You also need to be careful not to overdo it. Overexercising raises your cortisol levels too much and makes it harder for your body to regulate. Don’t skip your rest days!
Reduce Overall Stress
The body releases cortisol in response to stress because it needs to prepare for dangerous situations. However, many of the situations that cause us stress daily are not actually life-threatening. Managing your response to stress and preventing your body from releasing cortisol in the first place will help you lower your levels in the long run.
Of course, reducing stress is easier said than done, but there are a few methods that you can use to try and do it. The first is mindfulness. Practicing regular mindful meditation can help you lower the intensity of your stress responses. Pay attention to how your body reacts when you start to feel stressed and practice mindful breathing exercises in the moment. Deep breathing exercises help your mind focus and reduce your stress responses to a trigger.
Regular daily meditation can also help improve your response to stress when you’re faced with a trigger. Even a few minutes added to your daily routine can lower your overall cortisol levels.
Finally, lower stress by seeking out things that make you happy. Spending time with friends and people that you have healthy relationships with, laughing regularly, and even walking your dog can help lower your cortisol levels.
Sometimes, changing your lifestyle is not enough to get your cortisol levels down to manageable benchmarks. In that case, talk to a doctor about possible supplements that could help you balance out hormone levels in your body.
Initial studies link testosterone supplements such as Test Booster to lower overall cortisol levels. Test Booster can also counteract some of the negative effects of cortisol on your workout routine by helping you gain more lean muscle and improve your stamina in workouts.
Before adding any supplements to your routine, talk to a medical professional, especially if you’re already on medication.
Releasing cortisol is our body’s vital response to stress, but sometimes our endocrine system overdoes it and releases too much of it. You can lower cortisol levels by making lifestyle changes, such as exercising regularly and earlier in the day, getting better sleep, and taking supplements to help you reduce stress.