Jun 26, 2023
First, stress is not always the enemy.
Often we think of stress as the enemy, and although I am going to discuss ways that it really can do damage to your metabolism, I do want to make sure we are clear. Stress in and of itself is not entirely bad or something we have to avoid all together. During periods of stress, the body releases the hormone cortisol, often referred to as the "stress hormone." Cortisol plays a role in regulating metabolism, including the breakdown of glucose, protein, and fat for energy. However, chronic or excessive cortisol release, such as prolonged stress (which is actually SUPER common in today's day and age), can lead to major disruptions in metabolic processes which often manifest in the following ways:
#1 Fat Storage
Chronic stress can promote fat storage, particularly in the abdominal area. Abdominal fat tissue has a higher concentration of cortisol receptors compared to other areas of the body. This makes it more susceptible to the effects of cortisol. When cortisol binds to these receptors, it can promote the storage of fat in the abdominal region.
The excess cortisol released during stress can stimulate the production of visceral fat, which is associated with increased health risks, including metabolic disturbances and cardiovascular diseases.
#2 "Survival Mode"
"Survival mode," also known as the "fight-or-flight" response, refers to your body's response to stress. During survival mode, cortisol suppresses non-essential functions that are not critical for immediate survival, such as digestion, reproduction, and immune function. This allows more energy and resources to be redirected towards the actions needed for survival.
Prolonged exposure to high cortisol levels can lead to imbalances in blood sugar, disruptions in appetite regulation, changes in fat storage patterns (particularly abdominal fat), and increased risk of metabolic conditions like insulin resistance and weight gain.
#3 Sleep Deprivation
Stress can impact sleep quality and duration. Whether you have insomnia or just get inadequate sleep, certain metabolic processes that affect glucose regulation, appetite regulation, and hormone balance are all being disrupted.
Insufficient sleep can lead to increased ghrelin (hunger hormone) levels and decreased leptin (satiety hormone) levels, potentially leading to increased appetite and food cravings. I've mentioned before that your metabolism is a manager. It's not happy when production isn't consistent. It will start shutting processes down out of survival.
The Biggest Takeaway
Metabolism is often disrupted because of something occurring in excess. The biggest takeaway here is that stress is not the enemy, but the reality of it is that life nowadays looks a lot different than it did even just a few decades ago. Our brains are constantly stimulated, we have so many external stressors that then manifest internally. It has caused our bodies to adapt which is the incredible thing about putting your body under stress, but we must have strategies for controlling the cortisol release and limiting the external factors that prolong it. If you're struggling with any of the above, reach out to me via DM or my website to talk about strategies to limit the role chronic stress is playing in your life.