We all have stress in our lives: our job places too many deadlines on us, children are involved in too many activities, family events and functions, financial burdens, traffic delays. We all encounter stress in our lives. It is how we react to stressful situations, and what we voluntarily expose ourselves to, which will either allow us to be very healthy individuals, or drain our energy levels and hinder us from making progress in our exercise programs.
As a San Diego fitness trainer my focus is not only on exercise but also nutrition, stress management, emotional and mental perceptions, and how my clients live their lives outside of the gym. Because all these impact how successful my client’s results are with my program. Stress can hinder weight loss, and muscle development. If I have a client that is a giant stress ball: negative attitude, running from place to place, eating junk food, and working ridiculous hours than that is going to impact the success of my program. That is why I have aligned myself with experts that can help them in areas I am not qualified to, such as balancing the central nervous system, prescribing supplementation, emotional therapy, and meditation.
Stress management is crucial to optimal health. If we walk around week to week stressed about this or that, anxious and irritable, over time our sympathetic system (the flight/fright) will dominate over our parasympathetic (relaxed) system. The flight/fight response is our bodies reaction to stress. Our body cannot differentiate between different types of stress, whether we are running late, or we are grieving the lose of a loved one. When our body reacts to stress it releases the hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which have a stimulating effect upon the body, allowing it to carry out the necessary tasks for survival. The body will continue to release adrenaline until the stress trigger subsides. However, the body may continue to have high levels of cortisol for some time following the stress trigger. This consequently will have some physiological effect on the individual.
While some stress is important for the body, the problem with living in today’s society is that many of us are in a constant state of stress, and physiologically we are in a state of constant overdrive. Our adrenals are being asked to constantly perform without reprieve, and we run the risk of fatiguing our system, therefore affecting our overall health and homeostasis.
As a result is we tire the adrenal glands that are responsible for releasing hormones, some of which are DHEA which impacts estrogen and testosterone levels in the body. Many individuals have this problem and they don’t even know it. Here are some common symptoms of adrenal fatigue:
* Increased appetite
* Cravings for food (i.e., chocolate, sweets, pastry, breads, caffeine, alcohol)
* Mid afternoon slump
* Low immune system
* Digestive problems
* Muscle aches and pains
* Hair loss
* Irregular or absent periods
* Reduced mental awareness
* Social withdrawal
* Slow metabolism
* Low sex drive
* Tiredness, fatigue, lethargy
If you have some of these symptoms you want to start to evaluate the following areas to see where you can be suffering from stress and how you can start to address the problems.
* Physical: poor posture; too much/ too little exercise, lack of adequate rest
* Emotional: financial, work overload, relationship troubles, moving, bereavement
* Chemical: pesticides, alcohol, cosmetics, processed foods, cleaning products
* Nutritional: overeating or eating too little, eating foods your body is sensitive or allergic to
If you suspect you are someone that is suffering from adrenal fatigue there are a few steps you can take on your own. I suggest doing the following for 30 days and see how it impacts your energy levels, mood, and overall wellness.
1. Avoid Dieting – Restriction of calorie intake can cause the body to go into survival mode. This can cause a reduction in the metabolism, which can also increase eating habits. This is a familiar pattern for those who regularly crash diet rather than adopting a healthy eating pattern for life. So don’t be too consumed with how many calories you are taking in, instead keep it to small portions and avoid the foods I have listed in number 5.
2. Eat Regular, Small Meals – Consuming five to six smaller meals a day rather than the typical three large meals will ensure a stable blood glucose level throughout the day, which will send the body a message that it is not under stress. Eating smaller meals more regularly (every three hours) boosts the metabolism, decreases cortisol levels by roughly 17 percent and allows for a more steady state of emotions. Lastly, try and consume your meals in a state of relaxation. Eating in a peaceful environment will minimize the release of stress hormones. If you are regularly eating on the run, your body will think it is in a state of stress, and your ability to digest the food may be affected, therefore affecting the absorption of valuable nutrients.
3. Eat Breakfast – Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Upon waking, your cortisol levels are high in order to get your body up and running. Eating breakfast rather than consuming a cup of coffee will help to maintain a steady blood glucose level. Those whom consume coffee for breakfast only increase their cortisol and blood glucose levels, leading to an increase in the release of insulin, which will increase appetite and promote the storage of food to fat.
4. Eat Fiber – Increase soluble and insoluble fiber intake. Soluble fibers are found in fruits, nuts, vegetables and beans and help to better manage blood sugar levels and regulate cholesterol. Insoluble fiber can be found in wholegrain and nuts and will help with the general digestion. Beans such as Soy, butter, lentils, kidney beans and chick peas are preferred. Nuts such as Brazils, almonds, cashews, pistachio, peanuts and seeds such as sunflower, sesame, flax and pumpkin will help to promote a healthy digestive system.
5. Proper Food Selection – We should be aiming to reduce our intake of refined carbohydrates and sugars, as well as including a portion of protein in every meal (vegetable or animal). Swap refined carbohydrates (white flour, white rice, pasta) to whole carbohydrates (rye, oats, brown rice). Grains such as brown rice, oats, rye, buckwheat, barley and whole wheat are preferred.
* Fresh fish
* Meat (grass/pasture fed)
* Eggs (organic)
* Red wine
* Spices (oregano, ginger)
* Extra virgin olive oil (organic)
* Refined grains
* Wheat grains
* Grain/Flour products
* Meat (Grain fed)
* Most packaged foods
* Most processed foods
* Deep fried food
* Trans fat i.e. margarine
* Corn/Safflower/Sunflower/Soybean oil
6. Exercise. Exercise that involves a combination of weight training and cardiovascular is preferred. Exercise helps to burn off energy, increase muscle mass and metabolism, prevent insulin resistance, reduce the negative effects of cortisol, improve insulin sensitivity and improve body shape.
Stick to this program for 30 days and see if you can’t kick stress in your life to the curb, and get yourself back on track. Check out my 30 Day Wellness Challenge. Everything addressed in this blog is reflected in my 30 Day Wellness Challenge and is an excellent way to get you on the road to a healthier lifestyle. If you decide to take on the 30 Day Wellness Challenge, just email me and I can send you all the information you need.
To Your Health!!!
Andrea King is a certified San Diego personal trainer and nutrition coach. Andrea takes a holistic approach to her training and strives to address all areas of health and wellness with her clients. Stress reduction is a big part of Andrea King’s personal training programs.